Chelsea claimed a semi-final place in the Capital One Cup last night with a 5-1 demolition of Leeds United giving their manager Rafa Benitez a ray of hope that he may be able to turn around the club’s hostile supporters who have opposed his appointment.
Benitez praised his team for their recovery from a goal down to Luciano Becchio’s first-half strike, just three days after they returned from Japan and the Club World Cup. They will play Swansea City over two legs for a place in the final on 24 February. Benitez said: “My priority is to win against Aston Villa [on Sunday], enjoy this [Leeds] game and after it will be a question of time whether we can play at this level and winning games will be easier having everybody together.”
There were further anti-Benitez songs among the away support after last night’s game in which Juan Mata, Branislav Ivanovic, Victor Moses, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres scored the goals in an impressive second-half display. John Terry travelled with the team to Leeds but it is not certain that he will have recovered in time to play against Villa in three days’ time. “One day he [Terry] is fine, the next day the knee has some trouble,” Benitez said. “Whether it is a week or three days [before he returns], we don’t yet know.”
This result meant that Chelsea have scored 17 goals in their last five games, with Benitez going some way to delivering on the club board’s desire to see attacking football. “I think we are doing well in attack, still we can still improve,” he said. “We were also talking about the goal that we concede. We know David [Luiz] made a mistake in the pass [for the Leeds goal] but still the team has to react in a different way.
“This is the side of things we want to improve and we don’t have so much time because we don’t have so many training sessions together. It was good in Japan because we could practise some things. But still we need time to improve. I’m happy only one goal and not too many chances. We can improve.”
Neil Warnock shook Benitez’s hand at the end of the game despite a long-standing enmity that goes back to Liverpool playing a weakened team and losing against Fulham in May 2007, the London club finishing one point ahead of Warnock’s Sheffield United, who were relegated. “I owe him big time. Look at his influence on my career,” Warnock said. “Without him I wouldn’t have been able to manage great clubs like Crystal Palace, QPR and Leeds.”
The Leeds chairman, Ken Bates, used his programme notes to call upon national football associations to boycott Fifa’s 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar. He also attacked Uefa’s decision to hold Euro 2020 across the continent.
Bates wrote: “The antics of Uefa and Fifa continue unabated... this could mean the games are staged at anywhere from Dublin to Moscow, Belgrade or even Jerusalem! The logistics of implementing this idea would be horrendous, least of all for the PBF (Poor Bloody Fans).
“The competition coincides with the height of the holiday season, which will put pressure on aircraft seat capacity, trains and hotel rooms, to say nothing of the cost involved.”