Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea (Agg 2-1) Carabao Cup semi-final
Arsenal defeat Chelsea 2-1 (Agg 2-1) in Carabao Cup semi-final second leg
A vital comeback victory for the Gunners in the League Cup against Premier League champions Chelsea keeps Arsenal on track to win their 4th trophy in 5 years. The EFL Cup, also called the Carabao Cup, is the only domestic competition that 68-year-old Arsene Wenger has not won in his 21 years at Arsenal. Veteran Arsenal manager Wenger said his side were playing with "more clarity" after Alexis Sanchez finally made his move to the Red Devils. Arsenal were victorious without Lexi as the Gunners came back fighting to defeat mighty Chelsea 2-1 (Agg 2-1) in their second leg tie in the Carabao Cup semi-final. This was Chelsea's first loss in 13 matches, since a 1-0 defeat by West Ham on 9 December in the Premier League. Arsenal's win set up a Carabao Cup final clash with titan Premier League club Manchester City who are currently well ahead of the others in first place on the Premier League Table. Arsenal have high hopes of winning the EFL Cup competition for the first time since 1993 when they face Manchester City in the Carabao Cup Final at Wembley Stadium on February 25 after Pep Guardiola's Man City men beat Bristol City in the other semi-final.
After a dull 0-0 first leg tie, Eden Hazard got off to a great start and scored the opening goal to put Chelsea ahead at seven minutes before an own goal from Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger made it 1-1. However, Granit Xhaka's winner took Arsenal to the EFL Cup final at Wembley on February 24. The win was only two days after Sanchez's move. Arsenal signed Henrikh Mkhitaryan from United in return. A tough run lasting months for Arsenal saw the Gunners drop to sixth in the EPL, down 23 points behind Premier League leaders Man City. A low point for Arsenal was losing to Championship Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup. "I felt that in January we paid a heavy price for uncertainty in our dressing-room," said Wenger. "Now we are back with more clarity. We know what we have to do. We can focus on our game. We lost a great player in Alexis Sanchez, but when a team doesn't know what's going on in the dressing room there is less clarity and focus on performances. We know we have to deal with it now."
At seven minutes Tiemoue Bakayoko played the ball into Pedro and he released Hazard, who slotted past David Ospina from 12 yards out to open the scoring for Chelsea. The Blues made a mistake and scored an own goal. And Arsenal responded with the winning goal to move into their first League Cup Final since 2011. Chelsea, third in the Premier League and undefeated in 12 matches in all competitions, only managed one more shot on target. Arsenal might have added a third but Alex Iwobi's shot was stopped by Willy Caballero. The Gunners held out to earn the win going through to fight for their first League Cup success in 25 years. With Alvaro Morata out with a back injury, Antonio Conte's lack of attack options caused him to opt for a front three of Pedro, Hazard, and Willian. The selection paid off inside seven minutes when Pedro set up Hazard for the game's first goal, but a hamstring injury suffered by Willian later in the half took him out of the match, with England midfielder Ross Barkley introduced off the bench for his Chelsea debut. The £15m signing from Everton made his first appearance of the season after returning from hamstring surgery to be heavily challenged by Jack Wilshere. Barkley started on the left, moved over to the right and later appeared in the middle but seemed a bit out of form after the lengthy absence. Barkley's late corner to Rudiger helped, but the German defender headed over. Wilshere, however, was fit and impressed as Barkley's rival for a berth in Gareth Southgate's England squad continued his fine form in the Arsenal midfield. Ross Barkley's last England appearance was in a 2-1 friendly win over Australia on 29 May 2016 and he was part of the squad for Euro 2016 but did not feature in any of the matches.
Ex-England midfielder Jermaine Jenas talked about Arsenal's win after the match mentioning manager Arsene Wenger's genius.
