BRANISLAV Ivanovic kept his head as Chelsea edged a frenetic, ill-tempered clash with Liverpool last night to advance to the Capital One Cup final.
Chelsea won 2-1 on agg (AET)
Referee: M Oliver
An Ivanovic header in the fourth minute of extra-time proved the difference as Chelsea responded from the humiliating FA Cup defeat to League One Bradford to advance to a first final of Jose Mourinho’s second spell as manager.
A 1-1 first-leg draw at Anfield meant it was all down to the Stamford Bridge clash and the 1-0 victory for Mourinho means he has now won four of his five contests with Brendan Rodgers.
The managers confronted each other on the touchline as a tempestuous contest featuring nine bookings spilled into the technical area. A comical moment followed as Liverpool assistant boss Colin Pascoe offered the Portuguese his glasses. Mourinho was not amused.
The Blues boss spent much of the night fuming, but it was Rodgers who had reason to feel most aggrieved early on as Diego Costa should have been sent off for stamping on Emre Can’s ankle.
Costa should then have had a penalty when tripped by Martin Skrtel, but referee Michael Oliver waved away appeals.
Twice Liverpool spurned chances to take the lead as Thibaut Courtois saved well from Alberto Moreno and then Philippe Coutinho, while Simon Mignolet twice denied Costa at the other end.
Mourinho raged at Oliver when Jordan Henderson avoided a second booking for handball and his displeasure with the officials continued into extra-time as he missed Ivanovic’s header while talking to fourth official Phil Dowd.
With Frank Lampard’s Manchester City visiting Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Saturday, the additional half hour was less than welcome, but Chelsea showed a grit and determination lacking against Bradford to prevail.
There was no place for Gary Cahill as Mourinho reverted to his first-choice line-up following the defeat to Bradford. Kurt Zouma, partnering John Terry in defence, was assigned to halt Raheem Sterling and did what Cahill failed to do in the first leg by stopping the Liverpool livewire on the edge of the box.
Three Liverpool centre-backs faced Costa, but even that was not enough as the striker burst beyond Mamadou Sakho and teed up Willian, whose effort was blocked by Lucas’ arm.
No spot-kick was given as the Reds midfielder’s arm was in a natural position and only a yard or so away from his fellow Brazilian when the ball was struck.
Dowd was in similarly close proximity on the touchline when Costa, having brushed Can over, trod on the defender’s ankle. Can reacted angrily, but Costa avoided censure and can expect the FA to review it.
Cesc Fabregas had been unable to exert his usual influence and departed soon after the restart following a collision with Terry. And it was not a night for a cultured playmaker as the challenges continued to fly in.
Lucas was booked for a foul on Oscar after Sakho had given the ball away. As the whistle blew, Costa and Skrtel were in pursuit of the ball and the Liverpool defender appeared to kick out at the striker, who again had been clumsy with his feet.
Oliver brought play back for a free-kick which Luis fired into the wall and then Hazard fired wide as Chelsea showed a fleeting moment of quality in front of goal.
Costa was unable to strike cleanly from the edge of the area as Mignolet saved and Courtois held a Steven Gerrard effort.
Mignolet managed to get a foot in to deny Costa after Henderson had inadvertently slid Oscar’s pass into the Chelsea striker’s path. Henderson then avoided a second caution for handling a Hazard pass, while Terry was shown a yellow for a tackle from behind on Sterling.
Enter Mario Balotelli, but his only real contributions were to shove immovable object Nemanja Matic in the stomach and fire over early in extra-time as Liverpool sought the breakthrough they needed to avoid exiting on the away goals rule.
But it was Chelsea who struck when, with Liverpool’s defence missing, Ivanovic headed in a Willian free-kick.
Henderson should have done better than head wide from a Sterling cross as Liverpool tried to force penalties.
There was still time for Costa to grapple with Gerrard, with both booked, as Chelsea advanced to the final and Mourinho celebrated with his son behind the dugout.
“This is a new Liverpool team and a very difficult opponent,” said Mourinho afterwards. “So I’m even happier because we beat a very good team over two legs. The difference was the goal that should have happened before in 90 minutes. In the second half we had a lot of football.”
Liverpool manager Rodgers said: “We gave the ball away cheaply for their goal.”
Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Luis (Azpilicueta 78), Fabregas (Ramires 50), Matic, Willian (Drogba 119), Oscar, Hazard, Costa. Subs not used: Cech, Ake, Remy, Cahill.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Can, Skrtel, Sakho (Johnson 57), Markovic (Balotelli 70), Henderson, Lucas, Moreno (Lambert 106), Gerrard, Coutinho, Sterling. Subs not used: Lovren, Lallana, Allen, Ward.
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