Mutiny in the stands and mediocrity on the pitch. When even the Capital One Cup turns into chaos, Rafa Benitez must wonder if he will ever turn around this squabbling, disaffected club.
The Chelsea interim coach must have thought that defeat to Queen's Park Rangers at Stamford Bridge last week was as bad as it could get but he was sadly mistaken. In the semi-final of the old League Cup last night they went down to two goals that were gifted to them by dreadful, schoolboy errors by the defender Branislav Ivanovic.
The game ended with a new round of boos for Benitez, but these were even more vicious and angry in their intensity. The home fans demanded for long periods of the game that Benitez bring on Demba Ba, who played for the last nine minutes and had a legitimate goal disallowed for offside. They had sung the name of Frank Lampard to the heavens, and he eventually came on as a substitute but could not turn the game around.
The decision to appoint Benitez was based on the conviction that – however unpopular – he would bring the club success. As it stands they are out of the Champions League and will surely struggle to turn this tie around at the Liberty Stadium in two weeks' time when away goals will count double only after extra-time is played.
But this was also a famous night for Swansea and their manager Michael Laudrup. Having fought back to draw with Arsenal in the FA Cup third round on Sunday they took their chances brilliantly last night, first through Michu and then through his replacement Danny Graham, who scored the second in injury-time at the end of the game. In between they defended resolutely and deserved their win.
Chelsea might have had a penalty as early as the seventh minute when the South Korea international Ki Sung-Yueng wrestled David Luiz, below, to a halt in the mêlée in the area. Swansea were stuck in their own half for most of the first period, yet when they did finally break out they took their chance beautifully.
It was presented to them by Ivanovic, who took the ball from Ross Turnbull in the Chelsea goal and turned straight into trouble. Jonathan de Guzman stole the ball from Ivanovic and it broke to Michu.
Even from that position, the Swansea striker's task was by no means simple. Gary Cahill had recovered and was moving into position to block the direct route to goal. No problem for the goal machine from Oviedo, who switched the ball from his right foot to his left, away from Cahill, and found the space to lift a shot quickly past Turnbull.
Late on, substitute Ba scored a goal from Lampard's flick-on that should have stood but was ruled out for offside. Replays showed that the decision was incorrect. Less forgivable was a decision by referee Anthony Taylor to book Ba, presumably for diving, as he challenged for a ball with goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel. Ba deserved better on his home debut.
The goal Ba scored that was disallowed, and the two headers that followed, marked him out as an excellent option for Chelsea. The way things are going, Benitez may feel he has no option but to play his new signing. Certainly they cannot afford to lose to Stoke on Saturday.
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- Branislav Ivanovic
- Chelsea F.c.
- David Luiz
- Frank Lampard
- Premier League
- Stamford Bridge
- Swansea City