Rafa produces another Balls up
We new we had to turn around a two goal deficit if we were to progress to the league cup final for the first time since 2008, but there a many great tales of illustrious come backs in the famous history of Chelsea football club. We need only to look back as recently as last season to find inspiration, and there was belief that it could be done here in south Wales. An early goal would have helped matters, and we possibly should have had a 7th minute penalty at the Liberty stadium. Demba Ba picked the ball up inside the right hand corner of the penalty area and knocked it past Swansea left back Ben Davies, who then appeared to make contact with Ba’s right leg which sent him to the ground. Chris Foy waved appeals away. This would not be the referee’s only controversial decision of the night.
It was a frantic opening ten minutes to the match, with a high tempo period of action seeing possession interchange quickly between both teams. It wasn’t long until the next chance, this time coming at the other end. Wayne Routledge caused Chelsea problems by cutting in field, evading his marker Azpilicueta, who was occupied with the overlapping run of Davies. Routledge slipped in Michu who had run between our centre back pairing of Cahill and Ivanovic and hit a low shot to Cech’s left, which he parried away just out of the Swansea winger Hernandez.
Chelsea took the initiative from now on, and indeed for the rest of the match. Lampard had started next to Ramires again in the deep midfield positions in the 4-2-3-1 formation used by Benitez, but from early in the first half he was pushed further forward leaving Ramires to anchor the midfield in what was now a 4-3-3. This resulted in Lampard and Mata pressing Ki and Britton in the Swansea midfield when we were out of possession. This resulted in Swansea having to hit long balls aimed towards Michu up front, as they could not play out from the back to their deep midfielders as they usually do. Cahill and Ivanovic won the majority of these aerial battles, and we were back in possession. It was Cahill who had our next chance. He found space at the back post from a corner, but his header was cleared from the line.
In addition to Lampard pushing further forward in midfield, both our full backs, Cole and Azpilicueta, were pushing high up the flanks to support our attacks. Swansea’s wingers were forced into retreating to deal with this, which meant that their whole midfield was now sitting increasingly deeper, and we enjoyed almost all of the possession as a result. Despite options wide on either side, the majority of our attacks came through tight interplay through the middle. Lampard joining the usual trio of Oscar, Mata and Hazard in linking up with some neat and incisive passing. One such passage of play saw a Hazard shot knocked on by Ba to Oscar in the area, but he was crowded out by the Swansea defence.
It was now becoming more and more like attack versus defence. An Ashley Cole cross found its way through to Ba, who fired over on the turn. Neat play found Mata inside the area on the left touchline, but his cross was blocked.
While we had at least 60% of the possession, there was still a threat on the counter attack from Swansea.
The second half continued in the same vain, measured build up more often than not foiled around the edge of what was a very congested penalty area. While we looked much the better side, as we had done in the first leg, Tremmel in the Swansea goal had not been sufficiently tested. The clock was ticking, and we still needed two goals just to draw level in tie. Long balls forward towards Ba were now being hit with slightly more regularity from the back as our centre backs were carrying the ball to half way unopposed. Benitez swapped Ivanovic for Luiz. Hoping he might make better use of the ball with this space. He meandered forward when possible, but couldn’t make headway through the midfield.
Our hopes dimmed further when with ten minutes left the ball went behind for a Swansea goal kick and Hazard tried to speed proceedings up by retrieving the ball from a ball boy, who didn’t take kindly to this, and in a blatant attempt at time wasting was now lying down on top of the ball. Hazard attempted to kick the ball out from underneath him, and the boy now writhed around like he had been shot in the ribs. After much cajoling between players and officials Hazard was given a straight red by Foy.
The belief seemed to evaporate from the players after this. The only further chance of note fell to Nathan Dyer on the counter for Swansea, Cech saving brilliantly.
We will now face Manchester City on February 24th in the Premier League, rather than Bradford at Wembley in the league cup final.
Swansea City 4-2-3-1
Tremmel; Rangel, Williams©, Chico Flores, Davies; Ki, Britton; Hernandez, De Guzman, Routledge, (Dyer 67); Michu
Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, (Luiz 67), Cahill; Cole, (Bertrand 85); Ramires, Lampard©, Mata; Hazard, Ba, Oscar, (Torres 85)
Referee: Chris Foy