Sitting up in his private box last night, the television cameras caught Roman Abramovich rubbing his forehead in frustration and turning to his companion in the seat next to him for an explanation as to why his Chelsea team insist on doing things the hard way.
Given that companion was Andrei Shevchenko, it was a least a man well-versed in the tumultuous life of Chelsea football club. Three times they fell behind, and three times they came back into a glorious Capital One Cup tie replete with nine goals, nine bookings, three penalties, a smattering of mistakes and a 94th-minute equaliser.
Three of those goals were in extra-time as Chelsea finally pulled away from a Manchester United team that proved to be a little too raw and inexperienced to match an opponent that got stronger with every substitution and just would not lie down. Just to make life simple, Ken Bates' Leeds United await Chelsea at Elland Road in the next round.
It will be the first time that the former owner of Chelsea has faced the club he sold to Abramovich over nine years ago and it would be fair to say that they did not part on the best of terms. Neil Warnock, the Leeds manager, has been the most outspoken in his criticism of Chelsea's handling of the Mark Clattenburg affair. Another game and another argument awaits Chelsea.
Last night, as Di Matteo sent on Ramires, Eden Hazard and then Oscar to turn this tie around it was clear that even with the Fifa Club World Cup awaiting in Japan in December, Chelsea were not prepared to let this the dear old League Cup go without a fight. The Capital One Cup is now down to the capital two with Chelsea and Arsenal, who will face Bradford City, the clear favourites to win the competition.
It was a second error of the night from the 21-year-old academy product Scott Wootton that let in Daniel Sturridge for Chelsea's fourth goal in the eighth minute of extra-time, and the first time the home side had been in the lead. In a frantic last period of extra-time, Ramires scored a fifth before Ryan Giggs, 29 days' shy of his 39th birthday, hit his second from the penalty spot to narrow the deficit.
Ferguson chose not to blame Wootton excessively, reflecting that it is always a risk to pick young defenders as opposed to young strikers. Having partnered him with the 19-year-old Michael Keane, that was evidently a risk Ferguson felt was worth taking. Keane might have been sent off for a foul on Sturridge although overall his performance was better than that of his defensive partner.
Instead, Ferguson blamed Nani for giving the ball away in the 94th minute at the end of normal time with United leading 3-2. It ended with Wootton fouling Ramires and gifting substitute Eden Hazard the penalty that would take the game into extra-time. "Nani decided to try and beat a player and we ended up conceding a penalty kick," Ferguson said. "At that point, the young players started to feel it and it was very difficult for them in extra-time."
In the hours before kick-off, Chelsea passed the point of no return in the Mark Clattenburg affair, formalising their complaint with the Football Association over the allegation of racial abuse against John Obi Mikel on Sunday.
It was a lively occasion from the start, or rather it was lively from the moment that the United fans in the Shed End unfurled a banner that read "Clattenburg - referee, leader, legend" on the upper tier. They sang "Time to blame the referee" at the home crowd when Chelsea went behind. There were smoke flares and a pitch invader who managed to get on and off the pitch eluding the Chelsea stewards.
Chelsea gifted United the first goal. Petr Cech, captain for the night, passed the ball out to Oriol Romeu who was immediately under pressure and easily robbed of possession by Anderson. With Cech stranded, Giggs picked his corner.
The equaliser came seven minutes after United's goal, an easy decision for referee Lee Mason to award a penalty, scored by Luiz, for Alexander Buttner's badly-timed challenge on Victor Moses who was dangerous down the right,
Hernandez scored United's second two minutes before half-time. It was a silly mistake by Luiz who brought the ball out of defence and was easily caught out by Rafael's challenge. From there the ball was fed to Anderson and on to Hernandez who finished beautifully.
Sturridge had fallen over the ball in the first half - "Are you Torres in disguise?" sang the United fans - and was too casual when unmarked at the front post from a corner early in the second half. Gary Cahill came to the rescue with a header from a corner that showed up United's deficiencies at set-pieces.
Rafael did get the ball out from under the bar and there was a delay in giving the goal which, replays showed, was a foot over the line. A good decision by the officials. It might have been Halloween but this was no ghost goal.
Within seven minutes of Chelsea's equaliser, United were ahead again, when Hernandez worked the ball from the left side of the area. Nani picked it up on the edge, played it into Anderson and got the return ball straight into his stride. He shaped to strike the ball hard but lifted a delicate ship over Cech.
Mata's shot in the box clearly struck Keane's hand but Mason did not give a penalty. In the end Wootton's mistake gave Hazard his chance from the penalty spot to save the tie. Sturridge and Ramires scored the fourth and fifth before Giggs scored a penalty after Cesar Azpilicueta knocked over Hernandez. Chelsea got over the line but they did so having expended a lot of energy on the trophy that is fifth among their priorities this season.
Man of the match Mata.
Match rating 9/10.
Referee L Mason (Lancs).
Quarter-finals: Draw details
Leeds United v Chelsea; Swansea City v Middlesbrough; Norwich City v Aston Villa; Bradford City v Arsenal
Ties to be played 11/12 December
Bridgewatch: Was everyone on their best behaviour?
Chelsea called for both sets of supporters to be on their best behaviour in the match-day programme and most of 41,126 capacity crowd did heed that warning. There was extra security in the wake of the ugly scenes that followed Javier Hernandez's winning goal on Sunday but those match day programmes were thrown at the Mexican as he wheeled away in celebration last night.
A vocal 6,000 travelling Manchester United supporters came accompanied with a "Clattenburg – referee, leader, legend" banner. A smoke bomb was thrown on to the pitch following David Luiz's equaliser from the penalty spot. Constantly asked their home counterparts the whereabouts of John Terry. "We want Clattenburg" followed an offside decision against Hernandez late on.
Both sets looked on their best behaviour, before a Nani strop led to a mêlée involving a dozen players in extra time. Until then referee Lee Mason was never surrounded or questioned with any real anger.
No touchline confrontations between Roberto Di Matteo and Sir Alex Ferguson this time. Di Matteo and a few members of the Chelsea back-room staff vehemently protested the non-award of a penalty but that was a rare flashpoint. Ferguson left most of the barking to his assistants.
All in all, a good night for the men in black until Mason's decision not award Chelsea a late penalty for Michael Keane's handball. Juan Mata's cross clearly deflected off the arm of the Manchester United defender and the referee was well-placed to make the correct decision. Mason made the right call to give Chelsea a first-half spot-kick when Victor Moses was bundled over by Alexander Buttner.
Giuseppe MuroReuse content