Holders Chelsea cruised into the quarter-finals of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup with a 7-0 thrashing of Leicester at Kingsmeadow.

Leicester lost defender Sophie Howard to a 17th-minute red card and Chelsea seized full advantage with Pernille Harder scoring a first-half double.

Sam Kerr also grabbed a double after the break, with Ji So-yun, Aniek Nouwen and Beth England completing the misery for Leicester.

Chelsea were without captain Magda Eriksson, Maren Mjelde, Erin Cuthbert and Melanie Leupolz.

England’s Jess Carter took her place on the bench after picking up a knock against Germany in midweek.

Leicester trail second-placed Chelsea by 17 points in the Women’s Super League, but the Foxes started in confident fashion.

Freya Gregory fired just wide of the far post with Leicester full of belief after successive victories over Tottenham, Birmingham and West Ham.

But the contest swung decisively in Chelsea’s favour when Howard was dismissed for a late challenge on Jonna Andersson.

Sophie Howard was shown a straight red card after only 17 minutes

Image: Sophie Howard was shown a straight red card after only 17 minutes

Chelsea took just six minutes to capitalise on Howard’s red card.

Sophie Ingle slipped in Harder with a delightful pass and the Dane gave Demi Lambourne no chance in the Leicester goal.

Harder doubled Chelsea’s lead 10 minutes before half-time after Kerr unselfishly set her up for a simple tap-in.

Fran Kirby went close with a header before Kerr finished from close range on the hour.

South Korean international Ji quickly curled home a beauty for her first goal of the season and, with Leicester tiring in the final quarter, Chelsea scored three in seven minutes.

Nouwen powerfully headed home a Harder cross and Kerr calmly finished after being allowed more space in the Foxes’ penalty area.

England wrapped up the scoring five minutes from time as Chelsea became the first team to reach the last eight of the competition.