Chelsea sink Liverpool to book Wembley date
Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic powered home a header in extra time to send his side to the League Cup final with a 1-0 victory over Liverpool in a rip-roaring second leg at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
The Serbian defender rose unmarked and craned his neck to muscle a header past Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet four minutes into extra time to secure a 2-1 aggregate win for the four-times winners.
Both sides had good chances in normal time and were grateful to their keepers - Thibaut Courtois and Mignolet - for keeping the scores level in a blood-and-thunder encounter at Stamford Bridge with plenty of controversy.
Chelsea striker Diego Costa was typically in the thick of the action and twice appeared to stamp on Liverpool players, but should also have been awarded a penalty when he was felled by Martin Skrtel in the first half.
Chelsea will face either Tottenham Hotspur or Sheffield United, who play the second leg of their last-four clash on Wednesday, in the final at Wembley.
Chelsea 1 (Ivanovic 94") Liverpool 0
Branislav Ivanovic netted the winner in the fourth minute of extra time against Liverpool to take Chelsea into the final of the Capital One Cup where they will take on either Tottenham or Sheffield United.
At the Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night both teams were goalless after 90 minutes of their second leg semi-final. But Ivanovic rose above the Liverpool defenders to nod home Willian's free-kick and settle the issue after the two giant Premier League clubs had fought out a 1-1 draw in the first leg at Anfield last week.
Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho was magnanimous in victory.
"I think in the second half today we were better than them and also in extra time. To be honest and fair with them (Liverpool), they were there. A very difficult opponent. We beat a very good team over two legs."
120" One minute extra time added.
118" Drogba make his presence replacing Willian in dying minutes.
115" YELLOW! Skrtel is booked making it the eighth card of the match.
111" YELLOW! Emre Can is booked.
109" Liverpool make some desperate attempts with Balotelli trying for goal from an acute angle.
105" Lambert replaces Moreno as Liverpool look for goal.
Extra time (first half)
Chelsea 1 (Ivanovic 94") Liverpool 0
103" Balotelli does some neat work on the right then sends a diagonal pass to Sterling on top of the box. With his back to the goal he turns quickly and shoots but wide.
101" YELLOW! Gerrard and Costa get into a wrestling match and both are booked,
98" Henderson will rue this open chance after he received a near perfect cross from Sterling but his header, in front of a gaping goal, went over.
Chelsea 1 (Ivanovic 94") Liverpool 0
94" GOAL! Ivanovic heads home from a Willian free-kick.
92" Balotelli sends his floater into the stands.
Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
90" Four minues of stoppage time added.
88" YELLOW! Ivanovic is booked after pulling down Sterling. A free-kick is given but Gerrard makes a mess of it.
87" Sterling's off-balance shot is wide. Both teams desperate to get that one goal which could settle the tie.
86" Hazard tries an ambitious-looking shot from the halfway line but Mignolet is quick on his feet.
82" Hazard is brilliant on the left side but his hard work is not complemented by a wayward Costa.
79" Coutinho and Balotelli work in tandem with Coutinho taking a crack at goal but the ball richochets off a defender onto Gerrard who tries an acrobatic half volley.
76" Filipe Luis walks out injured and Cesar Azpilicueta replaces him.
73" YELLOW! John Terry is booked for a tackle on Sterling.
69" Mario Balotelli comes in for Markovic.
68" Ramires has his first touch of the ball and without wasting time lets fly a powerful right footer which sails not very far from the post.
66" YELLOW! Henderon is booked for what looked like an unintentional handball.
65" Play has opened up and now it's Liverpool with a chance but Sterling is denied by Courtois.
64" Mignolet makes a crucial save depriving Costa from hand-shaking distance.
63" Skrtel is again in the way off an Oscar shot but thanks to Mignolet who is alert under the bar.
59" Mignolet keeps Liverpool in the match with a superb save after Costa's shot deflects off Skrtel. Chelsea seem to have woken up from their slumber.
57" Hazard manoeuvres past three defenders in a jiffy and has a shy with his left foot but the ball goes agonisingly past the post to the dismay of Hazard who holds his head in his hands.
54" Sakho is replaced by Johnson.
51" YELLOW! Lucas is booked but not after Sakho almost gifted Chelsea a goal on a platter when his intended backpass went to Oscar who made a solo dash but was brought down hardshly by Lucas.
48" Fabregas is replaced by Ramires.
47" Willian to Hazard on the left flank. The Belgian speeds past a defender and forces Skrtel to make a desperate clearance which could have resulted in an own goal.
Action kicks off in the second half.
Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
43" Coutinho troubles Chelsea on the left flank, makes one of his speedy runs and has a crack which hits a defender for a corner.
41" YELLOW! Henderson is booked.
38" Oscar tests Mignolet again with a lot shot from 25 yards which beats the outstretched hands of the goalkeeper but goes narrowly past goal.
37" Oscar earns a free-kick for Chelsea and takes it too but his angled shot goes across the face of the goal.