"I gave Chelsea a lot of praise in the first half but they didn't really open up Arsenal apart from their goal. After that, they were a bit stale unless Eden Hazard was on the ball. I was disappointed with Barkley but we've got to give him time. He's going to have to work something out very quickly. He has to take responsibility. He needs to be more productive, score goals and make things happen and be the player that Chelsea have bought. Fair play to Arsenal. In the first half, I was worried, it wasn't looking good. A completely different team came out in the second half, they got themselves back into the game and I think the better team won. Chelsea didn't offer enough or do enough. Most of those Chelsea players can't look at themselves and say they deserved to win that game. Managers are often stubborn but Arsene Wenger saw his team needed help at half-time. Moving Mohamed Elneny back into defense was a stroke of genius."
Arsenal's Nacho Monreal was named "Man of the Match". Monreal had been a doubt for this game after being substituted in the first half of the game against Crystal Palace with a leg injury. Monreal gave an assist in the opening goal, he had a pass completion rate of 90%, made three tackles, four interceptions, three clearances and blocked two shots. Arsenal will play in their 8th League Cup Final. Liverpool has competed in 12 and Manchester United have played in 9. Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur have played in 8 as well. Before the match, Arsene Wenger talked about Arsenal's relationship with Chelsea. "We are good teams that know each other very well," said Wenger. "The more we play each other, the more we know each other's strengths. But we never can predict. The last game in the Premier League was a very open game, the first tie in this competition was very blocked. So let's see what will happen tonight. These are always tight games, a semi-final, and whether you are favorite or not you want to win the game. We play at home, we have an opportunity to go to the final and we want to take it."
"Happy to take our fans to Wembley", said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger after the victory. "In the first half, we gave Chelsea too much respect and distance. We were a bit scared to go for it and we suffered from that. We were not playing in the right position but we amended that in the second half and took control of the game. We knew we could perform better in the second half and that's what we did. In the first half we watched them play a bit but we were tighter after the break. We have some time to prepare for the final but we are happy to take our fans to Wembley. We've been there a few times now and we're happy to be going again." "The best is I don't talk about it... I am perfectly happy with the players I have.... we are not close to signing anybody," said Wenger on Aubameyang.
Antonio Conte was interviewed before the tie. "We have prepared and want to reach the final. We have to put in a good performance. This is a big challenge, a massive game for us, but also for Arsenal. There is a lot of balance between these two teams and we will see what happens. My thoughts are there is a disappointment for the final result," Chelsea coach Antonio Conte added after his side's loss to the Gunners. "My players must be pleased with their effort, we tried to reach the final, we conceded two goals and we were unlucky two deflections. It is a pity because we had a good run in this competition, it is a pity for me, the players and fans. We started very well, played a good first half and in the second half I saw a lot of balance. When there is an injury to one of your best players it is not simple, especially when on the bench the only substitute is Ross Barkley. Barkley has a lot of space for improvement, he is working with us only two weeks but for sure today I was forced to make this substitution, but he can improve a lot."
Arsenal wore their famous red shirts with white sleeves while Chelsea was outfitted in their familiar blue kits to battle in a major cup semi-final, with a place at Wembley at stake, and the exciting game was a London Derby between two bitter rivals, so the atmosphere was really hot! For an update and quick recap of the rules and regulations for the Caraboa Cup, away goals count, but only at the end of extra time, so the only score that will take us to penalty kicks is 0-0 after 120 minutes. The new VAR system was in place.
Arsenal made four changes to the side named in their FA Cup semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge. Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Mohamed Elneny and Mesut Özil are in while Calum Chambers and Ainsley Maitland-Niles will start on the bench. Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck are out. New man Henrikh Mkhitaryan played in Manchester United's quarter-final defeat at Bristol City and had to wait to make his Arsenal debut. Chelsea made four changes from the first leg. Willy Caballero, Tiémoué Bakayoko, Willian and Pedro are in; Danny Drinkwater dropped to the bench, while Thibaut Courtois, Álvaro Morata, and Cesc Fàbregas are all injured. New signing Ross Barkley is on the bench and will be hoping to begin his Chelsea career tonight.
Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Elneny, Ozil, Wilshere, Xhaka, Iwobi, Lacazette. Subs: Ramsey, Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Kolasinac, Macey, Nelson, Nketiah.
Caballero, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, Moses, Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso, Willian, Pedro, Hazard. Subs: Drinkwater, Barkley, Zappacosta, Batshuayi, Cahill, Luiz, Eduardo.
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).
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