Demba Ba, flushed with the euphoria of his two goals on his Chelsea debut, gave the type of broad, uncomplicated smile that could help to quell the mutinous mutterings among the club's supporters. "When you see the fans showing that they're happy for you, it's a good feeling," said the Senegalese striker, whose brace against a feeble Southampton -kindled hope for the FA Cup holders of a fifth triumph in this competition in seven seasons.
Thrust into the lone forward's role 24 hours after completing his pounds 7million move from Newcastle United, Ba needed just 61 minutes to register his first and -second goals in Chelsea colours. Fernando Torres, -watching on gloomily from the substitutes' bench, had required a touch under eight months to amass the same total. With such a dismal return from Torres, who has managed 26 goals in almost two years since his pounds 50??million transfer to Chelsea, the battle lines could not have been more starkly drawn by Ba's instant impact.
While Ba has ostensibly been drafted in to give the Spaniard some games off, there is every chance, if he sustains the type of form he displayed at St Mary's, that he might not be content with playing the understudy role for long. As the new boy in the blue parish, Ba was careful to be diplomatic. Pressed on whether he felt he could be part of the same team as Torres, the 27 year-old replied: "Ask the manager. If I have to play with him, I'll play. If I have to be on the bench, I'll wait for my chance, and if he puts me on the bench I'll prove that I can play. That's it."
When Ba headed in his second goal after latching on to an Eden Hazard cross, Torres's face on the videos was a picture of the bleakest displeasure. And yet interim manager Rafael Benitez was determined to paint a happier picture of the dynamic between his front men. "Fernando is really pleased," Benitez said, adding that, "He knows he cannot play every game, that he needs someone else who can give him a rest. For me, it's a great opportunity to manage two different players. I think it's positive for the team."
Ba illustrated in this comfortable win that he could be a more -orthodox, direct centre-forward than Torres, supplying two clinical finishes that, allied to further goals by Victor Moses, Branislav Ivanovic and a Frank Lampard penalty, propelled Chelsea into the fourth round. But the victory was still not sufficient to placate the club's restive fan base, who showed new levels of capriciousness by taunting Benitez with chants of "Fat Spanish waiter", "There's only one Di Matteo" and "We don't care about Rafa" when their team were 5-1 ahead.
Benitez maintained that he was unconcerned, stressing instead the virtues of Ba's contribution. "When you come here you don't know what will happen, but there were one or two moments that made you say: 'Mm, good,'?" he said. "He is good on the ball, good in the air. I knew that he could do well."