33" Livewire Coutinho again breaks free and finds Gerrard who puts Moreno in the clear but his shot fails to get past a congested defence.
29" Another superb save by Courtois putiing his long left leg out to deflect Coutinho's shot from close for a corner.
27" At the other end Lucas has a shy at the Liverpool goal but is wide off target.
26" Gerrard's inch-perfect ball to Moreno but Courtois brings off a brilliant save narrowing Moreno's angle to make a stop.
22" Costa is brought down in the box by Skrtel but referee Michael Oliver says play on. That's sure to provoke Mourinho into making some harsh statements after the match.
20" Skrtel makes a timely block off Costa's shot and off the rebound Willian shoots to Mignolet.
17" Chelsea are almost exposed from a counter-attack by Liverpool but Sterling instead of passing it to an unmarked Gerrard overdid his dribbling and Zouma cleared.
15" Gerrard finds Markovic on the right who speeds with the ball into the box but is tackled nicely by Nemanja Matic.
12" Moreno earns a corner for Liverpool after Fabregas does well to block him but the result is futile.
10" Both teams playing a little defensively, more the wait and watch tactic.
5" Diego Costa weaves his way into the Liverpool area and backpasses for Willian who is a bit late as Lucas Leiva makes a timely clearance.
3" Willian tries to find Hazard with a long ball but Skrtel heads it backwards to goalkeeper Mignolet.
Another high-stakes match gets underway amid a sea of blue.
We are just 15 minutes away from kick-off between Chelsea and Liverpool in the second leg of the Capital One Cup at Stamford Bridge. The first leg at Anfield ended 1-1 but Brendan Rodgers sounded confident of a Liverpool win ahead of the match as both teams limber up.
Daniel Sturridge was declared unfit to take the field for Liverpool but Steven Gerrard makes his return along with Martin Skrtel. Both missed Saturday's FA Cup match against Bolton. For Chelsea, Branislav Ivanovic and Zouma return to strengthen the defence while Oscar replaces Mikel.
Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Filipe Luis, Fabregas, Matic, Willian, Oscar, Hazard, Diego Costa. Subs: Cech, Ake, Ramires, Drogba, Remy, Cahill, Azpilicueta.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Can, Skrtel, Sakho, Henderson, Lucas, Gerrard, Moreno, Markovic, Sterling, Coutinho. Subs: Johnson, Lovren, Lambert, Lallana, Allen, Balotelli, Ward.
Chelsea are set to recall key players such as Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic, who sat out the FA Cup defeat to Bradford City.
John Obi Mikel (head) and Andre Schurrle (back) are injury doubts.
Liverpool will assess striker Daniel Sturridge, who is back in training after a long-term thigh problem.
Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel could return after being rested at the weekend, while it remains to be seen whether Mario Balotelli earns a recall.
The 4-2 defeat to Bradford City on Saturday was the Blues' first loss in 17 league and cup games at Stamford Bridge (including 16 matches this season).
It was also the first time a side coached by Jose Mourinho has conceded four goals in a home game.
The Blues have scored at least twice in each of their last 13 games at Stamford Bridge in all competitions.
Chelsea have won the League Cup four times, including 2005 and 2007 under Mourinho. They were also runners-up in 2008, and lost in the semi-finals to Swansea two seasons ago.
In 11 previous semi-final appearances, the Blues have reached the final just six times.
The Reds have won five successive away games in all competitions since their 3-0 defeat at Manchester United on 14 December.
Liverpool are the most successful club in League Cup history with eight trophies and 11 finals.
But this is only the second time Liverpool have progressed beyond the fourth round in seven seasons; on the other occasion (2011-12) they went on to win the competition.
The Reds have progressed through their last four semi-finals in the League Cup since going out to Middlesbrough. Of their previous 14 appearances in the last four, Liverpool have reached the final on 11 occasions.
Steven Gerrard has scored one goal in 37 career appearances against Chelsea in all competitions.
Liverpool will go into Tuesday's second leg of the Capital One Cup against Chelsea as favourites.
The reason being the Londoners currently look like ‘wounded tigers’ after their shock home defeat to Bradford in the FA Cuip on Saturday and after watching their dismal show against the Merseysiders in the first leg where they were lucky to earn a penalty and leave Anfield with a draw, Jose Mourinho surely has his task cut out.
The Portuguese could make one change bringing Oscar in for John Obi Mikel to add sharpness to the attack which lacked the bite in the first leg.
The options are running out for Mourinho. If they fail to progress it means Chelsea will have only the Premier League title and the Champions League to play for after making a premature exit from the FA Cup.
On the other hand Brendan Rodgers is brimming with confidence. And why not, there are chances that his striker Daniel Sturridge, who scored 25 goals last season, could make a long-awaited return from injury.
Captain Steven Gerrard, who was rested for Saturday’s FA clash with Bolton, is also likely to return to strengthen the midfield, while Martin Skrtel should be back to added solidity to the defence.
The only doubt which remains is that of Mario Balotelli, who is perceived to have an attitude problem although coach Rodgers insists that the Italian has a future at Anfield.
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