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Ivanovic Goal Sends Chelsea To Wembley

Ivanovic-goalBranislav Ivanovic’s header in the fourth minute of extra-time header sent Chelsea into the League Cup final as Jose Mourinho’s side beat Liverpool 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.

The defender’s goal gave Jose Mourinho’s side a 2-1 aggregate win, taking them into a 1 March final against either Tottenham Hotspur or Sheffield United and cutting off one of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard’s paths to a golden send-off before his departure for the Los Angeles Galaxy this summer.

The biggest winner on the night might be Manchester City who play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. How much did Tuesday’s gruelling encounter take out of the Premier League leaders.

Last week’s first leg was a spiky affair and a number of contentious incidents in the second leg made referee Michael Oliver the centre of attention during a break-neck first half in west London. Chelsea had two penalty appeals turned down, firstly when a shot from Willian struck Lucas Leiva on the hand and then when Skrtel appeared to catch Costa with his foot as the burly Spain striker looked to wriggle down the byline. The second appeal was particularly compelling, but Liverpool felt that Costa should have already been sent off by then after he trod on Can’s ankle right in front of the two dug-outs.

Mourinho made nine changes to the team humbled by Bradford, but Kurt Zouma kept his place ahead of Gary Cahill at centre-back and the 20-year-old Frenchman made an uncertain start. He had to sprint back to dispossess Raheem Sterling after misjudging a header on halfway and when Philippe Coutinho took him out of the game with a body-swerve,Thibaut Courtois made a good save  with his feet to deny the Brazilian.

Courtois also made a good save to parry a shot from Alberto Moreno, who had been released by a glorious pass from Gerrard, but Chelsea finished the half strongly, with Oscar twice shooting wide. Both teams lost players to injury early in the second period, with Fabregas hobbling off after being caught by his own captain John Terry before Mamadou Sakho ceded his place to Glen Johnson.

Round Two of the Costa-Skrtel clash, meanwhile, saw the Slovakian defender left in a heap after the Chelsea striker landed on his foot. Chelsea began to take charge, with Eden Hazard and Ramires shooting wide and Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet twice thwarting Costa.

Moments later, Mourinho reacted furiously when Jordan Henderson, who was on a booking, handled the ball but avoided a second caution. With Mario Balotelli sent on by manager Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool went into extra time knowing they had to score due to Chelsea’s away goal, but it was the hosts who struck, with Ivanovic heading in Willian’s right-wing free-kick in the 94th minute.

Henderson headed Liverpool’s best chance of an equaliser wide, while Gerrard’s night ended amid frustration as he was booked following a tangle with the irrepressible Costa.