Carling Cup holders Chelsea advanced to our third Carling Cup final since 2005, having won that year against Liverpool and last year against Arsenal. Avram Grant takes his side to Wembley for the first time, where our opposition will be Juande Ramos’ Tottenham Hotspur.
Petr Čech became a father in the 24 hours leading up the match, but was still selected between the posts. Bridge and Belletti were our two attacking fullbacks, whilst Claudé Makelélé captained the side, in the absence of the injured Michael Ballack. Fit-again Shaun Wright-Phillips and Steve Sidwell joined him in midfield, whilst once again it was Nicolas Anelka who led the line, Claudio Pizarro once again on the bench.
Phil Neville was selected in defence for this leg, whilst Nuno Valente’s inclusion saw Joleon Lescott partner Phil Jagielka in the centre of defence. Mikel Arteta, suspended in the first leg, was back and started, whilst Tim Cahill provided the support for Andrew Johnson in attack.
Wright-Phillips and Belletti fired early warning shots at the Everton goal, however neither troubled Tim Howard. Joleon Lescott’s header was the first touch of the game for Petr Čech, as both sides looked lively in the early exchanges.
After 20 minutes, England striker Andrew Johnson tried his luck from long range, but failed to test Chelsea ‘keeper Čech. Lee Carsley was soon booked for a hack on Wright-Phillips and Belletti smashed a free kick into the wall, as the battle continued.
Anelka, once again showing promise as the lone striker, forced Howard to save as he received a Sidwell shot on the edge of the box and shot for goal, but the American was up to the task. Towards the end of the half, Johnson used his pace to create half an opportunity for Everton, but he was denied by the outstanding Ricardo Carvalho who blocked the eventual shot.
At half time, Chelsea held the advantage from the first leg, although the score on the night remained 0-0.
Chelsea came out for the second half firing on all cylinders, as they looked to put the tie beyond doubt with an away goal. Anelka hit the bar, whilst Wright-Phillips had two efforts, the first wide from long range, the second blocked by the Everton defence.
Jagielka et al. were up to the task, as once more Chelsea were denied by Everton heroics, this time Joe Cole seeing his shot blocked. At the other end, Čech was forced into a brilliant reaction stop, to block Jagielka’s clever back heel towards goal.
With twenty minutes remaining, Chelsea got their away goal and thus guaranteed their place in the final. Malouda’s precise pass found Joe Cole, whose controlling touch set him up perfectly for the emphatic finish. Criticised of late, the England winger show great composure to complete the move, under the observant gaze of Fabio Capello.
Two minutes later, Johnson nearly had an equaliser and had it not been for the stunning reactions of Čech, Everton would have been back in the tie. The recent lack of sleep certainly didn’t hinder the preparations and performance of Chelsea’s goalkeeper!
James Vaughan replaced Manuel Fernandes with ten minutes to go, as Everton tried in vain to find a way back into the contest. Chelsea were resolute in defence, as Claudio Pizarro and Ashley Cole made late sub appearances, the wide men and engineers of the winning goal, Malouda and Joe Cole, replaced.
There were four minutes of stoppage time to be played, the late substitute appearance of Tal Ben-Haim the cause for the increased added time, as he replaced the impressive Anelka.
Chelsea’s defence held out for a well earned clean sheet, one that Petr Čech will certainly remember for a long time. Deservedly, Chelsea advance to the final at Wembley and will be strong favourites to retain the Carling Cup against our (other) North London rivals. Avram Grant’s impression on Chelsea is certainly starting to show.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Čech; Belletti, Alex, Carvalho, Bridge; Wright-Phillips, Makelélé (c), Sidwell; J Cole (Pizarro 83), Anelka (Ben-Haim 92), Malouda (A Cole 89).
Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Neville (C), Jagielka, Lescott, Valente; Arteta, Fernandes, Carsley; Osman; Cahill; Johnson.
Referee Steve Bennett