Ivanovic horror show leaves Blues facing shock cup exit


CHELSEA manager Rafael Benitez last night refused to blame defender Branislav Ivanovic after two catastrophic errors left the European champions on the brink of a shock Capital One Cup semi-final exit.

Ivanovic’s dawdling in possession allowed Michu to put Swansea in front with his sixteenth goal of the season and Danny Graham seized on the Serbian’s dreadful back-pass to add a second in injury time.

A second consecutive home defeat means Chelsea must become the first team since 1994 to overcome a two-goal deficit in the second leg, on 23 January, in order to keep alive their hopes of lifting the trophy.

“It’s not a big issue. Ivanovic was trying to do his best and the team was creating chances. It’s something that can happen, and the main thing is we have to carry on and try again,” said Benitez.

“If we played this game 10 times maybe we would win nine. Obviously they have a great advantage but we have to go there, try and score a goal and we will be in the game.

“The team was doing really well. We had a lot of chances and could have scored two or three in the first half, and one or two in the second. We made two mistakes and paid for them.”

Benitez insisted substitute Demba Ba’s late disallowed goal was not offside, and that the striker should not have been booked for diving when he appeared to be brought down by goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel.

“Watching the replay, the goal was level, and so a goal,” he added. “The penalty, the yellow card – it was not a yellow card but the penalty depends on the vision of the referee.”

Chelsea have now failed to score in four of six home games during Benitez’s seven-week reign, although the Blues had a glut of early chances.

An intricate passing move presented Ramires with the first clear opening but the Brazilian poked a shot straight at Tremmel.

Eden Hazard’s trickery gave Juan Mata a free shot but his effort fell to Tremmel and the Spaniard then latched onto a fine Oscar backheel but could only curl wide.

Swansea, who have never won a major trophy, took the lead against the run of play when Jonathan de Guzman muscled Ivanovic off the ball and fed Michu, who clinically beat Ross Turnbull from 18 yards.

Chelsea rarely threatened to draw level until late on, when Benitez replaced the peripheral Fernando Torres, who only had 19 touches throughout the game, with new signing Ba. The Senegal striker headed narrowly wide and had a goal disallowed for offside before tumbling in the box under a challenge from Tremmel in stoppage time, but his penalty claim was waved away.

Swansea immediately broke and Ivanovic was the villain again when his tame back-pass fell to Graham, who compounded Chelsea’s misery and sealed Swansea’s first win at Stamford Bridge since 1925.