It was well worth the wait! The Blues needed extra time to see off Liverpool in this semi-final but we are on the way back to Wembley.
Our away goal in the 1-1 at Anfield meant we were ahead in the tie once the normal-time 90 minutes produced no goals at Stamford Bridge, but Branislav Ivanovic’s headed goal was welcome extra insurance against defeat and one good Liverpool chance apart, we saw out the rest of the game with few alarms.
There were contrasting halves in normal time – the first one tight with few opportunities, the biggest talking point a penalty not awarded to Diego Costa. The second was full of counter-attacks with Eden Hazard and Diego Costa going close.
We take on the winners of the Sheffield United v Tottenham tie which will be completed tomorrow night (Wednesday) when we play the Capital One Cup final on 1 March.
As anticipated and as Jose Mourinho indicated in the lead-up to this game, there were many changes from the side that played Bradford. In contrast to last week’s first leg at Anfield, there were just two names different in the starting line-up.
Kurt Zouma was the defender selected to play alongside John Terry and Oscar returned, with Cesc Fabregas dropping deeper. John Mikel Obi, who went off with a head injury in the weekend game against Bradford, was not involved.
Brendon Rodgers named the same side as started the 1-1 draw on Merseyside.
The opening half typified a semi-final, with a competitive edge throughout and a hint of tension in the play; neither side making as much of promising positions as you would normally expect. As a consequence, chances were limited.
On the first opportunity to counter-attack. Diego Costa left Mamadou Sakho in his wake with a combination of skill and speed. Lucas reached the ball crossed into middle a fraction before Willian.
On his second chance to really extend his legs down that right flank, Diego Costa looked to have been fouled by the chasing Raheem Sterling but with nothing given.
Nemanja Matic put on the burners to tidy up inside the Chelsea penalty area shortly after when Markovic briefly threatened, so the first 15 minutes passed with no genuine attempts on either goal.
Zouma did superbly to bring the next Liverpool attack to an end after Terry had got a toe to the ball as Sterling ran into our area at pace. Hazard wasn’t far away from a typical, powered Ivanovic delivery as the game continued to heat up.
Midway through the half Chelsea were denied what appeared a clear penalty. Oscar had manoeuvred beyond Jordan Henderson and played a clever ball. Diego Costa was twisting to cross as Skrtel’s leg came in and tripped him. Stamford Bridge and the Chelsea bench waited for referee Michael Oliver to point to the spot, but the signal did not come.
Chelsea had begun to get a grip on the game but it loosened on 26 minutes when Alberto Moreno was found on an overlapping run. Thibaut Courtois, a hero in the first leg, made a very good save. He then did equally well with his leg to keep the scores level after Philippe Coutinho made his own shooting space with a dart inside Zouma.
This was Liverpool’s best spell. Chelsea weren’t keeping the ball. We had a chance to go for goal on 37 minutes when Oscar was fouled. He took the free-kick but although it went over the wall it also went wide, as did his longer-range shot in open play moments later.
Liverpool had been quick to get bodies out to Hazard on the left where he had caused them problems a week ago. When the Belgian carried the ball infield shortly before the interval, Henderson could only stop him illegally and became the first player booked.
Terry won a vital challenge as Gerrard’s pass was heading Sterling’s way but in the follow-through collided with Fabregas who was soon over telling the bench he needed to come off. Jose Mourinho later reported it was a concern over how his hamstring felt.
Before Ramires could join the action, Skrtel was not a million miles away from turning a clearance at his own goal as Hazard drove the ball across.
Lucas took out Oscar who was charging down the middle and was booked, before the ref talked to a group of players as tempers rose after Diego Costa and Skrtel tangled.
Liverpool also lost a player to injury early in the half, with Glen Johnson on for Sakho.
Hazard, with the best moment of individual quality in the game, carved his way into a shooting position and flashed just wide. Diego Costa had a half-blocked-shot saved by the leg of Mignolet and Gerrard then drove a shot straight into the arms of Courtois. The game was suddenly open and end to end.
Diego Costa was on to loose ball inside the box in the blink of an eye but as he tried to nip past Mignolet the keeper got his foot the ball. Courtois was in action too – rapid and decisive in beating Sterling to a pass.
Henderson can maybe count himself fortunate not to see yellow for a second time for handball with the game two-thirds gone.
Terry was Chelsea’s first booking for a challenge on Sterling inside the Liverpool half and we suffered a second injury when Filipe Luis limped off with a calf problem, Azpilicueta the natural replacement.
The contest continued along on its knife edge, and it felt like one moment would be decisive.
Ivanovic was booked for conceding a free-kick in a worrying position with 89 minutes on the clock but Gerrard’s strike came to nothing. Liverpool survived a Chelsea corner deep into stoppage time. With away goals only counting at the end of extra time in this completion, another 30 minutes awaited.
Three minutes in, Lucas became the second Liverpool player to count his blessings when he wasn’t booked for a second time. He took down Hazard who yet again was feeling the brunt of the foul challenges. Liverpool were punished regardless.
Willian sent the free-kick into the danger zone, and Ivanovic, the man whose first two Chelsea goals were thumping headers at Anfield, powered another into the net at the Shed End. The Blues were ahead on the night. Stamford Bridge roared.
A single Liverpool goal however could send the tie into a penalty shoot-out and Henderson headed one of their best chances wastefully wide
Diego Costa and Gerrard were both booked for a clash, as was Oscar for a foul on Moreno shortly after the start of the second period of extra time. Zouma, who once again impressed tonight, got his head to the Liverpool free-kick before Courtois was fouled.
Ramires dragged a shot wide as the search for the killer goal continued. A foul on Hazard did bring a booking for Emre Can. Skrtel followed into the book for barging down Diego Costa – the ninth caution of the game.
If either of these teams, understandably tiring, were going to score again, the Blues looked more likely, but another goal was not needed. This Chelsea team will now play for the first trophy Jose Mourinho won as our manager 10 years ago, and his jump for joy on the final whistle showed to all what that means to him.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry (c), Filipe Luis (Azpilicueta 78); Fabregas (Ramires 50), Matic; Willian (Drogba 118), Oscar, Hazard; Diego Costa.
Unused subs Cech, Cahill, Ake, Remy.
Scorer Ivanovic 93
Booked Terry 74, Ivanovic 89, Diego Costa 102, Oscar 108.
Liverpool (3-4-1-2): Mignolet; Can, Skrtel, Sakho (Johnson 57); Markovic (Balotelli 70), Henderson, Lucas, Moreno (Lambert 105); Gerrard (c), Coutinho; Sterling.
Unused subs Ward, Lovren, Lallana, Allen.
Booked Henderson 41, Lucas 53, Gerrard 102, Emre Can 113, Skrtel 115.
Referee Michael Oliver