Chelsea eventually saw off Liverpool 1-0 in a thrilling Capital One Cup semi-final to book a place at Wembley. Branislav Ivanovic’s extra time header proved the difference between the two sides after normal time had somehow ended up goalless, and Chelsea will now go on to play either Sheffield United or Tottenham Hotspur.
After a 1-1 draw in the first leg at Anfield the tie was perfectly balanced- Chelsea had the luxury of knowing Liverpool had to score at some point in order to go through though.
There were several talking points offered up on the night with Diego Costa possibly lucky to have not been sent off for two stamps, one on Emre Can, the other on Martin Skrtel. The latter would have been very harsh given the doubt over whether Costa genuinely intended to stamp on Skrtel, yet the mark he left on Emre Can had a hint of mischief about it. Costa, a constant menace all night, was very unlucky to not have been awarded a penalty in the first half too. The Spaniard was tripped in the box by Skrtel, and it was that challenge that seemed to relight the pair’s ongoing feud for the rest of the game. Needless to say Mourinho was furious Martin Oliver gave a goal kick instead of a penalty. Mourinho also had plenty of reason to be angry over the fact Jordan Henderson and Lucas Leiva were not sent off for second bookings in the second half- Henderson especially looked guilty after he appeared to deliberately block Eden Hazard’s pass with his hand.
The first half was exhilarating stuff, end to end football that bought out the very best of the Chelsea goalkeeper. Thibaut Courtois, man of the match again, did superbly to keep out efforts from Moreno and Coutinho, and was replicating his heroics from the first leg. Kurt Zouma did well to make up for a mistake that allowed Raheem Stirling to run through on goal- Zouma was a presence all night and did his claims to start on Saturday against Man City no harm at all.
Chelsea began to get on top in the second half though as Simon Mignolet denied Diego Costa’s deflected drive with his feet, yet it looked like the momentum would shift again after Cesc Fabregas had to be withdrawn with a hamstring problem. His replacement, Ramires, performed so adequately it led to Mourinho saying post game “I have my Ramires back”. Poor decision making and finishing from both sides meant regular time ended 0-0 and extra time was needed to find a winner.
After Leiva tripped Hazard, a foul that should have warrented a second booking, Willian crossed in a perfect free kick for Branislav Ivanovic to head home in the 5th minute of extra time. Though the goal didn’t actually change much for Liverpool, they still had to score regardless, it sent all the momentum Chelsea’s way and gave them the control they needed to see the tie out. Jordan Henderson somehow headed wide with the goal gaping and in doing so squandered Liverpool’s best opportunity to get the equaliser that would take the game to penalties. Brendan Rodgers had sent on Mario Balotelli and Ricky Lambert in an attempt to find a goal, but Chelsea remained solid and were not to be beaten. If anything it was the hosts who looked more likely to score as extra time went on and Liverpool’s gung-ho attempts to get the equaliser meant they left themselves exposed in defence. In the end Ivanovic’s goal was enough to see Chelsea through a very nervy two legs that added more fuel to the fire of a very intense rivalry between two sides who simply don’t get along.
It was a victory that came at a big cost for Chelsea, but to reach a final at Wembley meant it was one worth paying. Injuries to Fabregas and Felipe Luis will worry supporters and Mourinho, the extent of both will become clear in the coming days. Having to play 120 minutes of football before a crucial home encounter with Manchester City on Saturday was something Chelsea would have wanted to avoid too. It could be a nervy couple of days waiting to see if the F.A decide to take any action on Diego Costa’s stamps, Chelsea will be desperate to have the forward available for Saturday and Mourinho was quick to dismiss commenting on any of his striker’s behaviour in his post-match conference.