Chelsea’s hopes of reaching the League Cup Final were severely dented after a dismal display against Swansea saw them fall to a 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge. Despite having 24 shots on target, the European Champions failed to hit the net whilst Swansea capitalised on two errors from Branislav Ivanovic to take the lead into the second leg.
In what was a frustrating night for the Blues, Fernando Torres was booed off the pitch whilst support for Frank Lampard rang out for much of the game. Chairman Bruce Buck also felt the displeasure of the supporters when he stepped out to give Petr Cech an award for his 400th appearance for the club prior to the game.
The decision to bring in Torres for Demba Ba was one of two changes to the side which defeated Southampton, with the other by Victor Moses’ participation in the African Cup of Nations. Oscar came in to replace the Nigerian. Chelsea began the game as they would go on, with a decent amount of possession and plenty of the ball in Swansea’s half but lacking penetration.
As would also be the case for most of the night they threatened from corners, with Ivanovic heading over the first good chance of the night from a corner. That chance was reasonably difficult but Ramires can have no excuses for his miss 10 minutes in. Chelsea threaded a few passes together outside the box before Juan Mata slipped Ramires through but instead of taking it first time he cut past a Swansea defender before poking a limp effort at goal which Tremmel had no problem gathering.
Swansea were doing a good job at frustrating a Chelsea team with a total lack of ideas in the final third. As is often the case Torres was totally anonymous and was more often seen out wide than trying to create opportunities in the box. When he was in a good position he was all too often offside. Finally, Cesar Azpilicueta decided to take matters into his own hands and drove an effort at goal from distance which went wide of the mark. It was at least an attempt to test the Swansea keeper.
A much better chance fell to Mata a couple of minutes later but the Spaniard uncharacteristically produced a very poor effort which was easily stopped by Tremmel. He had another dig soon after from a more difficult position which went just wide of the post before Tremmel had to be alert to come and gather a deflected pass from Torres which almost rolled to Mata. Another opening then fell to Oscar when a ball over the top from David Luiz found him inside the box but his touch was poor and he lost control.
Then with seven minutes to go before half time Swansea suddenly took the lead. Ivanovic lost control of the simplest of pass from Turnbull and De Guzman pounced to take advantage of Ivanovic before spreading the ball to Michu. The prolific striker smashed a shot past the Chelsea keeper and gave his side a shock lead, sending the small band of travelling fans from South Wales wild with delight.
They were lucky not to see their side reduced to ten men soon after though when Hernandez lost his temper and kicked Oscar’s legs but referee Taylor only gave him a yellow card, one of a long line of decisions which went Swansea’s way. Chelsea mustered one more effort before the break but although Ivanovic struck a sweet shot towards goal Tremmel did very well to get across and save.
David Luiz had an opportunity to get an early goal in the second period with a free-kick after Chico brought down Torres but his effort flew high into the Matthew Harding Stand. His second free-kick of the half on 55 minutes went a lot closer when he instead tried to guide it into the bottom corner and it went just wide, with Tremmel struggling to get across his line in time. He probably should have done better though when Mata picked him out in space and he was close to goal but whilst he put his laces through it the ball went straight at Tremmel and it was a routine stop.
Swansea were content with the game continuing in much the same vein as they held on to their 1-0 lead away from home.
There was an increasing discontent around the ground with Benitez’s failure to make changes and when he did it was 70 minutes in as Lampard replaced the disappointing Ramires. The England international made a big difference, giving the midfield both shape and drive but Swansea continued to frustrate the Blues who were still creating virtually nothing in the finishing department.
Chants of “We want Demba Ba” were emanating from the stands but Benitez didn’t bring on the Premier League’s joint-second top goal scorer until there were just 10 minutes left to play. His introduction was marked with cheers around the ground whilst Torres was booed as he left the pitch. After two years of unwavering support it seems many Chelsea supporters might finally have lost patience with the £50m misfit. Oscar followed him off the pitch a couple of minutes later, replaced by Marko Marin.
Ba made an almost an instant impact when he came on, giving Chelsea movement in the box that just hadn’t been there before. When Ivanovic picked him out with a high ball forward and he headed towards goal he was denied by Tremmel before a second header, this time from a Marin cross, went narrowly wide.
Then came thirty seconds which changed the game. Again Ba was involved as he raced onto the end of a Mata pass into acres of space behind the defence. The striker got a touch to the ball and took it round Tremmel before the keeper took him down and there were screams for a penalty. Amazingly Taylor booked Ba for simulation and gave Swansea a free-kick.
The ball went up the field and Ivanovic picked it up before sliding a ball back towards Turnbull which went straight into the path of Danny Graham, who picked it up and easily buried it into the Chelsea net to double his side’s advantage.
Swansea’s fans went wild and chants of “One Di Matteo” echoed around the Bridge but Chelsea had one final chance to get back into the tie on home soil. Ba found the net but the flag was up for what was certainly a very marginal decision but there was little that could be salvaged at that stage from a wretched night.
With a tough run of tough league games looming and a trip to Swansea with a two goal deficit Chelsea need to improve greatly. Perhaps it is time that Torres was forgotten about and Demba Ba really given a chance to shine.
- Michu looking like the striker Fernando Torres might have become | Barney Ronay (guardian.co.uk)
- Football News: Chelsea FC 0 – 2 Swansea City: Incredible Swans on brink of final (walesonline.co.uk)
- Match Reports: Chelsea 0-2 Swansea City (clubcall.com)
- Chelsea 0-2 Swansea City (guardian.co.uk)
- Swansea halfway to Cup win after 2-0 defeat of Chelsea (theweek.co.uk)