Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea secured their place at Wembley in the Capital One Cup Final after beating Liverpool in extra time.
Blues full back, Branislav Ivanovic, proved to be the difference as his 94th headed goal lead Chelsea to victory.
Liverpool had started the game excellently, playing with a high intensity and a strong attacking intent.
Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois put in another faultless performance with his saves keeping a strong Liverpool at bay for the entire game.
Brendan Rodgers’ side had multiple chances to take the lead only for good efforts by Alberto Moreno and Philippe Coutinho to be denied by the excellent Courtois.
With both sides unable to break the deadlock, the game was taken to extra time where it took only four minutes for Branislav Ivanovic to head home from Willian’s free kick.
Liverpool’s scoring problems came back to haunt them again, having had many chances to score throughout the game.
Raheem Sterling causes the Chelsea defence problems with his pace during the first half while Philippe Coutinho dominated Cesc Fabregas in midfield. Both had good chances to put Liverpool ahead only for or their finishing to let them down.
Mourinho’s men took a while to adapt to the high intensity of Liverpool’s pressing and were struck an early blow as Fabregas was forced off with injury.
All 22 players were visibly determined to win as tempers boiled over and controversy stirred. Following a challenge on Emre Can in the first half, Chelsea’s Diego Costa appeared to stamp on the ankle of the Liverpool defender, which sparked an angry response from Can. Costa did not stop there as he appeared to stamp on Martin Skrtel later on in the game. Both, however, were missed by the Officials.
Referee, Michael Oliver, couldn’t have had a tougher night as he came under fire following his decision not to award a penalty after Skrtel appeared to bring down Costa in the box.
He was again put under pressure by the Chelsea camp after Jordan Henderson was able to avoid being sent off after a serious of fouls following the yellow card he received for hand ball. Likewise, it can be questioned how Lucas Leiva also managed to stay on the pitch.
As the game went on, Chelsea became stronger with Eden Hazard and Willian causing the Liverpool defence problems with their pace and trickery.
Despite recent criticism, Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet produced a number of outstanding saves as Chelsea grew closer to a goal during the last twenty minutes. Most notably was his save to deny a Diego Costa volley which took an awkward deflection on it’s way through.
The game seemed to grow more in favour of Chelsea after Mamadou Sakho was replaced by Glen Johnson due to injury. Playing as the third centre back, Johnson looked fragile and was left exposed by the pace of Hazard multiple times in the last quarter of the 90 minutes.
Mario Balotelli was introduced around the 65 minute mark, however failed to make the impact both he and the Liverpool fans had hoped for, despite supplying some neat touches.
Both sides began to tire as extra time got underway, however it was Chelsea that got the goal they needed, making it an up hill battle for a Liverpool side that needed to score.
Lucas Leiva had given away a free kick following a lazy challenge, before some poor zonal marking by Liverpool allowed Ivanovic to rise and easily plant his header beyond Mignolet.
The drama did not end there when Jordan Henderson missed the target with a glancing header that seemed harder to miss than to score. It was to be one of them nights for Liverpool.
The introduction of Rickie Lambert proved to be ineffective while Liverpool simply ran out of steam following a committed and excellent performance to showed further signs of Brendan Rodgers’ side reestablishing their identity, boding well for a top four challenge in the Premier League.
As for Jose Mourinho, he can take much pleasure from the much improved performance of his side after the 4-2 slump to League One side Bradford City in the FA Cup at the weekend.
Many will say Chelsea were in control for the entire tie, however Liverpool’s impressive all round display in both attacking and defensive areas cannot be over looked. Rodgers will be counting down the days until Daniel Sturridge’s return to action.
Chelsea will not try to win their fifth League Cup at Wembley. Mourinho’s side will face either Tottenham Hotspur or Sheffield United in the final at Wembley.