All to play for!

Having barely had time to calm down after the 2-2 thriller at the Emirates last weekend, we met Arsenal again for the second time this month, in the first leg of our Carabao Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge.

After a massaman curry on the Fulham Road for dinner, my brother and I made our way into the West Lower, on this occasion sitting about 15 rows further forward than we normally do. I always try to sit somewhere different to my usual season ticket seat on cup games, just to experience Chelsea games from a different viewpoint and to sit amongst other Blues fans. On Wednesday evening we were in row seven, and getting to our seats 20 minutes before kick-off meant we had a great view of the players warming up.

We were treated to another light show just before the game started, and were encouraged to switch on the torches on our mobile phones to add to the atmosphere. It made for a brilliant backdrop as both teams came out onto the pitch with the ‘The Liquadator’ booming in the background.

Despite the great build-up, the game did not provide the same end-to-end excitement that our League tie with the Gunners did the week before. That’s not to say that Chelsea weren’t creating chances throughout – the Blues had 21 shots at goal – but Arsenal spent the majority of the game defending heavily. Andreas Christensen, Alvaro Morata, Victor Moses and Cesc Fabregas all saw great efforts saved, deflected or go wide. In the end it turned out to be one of those nights, where it just didn’t seem to be happening in the final third for the Blues, but not for the want of trying.

Thibaut Courtois looked comfortable at all times and was rarely troubled, Cesar Azpilicueta was solid in defence, and Moses and Marcos Alonso were dangerous on both wings. N’Golo Kante was his usual reliable, hard-working self, and Christensen yet again put in a strong, mature performance way beyond his years. I feel like I say this every other week, but the Dane seems consistently composed whenever he plays. It was great to see him sign a new four-and-a-half-year deal with the Blues earlier this week.

VAR technology was used for just the second time in English football, and for the first time at the Bridge. Although there were no major incidents in this game for it to be used to full effect, it did confirm and support the referee’s decision to not award Chelsea a penalty in injury time, when Welbeck tackled Fabregas in the box. It will undoubtedly make the game fairer if it is used going forward, but there were times where us fans were sat there for two or three minutes a little confused as to what was going on, even questioning which decision was being reviewed. It is a work in progress, to be sure, but one that could prove to be positive for the game in the future.

We finished with a goalless draw to take into the second leg at the Emirates in a fortnight’s time. We kept a clean sheet and looked pretty solid throughout. There is still everything to play for as we aim to reach the League Cup final at Wembley and win the competition for the sixth time in our history. Come on Chelsea!