The Carling Cup final is now set, and cup holders Chelsea will be getting a chance to defend their title.
Thanks to a last-minute own goal by Everton’s Joleon Lescott, Avram Grant’s side took a 2-1 lead into Goodison Park for Wednesday night’s second leg semifinal tie.
There was to be only one goal last night, and it came by virtue of a blistering finish by Joe Cole in the second half, which delivered a 1-0 win on the night, and a 3-1 aggregate win, to put the Blues into yet another cup final.
With a victory a must for Everton, it wasn’t the best timing to be without Yakubu, who scored their goal in the first leg. But, the Toffees came close to knotting the tie on aggregate within 10 minutes. On a corner kick, the ball came in to Lescott, who sent a header goal wards, but new father Petr Cech parried it away, and that was that.
Both teams created half-chances throughout, but the next best opportunity came from the visitors early on in the second half. Nicolas Anelka unleashed a blast from the top of the box that had Tim Howard beaten, but it was just a couple of inches too high, and caromed harmlessly off of the post.
With Chelsea staunchly defending, Everton might have done well to borrow a couple of goals from Tottenham, but they did create a few more opportunities as the match reached the hour mark, but Cech wasn’t about to let anything get past him on his big day.
Then, Cole put things beyond Everton’s reach with his finely-taken goal in the 69th minute. Florent Malouda lofted a pass ahead to Cole, who got separation from two defenders as he streaked into the box, and he struck a vicious half-volley that rocketed past Howard at the far post and in.
That goal made Everton’s task nearly impossible, as they needed two goals in the last 20 minutes to force extra time. And, unfortunately, their cup run was to come to an end as even one goal wasn’t to come.
The Toffees’ trophy-less run continues for a little while longer, but they still have the UEFA Cup, and are holding fourth in the Premier League, so all is certainly not lost for David Moyes’ side, despite their disappointing exit.
As for Chelsea, they’ll have the chance to win their third Carling Cup in the last four years, and deliver Grant his first trophy as manager.
So, we will have an all-London clash in the first League Cup final at the new Wembley, but it may well not be the one that many were expecting, after Tottenham stunningly ended their winless streak against Arsenal with Tuesday night’s 5-1 (6-2 on aggregate) victory.
Will it be Spurs who break another streak after getting one monkey off of their back? Or will Chelsea repeat as Carling Cup champions?
We’ll find out exactly a month from now, when the two tangle, and as was the case with the semifinals, I’ll have a preview and a recap of the action, so stay tuned.