Leeds 1 Chelsea 5: Five-star Blues hammer rivals to book semi-final spot in League Cup
07:45 GMT, 20 December 2012
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At full time, there was a wink to John Terry alongside him and a handshake for every one of the staff sitting on the bench at a sodden Elland Road.
Even in moments of great triumph, Rafa Benitez has rarely been a man for expansive gestures. Deep down, though, there must have been a sense of satisfaction and indeed vindication.
Satisfaction with a performance that will have convinced the Spaniard his players are improving and are beginning to buy into his steady, pragmatic style.
And vindication at a decision he took to play seven of the players who started Sunday’s Club World Cup final in Japan.
All smiles: Torres was on target as Chelsea put the Championship side to the sword at Elland Road
Leeds: Ashdown, /12/19/article-0-169664EB000005DC-45_634x304.jpg” width=”634″ height=”304″ alt=”Head boy: Ivanovic scored Chelsea's second goal from a corner to give the away side the lead ” class=”blkBorder” />
Head boy: Ivanovic scored Chelsea's second goal from a corner to give the away side the lead
Then Leeds — who had played their part at this point — broke to score a brilliant goal that gave the home team an unlikely lead and brought the game to life.
Brown then crumbled under what he
claimed was a shoulder from Mata and the constant niggling started to
dominate proceedings as, away from that, the action consisted of Ashdown
shovelling behind a Moses shot.
It was another Moses effort, again pushed away by Ashdown, that got football back on the agenda, with Leeds restricted to trying to feed on the scaps of Becchio's knockdowns.
Juan-1: Mata equalised for the Premier League side shortly after the interval
As has been the case before, Chelsea
defender David Luiz made a crucial mistake that was born of
over-confidence as his attempt to chip the ball over Sam /12/19/article-0-16965776000005DC-288_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Luciano Becchio” class=”blkBorder” />
Sealed with a kiss: Becchio handed Leeds the opener after a well-worked move shortly before half-time
In the dressing rooms at half-time,
the messages would have been simple. Chelsea needed a foothold while
Leeds needed 10 minutes of calm. Sadly for Leeds and their goalkeeper
Ashdown, the crucial contribution was to be his.
The 32-year-old had looked
impressively secure in the first half but how he allowed Mata’s weak
shot to trundle under his outstretched right arm 65 seconds into the
second perhaps he himself may not really know.
His manager was admirably sanguine
afterwards. ‘We won’t blame him,’ said Warnock. ‘If you are a goalkeeper
you can’t get away with a single mistake.’
Contrasting views: Benitez will be pleased with his side's display while Warnock is likely to be disappointed the hosts' second-half performance
In the dressing rooms at half-time, the messages would have been simple. Chelsea needed a foothold while Leeds needed 10 minutes of calm. Sadly for Leeds and their goalkeeper Ashdown, the crucial contribution was to be his.
The 32-year-old had looked impressively secure in the first half but how he allowed Mata’s weak shot to trundle under his outstretched right arm 65 seconds into the second perhaps he himself may not really know.
His manager was admirably sanguine afterwards. ‘We won’t blame him,’ said Warnock. ‘If you are a goalkeeper you can’t get away with a single mistake.’
Nevertheless, the importance of Ashdown’s error cannot be overlooked. It changed the complexion of the game and within 15 minutes Chelsea had taken the tie away from their opponents.
Net gains: Moses adds another goal for the visitors after latching on to Mata's flick
A half-chance in the Chelsea goalmouth almost gave Leeds another fillip as a cross flashed across Petr Cech’s goal, but before long Warnock’s team were punished for slack defending at a corner as Branislav Ivanovic was able to head his team ahead at the near post.
With confidence restored, Chelsea galloped away and played some expressive football as Leeds tired and ran out of adrenaline.
Mata was Chelsea’s best player but Moses was impressive, too, and he exploited the space afforded him by his team-mate’s decoy run to move forward and drive a low shot past Ashdown with his right foot from 25 yards.
Impressive: Victor Moses was a constant thorn in the Leeds United defence and got his reward with a goal
It was a finish of Premier League quality and, in the final 10 minutes, there was more to come.
Luiz, an impressive footballer when he has the time he needs, played a pass as perfect as the one in the first half had been stupid to release substitute Eden Hazard and the Belgium forward sprinted goalwards to score with some comfort.
Then, at the death, there was a goal for Fernando Torres, who picked up the pieces close to goal after Ashdown had parried a Frank Lampard shot. Benitez will note that Torres has now scored six goals in his last five games.
For Leeds, the night ended in anti-climax and it is sad that we will not be here for a big night again for quite a while. They are missed.
Warnock still has a major job to do at Elland Road, though. In west London, Benitez’s has grown marginally easier.
Goals: Fernando Toress (centre) got his 13th goal of the season and his sixth in the last five games