Chelsea booked their place in the League Cup final with an extra time victory over Liverpool in an incident packed game. The game was goalless after 90 minutes and the scores were locked at 1-1 on aggregate (away goals not counting double until after extra time), before Branislav Ivanovic sprung up to head in the only goal early in the first period of extra time. Liverpool were unable to find a response, so Chelsea progress to the final on March 1st.
The Blues returned to a strong side after fielding a rotated team for the Bradford game at the weekend. The one shock was Gary Cahill missing out, with Kurt Zouma coming in. This had been something fans were clamouring for, although it seemed to be a decision based more on Zouma’s pace than Cahill’s recent form.
Zouma was tested right from the off, and he had a difficult time of things early on as he was targeted by Raheem Sterling. He did make a few good challenges, and he grew in to the game. Chelsea also grew in to the game, and they should have had a penalty in the first half when Diego Costa was brought down by Martin Skrtel. Costa was in the middle of a storm after he was accused of stamping on Skrtel earlier in the game.
Chelsea had Thibaut Courtois to thank at times in the first half, as he stopped Liverpool going ahead on several occasions. Come the second half, the Reds were thanking the referee for keeping them in it. Jordan Henderson and Lucas were both lucky not to see second yellow cards for bookable offences, while the referee was all too happy to book Blues players.
Chelsea dominated in the second half, but neither side really had too many clear cut chances. It was a cagey affair, but everything changed just minutes in to extra time. Chelsea won a free kick at the edge of the area, but Lucas didn’t receive a yellow card for his foul on Eden Hazard. Mourinho was busy complaining about that to the fourth official, and consequently he missed Branislav Ivanovic getting on the end of the free kick to score the crucial opening goal.
Liverpool should have equalised in extra time through Jordan Henderson, but he headed wide with the goal at his mercy. Both sides traded counter attacks after that, but in the end Ivanovic’s goal was enough to seal a first League Cup final appearance since 2008.
The victory did come at a cost, with Cesc Fabregas and Filipe Luis both having to come off injured during the game. On top of that the players had to complete 120 minutes, with a huge game against Manchester City to come on Saturday. They’ve still booked a place in a Wembley final, so that should be worth the sacrifice.
LCN Man of the Match: Thibaut Courtois