For what can only be described as a lack lustre affair, Sunderland beat Chelsea 2-1 in extra time to progress to the ‘Capital One Cup’ Semi-final. Chelsea made an expected 8 changes from Saturdays win over Crystal Palace with the out of favour Kevin De Bruyne and Ashley Cole the notable inclusions.
Chelsea started the first half brightly with a good spell of possession and a real hunger to win the ball back with high pressure, most notably on Sunderland’s centre-backs O’Shea and Brown who’s distribution was sloppy and rash. However this pressure seemed to subside after 20 minutes. It was a half with no clear cut chances, Willan and Schurrle both took shots from 20 yards out which didn’t trouble opposing keeper Vito Mannone. Willian (who keeps improving game by game since his arrival from Russia) was the only player who seemed to offer any real threat, his close dribbling and flair the only thing worth watching in a truly underwhelming goalless first half.
Mourinho’s half time talk seemed to have reignited Chelsea, who from the restart engineered their best attack of the game, subsequently leading to the opening goal. Neat play from De Bruyne on the halfway line released Azpilicueta on the right wing who fizzed an outstanding cross through the six yard box and into the dreaded “corridor of uncertainty” and the ever reliable Frank Lampard was at the back post to bundle the ball over the line with a little help from Lee Cattermole and goal line technology.
It was from here, just like other games this season, Chelsea failed to put away the chances needed to kill off the opposition. The ball fell kindly to Eto’o just outside the box after a stray pass from Craig Gardener. The Samuel Eto’o of Barcelona and Inter Milan would have, pardon the cliché “put this away in his sleep”. Unfortunately for him and fans alike, this is 32 year old, just come out of 2 years semi-retirement Eto’o and his shot went agonisingly wide. De Bruyne showed a rare glimpse of what he can do with a driven shot saved well by Mannone. Lampard had 2 powerful shots in the space of a couple of minutes with varying success, one clipping the roof of the net and the other a souvenir for a fan in row Z.
With the game slowly coming towards an end and Chelsea in control, Sunderland with their first meaningful attack in the 88th minute, equalised. Jozy Altidore was fed through on goal by Giaccherini and evaded Michael Essiens last ditch tackle only to be denied by a brilliant save from Mark Schwarzer, the ball broke to former blue Fabio Borini who slotted it in from a tight angle, nutmegging David Luiz in the process. Extra time.
This next period of play was unlike Chelsea, they lacked imagination and looked as if they were willing to settle for penalties. Sunderland took the initiative, Ki forced an acrobatic save from Schwarzer after a powerful header from 10 yards out. Ki was not to be denied, gathering the ball from a Borini pass inside the box, Essien was sold again and failed to make a challenge, the South Korean stuck it into the left hand corner. 2-1 and Chelsea were knocked out.
A disappointing night for fans and players. It could be easy to say it was a competition that was perhaps not the club or managers highest priority, but not putting the opposition to the sword when Chelsea are on top is becoming an increasing frustration for everyone. However, with the games coming quick and fast we it’s important not to dwell. With the biggest game of the season coming up at The Emirates on Monday a win could create the momentum needed to get through to the New Year at the top of the table.
Contribution from Jack Nyren