Jet-heeled Chelsea set up Swansea semi-final


CHELSEA manager Rafael Benitez hailed his players’ powers of recovery after they shrugged off jet-lag and came from behind to thrash Leeds and set up a Capital One Cup semi-final against Swansea.

A shock looked in prospect when Luciano Becchio put the hosts ahead but the Blues hit back after the break with a flurry of goals from Juan Mata, Branislav Ivanovic, Victor Moses, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres.

Victory came just three days after Chelsea flew back from Japan following defeat in the Club World Cup final against Corinthians, and without stars John Terry, John Obi Mikel and Ramires.

“I think the team was quite good in the first half – their keeper was doing well – but the reaction in the second half was fantastic,” said Benitez.

“After coming back from Japan – the jet-lag, changing a lot of players because the rest were tired – the way they played was amazing.”

Of Swansea, their opponents in the last four, Benitez added: “They like to play football and play on the floor so we’ll have to do well.”

Historic enmity between the clubs and bad blood between Benitez and Leeds boss Neil Warnock, as well as teeming rain, contributed to a spiky, hurtling, archetypal cup tie.

Leeds goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown was kept busy all night and saved two stinging efforts from Moses early on before Becchio stunned the European champions shortly before half-time.

Chelsea defender David Luiz’s wayward pass allowed Leeds to counter, and when left-winger Jerome Thomas flicked a low cross with the outside of his boot Becchio, arriving at speed, adroitly turned it past Petr Cech.

United defender Tom Lees should have doubled the lead seconds before half-time but headed over, and Mata punished them straight after the interval with a shot that squirmed under the keeper.

Ashdown denied Torres and Frank Lampard before Ivanovic opened the floodgates on 64 minutes, heading in Lampard’s corner. Moments later Moses cut in from the left and drilled a superb third from 20 yards.

Substitute Hazard streaked onto Luiz’s through-ball to tuck away a simple fourth in the 81st minute, before cutting back for Torres to tap in and complete an emphatic win seven minutes from time.

Aston Villa meet Bradford, shock winners over Arsenal in the quarter-finals, in the other semi-final. First legs will be played on 8/9 January, second legs on 22/23 January.