Wednesday 11 December 2019

Chelsea punished by Swans smash and grab

Chelsea 0 Swansea 2 Henry Winter League Cup semi-final, 1st leg

Swansea City beat the champions of Europe last night, playing with all the defensive resilience and cutting edge that Chelsea lacked. "Que sera, sera, we're going to Wembley,'' their fans sang as their Chelsea counterparts turned loudly and abusively on Rafa Benitez.

The damage was done by Michu and Danny Graham, who took their goals well, exploiting mistakes by Branislav Ivanovic in particular. Chelsea were toothless in comparison and Fernando Torres managed only 19 touches before making way for Demba Ba late on. The contrast between Michu and Torres was painful for Chelsea fans to behold.

If the name of Michu had been on the lips of everyone at half-time, it had been a former Swansea player pre-occupying the thoughts of Chelsea fans before kick-off.

Frank Lampard, who spent a season on loan in west Wales in the mid-90s, was on the bench, causing unease amongst the home faithful. When Bruce Buck, the Chelsea chairman, was spotted on the pitch beforehand, the fans immediately launched into their paean to "Super Frankie Lampard", whose time at the Bridge draws to a close this summer.

They missed his finishing skills in a first half of many passes but no cutting edge.

Swansea boss Michael Laudrup was trying not to look too far ahead, despite the giving the Welsh side a perfect platform to book a date at Wembley.

"I think we have had some historic results already this season – winning at Anfield and at the Emirates. Winning at the European champions though is something very special," he said.

"But there is still a mountain to climb. They have so much quality and we will have to play exactly the same; with the same intensity. They could still score three of four goals against us."

With Lampard on the bench, Ramires and David Luiz were handed the central-midfield roles and Ramires should have scored after 10 minutes following a wonderful Chelsea move. The ball flowed from the captain Ashley Cole on the left to Juan Mata, Luiz and Oscar and on to Eden Hazard. It was a collection of quick interchanging that totally bemused Swansea. Hazard played the final pass, picking out Ramires, who dribbled in but delayed his shot and eventually stabbed a weak effort straight at Gerhard Tremmel.

Swansea, so well-organised by Michael Laudrup, were pressing hard and fast, building strong barricades when Chelsea had possession. They left only Michu up with even the creative wide players, Wayne Routledge and Pablo Hernandez, tracking back time after time to cover the full-backs.

In possession, Swansea were neat and nimble, particularly in central midfield. Leon Brittain kept moving the ball forward, occasionally darting past Luiz. Jonathan de Guzman broke forward, looking to link with Michu.

Swansea's No 9 let fly with a low shot gathered by Ross Turnbull, still deputising for the injured Petr Cech.

Michu's accuracy later in the half contrasted with Chelsea's profligacy.

Mata, surprisingly subdued in the first half, then found himself in space following a storming run from Hazard but his shot was far too weak.

Another Spaniard then took centre-stage, Michu striking his 16th goal of a remarkable season. Chelsea had only themselves to blame.

Ivanovic dawdled on a ball out from Turnbull, losing out to De Guzman. The inexperienced Turnbull landed Ivanovic in trouble but the Serb should still have cleared. One of the rules of the season has been that no risks can be taken with Michu lurking. The moment the ball was transferred to the left foot of Michu, Chelsea feared the worse. The £2m man calmly swept the ball past Turnbull from the edge of the area.

This was not in the script. Chelsea were rattled, trying vainfully to equalise before the break. Ivanovic sought to make amends, charging forward and unleashing a strong shot that Tremmel did well to push away.

After the break, Chelsea tried to turn all their possession into something tangible. It was pass, pass, pass, all style and no substance.

Still the Lampard chants came. Still Chelsea failed to impose themselves on Swansea. With Torres struggling, the home supporters began chanting "we want Demba Ba".

Swansea were defending superbly; Hernandez tracked back to block a cross from Oscar. Chelsea still could not break through. Ashley Williams was dominant in the air. Chico Flores even found time to deal with a pitch invader.


With 20 minutes remaining, the Chelsea fans had one of their wishes when Benitez sent on Lampard for Ramires. The Englishman immediately tried to get a message through to Luiz but the Brazilian did not seem to be listening.

Benitez had seen enough after 79 minutes and withdrew Torres, who had managed only 19 touches all night according to Opta. Ba bounded on much to the delight of the Chelsea fans, who seem finally to have lost patience with Torres.

Ba ran through in the final minute but was harshly judged to have dived when it seemed a simple collision with Tremmel.

It got worse for Chelsea when Ivanovic failed to spot Michu's replacement, Graham.

Swansea's No 10 coolly rounded Turnbull and slotted the ball home. It got even worse for Chelsea when Ba was wrongly ruled offside when drilling the ball into the net. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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