Holders Chelsea crashed out of the League Cup in the fourth round after losing to 10-man Stoke on penalties. Jon Walters had scored what looked like the winner early in the second half, before a late Loic Remy equaliser. Phil Bardsley was sent off just before the final whistle, but the Potters held on through extra time and progressed on penalties.
Jose Mourinho clearly knew what his side were up against here, as he named a very strong team for this game. Diego Costa started up front, with Willian, Oscar and Eden Hazard behind him. The back five wasn’t changed from the defeat at West Ham, while Ramires and John Obi Mikel were the shield in front of that defence. Asmir Begovic made his return to the Britannia Stadium, after joining from Stoke in the summer.
Costa’s appearance at Stoke lasted just over half an hour, as he went off with a rib injury. That brought Remy on to the field, and we had thought he would start in this game anyway. The first half was a quiet enough affair, and the two sides went in goalless at the break, not a bad 45 minutes for Mourinho and his men given how things have gone recently.
The game completely changed in the second half when Walters was given too much space at the edge of the area. He was allowed to turn, and his shot curled in and went into the net after coming off the crossbar. That gave the hosts the advantage, and the Blues looked set for an eighth defeat in their last 16 games.
Mourinho threw attacking players on, pushing for an equaliser, but his team just couldn’t break Stoke down. With the game almost over, there was late drama, as Remy was there to fire the ball into the roof of the net after Willian’s corner. Seconds later Bardsley was shown red for his second booking, and that left the Potters going in to extra time a man light, when they were just a minute from a victory.
That goal gave Chelsea the momentum, and they had the better of extra time. It was Jack Butland, Begovic’s replacement, who was the hero. He kept out an effort from substitute Kenedy with his side on the ropes. The keeper’s performance was enough to deny the Blues a winner, and that forced penalties.
The teams traded nine perfect spot kicks, before Eden Hazard stepped up to take the final kick, knowing he had to score. After an awful season for the Belgian, it wasn’t too much of a surprise when Butland saved his spot kick, sending Mark Hughes’ team into the quarter finals.
The amount of fight shown in this performance was encouraging, but that’s happened before and nothing has come of it. We’ve seen several disappointing results after good displays, so Mourinho has his work cut out against Liverpool on Saturday.
LCN Man of the Match: Willian