Thursday 20 December 2012

Capital One Cup: Benitez praises 'amazing' Chelsea

Interim manager lauds Blues spirit after five goals account for Leeds in League Cup quarter-final

  • Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic wheels away after giving Chelsea the lead at Elland Road

Rafa Benitez praised the “character” of his Chelsea after they came back from a goal down to overwhelm Leeds United 5-1 to reach the Capital One Cup semi-finals on Wednesday night.

The west Londoners, who exited the UEFA Champions League as holders and lost in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup on Sunday, responded to going behind with an impressive second-half comeback in which they rattled off five goals to book a last-four tie with Swansea City.

“Coming back from Japan with the jetlag we haven't slept too much, the players are tired, but the second half was fantastic, amazing”
Rafa Benitez

Leeds went ahead on 37 minutes through Luciano Becchio before the Blues, who missed several goalscoring opportunities chances in a rainswept first half, struck back through Juan Mata just after the break with a shot from the edge of the area.

The floodgates then opened as Branislav Ivanovic headed in Frank Lampard's corner at the near post to make it 2-1 on 64 minutes and forward Victor Moses increased the lead by firing in from 20 yards after a mazy run.

Eden Hazard latched on to David Luiz's searching pass to extend the visitors’ advantage before Fernando Torres rounded off the scoring for a Chelsea side who host Villa in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday lying third.

"'I am pleased that we won and in the way we won," Benitez told the club's official website. "Coming back from Japan with the jetlag we haven't slept too much, the players are tired, but the second half was fantastic, amazing.

“We talk about the second half and it is closer to how I want the team. The team is improving every game and we know we have to balance the squad. We have to play so many games it is important to have good players in all the positions.

"We were looking for character and the reaction was so good, we have to consider it for the future. Every competition is important for us and a top side like us has to win every competition."

Swansea, Villa and fourth-tier Bradford City, who stunned Arsenal in their quarter-final, progressed to the semi-finals last week as they chase England's secondary knockout trophy which provides a UEFA Europa League berth.

Chelsea are at home to Swansea in the first leg in the week starting 7 January, while Bradford host Villa. The second legs take place in the week commencing 21 January.

Capital One Cup quarter-final results

Wednesday 19 December
Leeds United 1-5 Chelsea

Wednesday 12 December
Swansea City 1-0 Middlesbrough

Tuesday 11 December
Norwich City 1-4 Aston Villa
Bradford City 1-1 Arsenal (3-2 pens)

Capital One Cup semi-final first legs

Week starting 7 January
Chelsea v Swansea City
Bradford City v Aston Villa

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Key Points

  • Chelsea recover from a goal down to trounce Leeds United 5-1
  • Juan Mata begins recovery before goals by Branislav Ivanovic, Victor Moses, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres seal win
  • Blues book semi-final meeting with Swansea City in last-four stage