It is seven years since an incident-packed encounter at Stamford Bridge at the same stage of the League Cup left virtually everyone present breathless and emotionally drained.
It was the second meeting of the two clubs in four days and there were team changes aplenty – six made by Roberto Di Matteo, 10 by Sir Alex Ferguson. The first game, mired in controversy, had brought the Red Devils’ first league win at the Bridge in a decade, by three goals to two against nine men. That was to be the Scot’s last-ever victory over the Londoners, and in the League Cup clash, although his old guard gave United the lead three times, his rookies would throw it all away.
First blood went to Ryan Giggs on 20 minutes, after midfielder Oriol Romeu had his pocket picked. Ten minutes later, though, Alexander Buttner brought down the lively Victor Moses, and David Luiz dispatched past Anders Lindegaard from 12 yards.
Javier Hernadez notched his sixth goal in nine games against the Blues to restore the lead on the brink of half-time, but soon after the break Juan Mata’s corner was met by Gary Cahill and the Goal Decision System ruled in the hosts’ favour, despite Raphael’s salvage operation behind the line.
Remarkably, Nani swiftly put the visitors ahead for a third time, but in the dying minutes of normal time Ramires was bundled over by Scott Wootton, and fellow substitute Eden Hazard took advantage from the spot, sending the tie into extra-time.
Now, finally, the Blues gained the upper hand their overall play deserved. Daniel Sturridge, who had stumbled on the ball when clear on goal in the opening moments, made no mistake after intercepting an errant Wootton header to hand the Blues the lead for the first time at 4-3.
A little later David Luiz’s free kick left the bar shuddering, before Hazard’s trickery brilliantly set up Ramires, and the Brazilian skipped past Lindegaard to net a fifth (pictured top). The curtain came down on this breathtaking drama with Giggs scoring a last-minute penalty, then Hazard whacking a long shot against the post. 5-4 remains the most goals scored in a League Cup match involving Chelsea.
Afterwards Ferguson reflected on his team selection. ‘You can always play young forwards, because they don’t cost you the game,’ he said, ‘but young centre-backs have to be really top drawer at this level of football, and they were just too young.’
‘See,’ TV pundit Alan Hansen must have been chuckling to himself, ‘you really don’t win anything with kids.’