Football: For all their merits, this expensively-assembled Chelsea side remain frustratingly unpredictable. At times during this League Cup semi-final match against Swansea City, they made themselves look woefully inadequate too.
They travel to the Liberty Stadium in two weeks for the second leg of this tie looking to make amends for this defeat.
This home loss, very much like the one last week in the league against neighbours Queens Park Rangers, was self-inflicted. Although it was a pair of errors from Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic that led to goals from Michu and Danny Graham, Chelsea’s players are collectively responsible.
All is not lost for the Blues, but they do have a mammoth task. “We know that we have to go there and try to win,” said Benitez, the interim manager. “We thought that we did enough to deserve something more, but that is football. We will play in the same way that we did, and look to take our chances.”
Chelsea face a challenging run of matches over the coming weeks, one that is sure to test Benitez’s ability to rotate his squad and keep his players refreshed as they look to pursue silverware on four fronts.
The club’s latest signing Demba Ba, the former Newcastle United striker who scored two goals on his Chelsea debut over the weekend, began on the substitutes’ bench as Benitez opted to start with Fernando Torres. Frank Lampard, too, missed out, much to the displeasure of Chelsea’s supporters, who cheered the midfielder as he warmed up during the match.
Despite this the Chelsea boss opted to start with a strong line-up and was rewarded with a positive opening to the match from his players, who created a number of goal-scoring opportunities.
The game, however, turned late on in the first half when the side from south Wales took a shock lead very much against the run of play.
Swansea’s goal came courtesy of a defensive error from defender Ivanovic shortly before half time. Goalkeeper Ross Turnbull played the ball out to the Serbian defender who, with a momentary lapse in concentration, allowed it to squirm under his foot.
Swansea’s Jonathan de Guzman collected the loose ball before playing in Michu. The Spaniard steadied himself before firing a powerful shot past Turnbull for his 16th goal of the season.
Chelsea’s second-half efforts were desperately underwhelming against a Swansea side set up well by manager Michael Laudrup. “We knew that it was going to be difficult,” said the Dane. “I could not dream about a result like this.”
Lampard got his chance on 70 minutes. Eight minutes later, Ba too was beckoned over by Benitez and asked to ready himself and shortly after, found himself replacing Torres, much to the approval of the home support. However it was all too late.
Swansea’s second came a minute into injury time when Ivanovic, in an attempt to play a ball back to his goalkeeper, saw his pass intercepted by substitute Graham. The Swansea striker rounded Turnbull and tucked away the ball to put the tie very much in Swansea’s favour.