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Halloween nightmare for Fergie

SITTING up in his private box last night, the television cameras caught Roman Abramovich rubbing his forehead in frustration and turning to his companion in the seat next to him for an explanation as to why his Chelsea team insist on doing things the hard way.

Given that companion was Andrei Shevchenko, it was at least a man well-versed in the tumultuous life of Chelsea Football Club.

Three times they fell behind, and three times they came back into a glorious League Cup tie replete with nine goals, nine bookings, three penalties, a smattering of mistakes and a 94th-minute equaliser.

Three of those goals were in extra-time as Chelsea finally pulled away from a Manchester United team that proved to be a little too raw and inexperienced to match an opponent that got stronger with every substitution and just would not lie down. Just to make life simple, Ken Bates' Leeds United await Chelsea at Elland Road in the next round.

Chelsea fell behind three times last night but came roaring back each time, taking the game to extra-time with a penalty that was the last kick of normal time.

The European champions twice came from behind before losing on Sunday as well.

Di Matteo said: "I think we showed on Sunday already that we've got big characters in the dressing room and we had to show it again tonight.

"They showed a big, big heart and passion and pride to not want to lose this game. It was a very exciting game of football to watch, typical cup game, quite open at times and a lot of mistakes from both teams because there were probably a lot of young players involved in this game."

Last night, as Di Matteo sent on Ramires, Eden Hazard and then Oscar to turn this tie around, it was clear that even with the Fifa Club World Cup awaiting in Japan in December, Chelsea were not prepared to let the dear old League Cup go without a fight. The Cup is now down to the last eight with Chelsea and Arsenal -- who will face Bradford City -- the clear favourites to win the competition.

It was a second error of the night from 21-year-old academy product Scott Wootton that let in Daniel Sturridge for Chelsea's fourth goal in the eighth minute of extra-time, and it was the first time the home side had been in the lead.

In a frantic last period of extra-time, Ramires scored a fifth before Ryan Giggs, 29 days' shy of his 39th birthday, hit his second from the penalty spot to narrow the deficit.

Ferguson chose not to blame Wootton excessively, reflecting that it is always a risk to pick young defenders in as opposed to young strikers.

Instead, Ferguson blamed Nani for giving the ball away in the 94th minute at the end of normal time with United leading 3-2. It ended with Wootton fouling Ramires and gifting substitute Eden Hazard the penalty that would take the game into extra-time. "Nani decided to try and beat a player and we ended up conceding a penalty kick," Ferguson said. "At that point, the young players started to feel it and it was very difficult for them in extra-time."

Chelsea gifted United the first goal. Petr Cech, captain for the night, passed the ball out to Oriol Romeu who was immediately under pressure and easily robbed of possession by Anderson. With Cech stranded, Giggs picked his corner.

The equaliser came seven minutes after United's goal, an easy decision for referee Lee Mason to award a penalty, scored by Luiz, for Alexander Buttner's badly-timed challenge on Victor Moses who was dangerous down the right,

Hernandez scored United's second two minutes before half-time. It was a silly mistake by Luiz who brought the ball out of defence and was easily caught out by Rafael's challenge. From there the ball was fed to Anderson and on to Hernandez who finished beautifully.

Sturridge had fallen over the ball in the first half -- "Are you Torres in disguise?" sang the United fans -- and was too casual when unmarked at the front post from a corner early in the second half. Gary Cahill came to the rescue with a header from a corner that showed up United's deficiencies at set-pieces.

Rafael did get the ball out from under the bar and there was a delay in giving the goal which, replays showed, was a foot over the line. A good decision by the officials. It might have been Halloween but this was no ghost goal.

Within seven minutes of Chelsea's equaliser, United were ahead again, when Hernandez worked the ball from the left side of the area. Nani picked it up on the edge, played it into Anderson and got the return ball straight into his stride. He shaped to strike the ball hard but lifted a delicate chip over Cech.

Mata's shot in the box clearly struck Keane's hand but Mason did not give a penalty. In the end Wootton's mistake gave Hazard his chance from the penalty spot to save the tie. Sturridge and Ramires scored the fourth and fifth before Giggs scored a penalty after Cesar Azpilicueta knocked over Hernandez.

Chelsea got over the line but they did so having expended a lot of energy on the trophy that is fifth among their priorities this season.


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