REPORT: CHELSEA 4 LATICS 1
Wigan Athletic gave themselves work to do after falling 2-0 behind to goals from Ramires and Eden Hazard but a Shaun Maloney goal gave Latics some hope in the second half, only for Chelsea to net two late goals and run out 4-1 winners, a harsh result considering the rhythm of the game.
Roberto Martinez had a full fleet of international players to choose from ahead of the game as everybody made it back from their duty unscathed, with Arouna Kone returning to the bench having arrived back from the Africa Cup of Nations.
The opening ten minutes of the first half were fast and frantic as both teams created chances but it looked like Latics were going to be favourites to open the scoring.
Franco Di Santo first tested Petr Cech from an acute angle at the front post as he stung the keeper's gloves with a fierce drive.
The chance came from patient build-up play as the ball was worked across the edge of the area and the Argentinian's effort would have been the perfect way to cap it off.
Latics were at it again soon after as Jean Beausejour forced the issue down the left wing and cut back an inviting cross from the by-line but it was just behind the incoming Roger Espinoza who would surely have scored if the ball fell at his feet.
Chelsea made their threat known too with chances for Fernando Torres who flicked on a Frank Lampard free kick just beyond the back post and then Ali Al Habsi was forced into a solid save when the Spaniard again got a chance on goal but, his tame effort under pressure was gathered into the Omani's chest.
On 23 minutes Latics encouraging attacking play was caught out when Chelsea broke through the middle.
Lampard fed the ball to Torres midway into Latics' half with the forward flicking the ball into the path of an untracked Ramires down the right hand side who had just Al Habsi to beat and did so with a well placed side footed effort inside the area.
Latics had to weather a storm after falling behind but after doing so and limiting Chelsea to long range effort, they got a bit of luck and almost levelled.
As Chelsea once again looked to counter, referee Mike Dean got in the way, allowing Latics to pick the ball up in midfield and feed the ball forwards.
Di Santo made things happen as he opened up the Chelsea defence to play Maloney in down the right.
The Scotsman's clipped cross into the area narrowly missed Di Santo's head before almost finding James McArthur at the back post before Cesar Azpilicueta leaped into the air to concede a corner.
Latics began to force the issue in the early stages of the second half, with the best chance being created by Di Santo who ran the ball down the right by-line before cutting the ball back towards Jean Beausejour who again was just ahead of the ball.
A minute later though and Chelsea had doubled their lead when a long ball from Gary Cahill down the right hand side caught out Beausejour and allowed Azpilicueta to race down the wing, cutting the ball back into the area for Hazard to side foot home unchallenged.
With barely time to think Latics had pulled it back to 2-1 as James McArthur's well timed ball through the Chelsea defence found Shaun Maloney one-on-one with an out-rushing Petr Cech.
Maloney took the ball around the keeper and slid the ball in from the right edge of the area, the ball slowly trickling over the line.
With around 15 minutes to go Latics had a huge penalty shout turned down and what would have been a chance to equalise passed by.
Ronnie Stam lined himself up to shoot on the edge of the Chelsea area and only one thing stopped the ball from reaching the target, Ashley Cole's right arm.
Referee Mike Dean waved away the penalty calls, much to the dismay of the players and the bench.
Arouna Kone's impact as a second half substitute gave Latics more bite going forward and he tested Cech with a low effort inside the last ten minutes as he muscled off defenders but could only drag his shot.
With three minutes of normal time remaining Frank Lampard made it 3-1 after Latics were again caught napping at the back when Hazard played the ball across the edge of substitute Juan Mata to step over and allow Chelsea's Captain to drill the ball into the bottom corner.
Latics insisted on looking for a way back in as the minutes ticked away but they were caught out again as Chelsea made it 4-1.
Azpilicueta was once again the man to cause the problems as he was allowed to shoot from range, forcing Al Habsi into an outstanding save which unfortunately fell to the head of Chelsea's late sub Marko Marin to head in for his first goal for the club.
The Omani goalkeeper prevented a 5-1 result with the last chance of the game when he leaped to save Ramires' long range effort and then got back up to deny Torres on the rebound with a low left handed stop.