There was rain and cold and Michael Brown trying to wind up any Chelsea player he could. There was a hostile crowd and a first-half Leeds goal and the whiff of a cup shock. And then last night cold reality came crashing in on Neil Warnock's side goal by goal.
The scoreline looked brutal by the time the European champions had finished with their old 1970s adversaries. There is something beguiling about the historic Leeds United v Chelsea rivalry but they have moved too far in opposite directions in the last 10 years for this to be anything but a mismatch once the Premier League side found their A-game on a grim Yorkshire night.
As the goals rained in on Leeds, and the home support became ever more disconsolate, the Chelsea fans goaded Warnock. He responded by pointing his backside in their direction, one last act of defiance against an opponent that was too strong, too accomplished and too damned good for Leeds.
It should take nothing away from Chelsea who stepped off their flight from Tokyo on Monday and acquitted themselves well after Luciano Becchio gave Leeds the lead eight minutes before half-time. It is never a pleasant experience having to confront Michael Brown and El-Hadji Diouf in the space of one evening, never mind when you are suffering from jetlag.
They will play Swansea City in the semi-final of the Capital One Cup, a trophy that is looking like it could fall nicely for Rafa Benitez after the failure of his side to win the Club World Cup. There could be no denying that last night his team were – in the modern parlance – up for it. They certainly had to be.
Frank Lampard led the way, particularly in the handling of Brown – a rare creature, the like of which Juan Mata and Oscar have probably not encountered before in their careers. Brown has a long-standing problem with Lampard. Or maybe Lampard has a long-standing problem with Brown. It can be difficult to tell at times but it is undeniably entertaining to watch.
Warnock said later that his 35-year-old midfielder had overcome a sickness bug to renew hostilities one more time with his old adversary. It took the pair roughly 30 seconds to commence snapping at one another. Lampard was booked in the first half for a foul on Diouf, surprisingly quiet, which meant that the Chelsea man had to be careful. It said much about his experience that he had such a great influence on the game nonetheless.
It might have been the proverbial cold December night that is supposed to find out fair-weather foreigners who "don't like it up 'em" but once again there was no doubting the quality of Mata. He was gifted the equaliser by Jamie Ashdown's poor effort to get down to his tame shot at the near post but overall the Spanish midfielder was a shining presence whom Leeds found impossible to pin down in the second half.
Leeds' support in a full house of 33,816, albeit with a restricted capacity, began with such gusto and finished disconsolate. When the opposition can bring on a £32m substitute, on this occasion Eden Hazard, then there really is not much that the team placed 12th in the Championship can do about it.
Leeds always looked dangerous from set-pieces in the first half. Chelsea had chances too and had a marginal penalty appeal when Brown laid a hand on Victor Moses' shoulder in the area. The first-half goal for Leeds, however, was beautifully worked.
David Luiz, playing at centre-back, sauntered forward with the ball and failed miserably to scoop it over Sam Byram. Leeds burst onto the counter-attack with Byram moving the ball forward to Michael Tonge who then found Jerome Thomas out on the left wing. His cross with the outside of his right foot was met in the centre by Becchio.
With Oscar and Lampard as holding midfielders there was no-one behind him to protect Luiz from his own worst instincts. Mata had a shot deflected wide and Ashdown did well to save a Lampard free-kick before half-time. A header from Tom Lees would have made it very difficult for Chelsea had it gone in.
The goals came quickly for the away side after half-time. Fernando Torres found Moses whose pass reached Mata on the edge of the box. His tame shot beat Ashdown. Warnock said later that his goalkeeper had needed a painkilling injection before the game which had then failed to have the desired effect.
Hazard came on and it was after his cross, put out by Byram, that Chelsea scored from the resulting corner. Ivanovic met Lampard's corner with a firm header for the second goal, having left his marker Jason Pearce in a crumpled heap. Just over a minute later, on 66 minutes, Torres won another header in the middle, Mata picked out Moses and he switched the ball to his right foot for a low drive that beat Ashdown.
It had been a great cup tie but it was over then. Warnock brought off Brown and Diouf in a double-substitution that removed much of the potential aggro at a stroke. It did nothing to improve the score. On 81 minutes, with Leeds stretched, Luiz released a beauty of a pass right through the heart of the home defence that Hazard ran on to and finished.
The fifth was a deserved goal for Torres, who rolled it in from six yards after Hazard had collected up Lampard's shot – saved by Ashdown – and squared it. Warnock offered a handshake to Benitez at the final whistle and the interim Chelsea manager went out on to the pitch to thanks his players, no doubt thanking his lucky stars for the conveniently sparse field that remains in the Capital One Cup.
Chelsea v Swansea City
Bradford City v Aston Villa
* Ties take place 8/9 & 22/23 Jan.
Booked: Chelsea Lampard, Bertrand.
Man of the match: Lampard.
Match rating: 7/10.
Possession: Leeds United 45% Chelsea 55%.
Attempts on target: Leeds United 5 Chelsea 16. Referee A Marriner (West Midlands).
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