Chelsea back from brink to reach League Cup semis

Chelsea’s Ecuadorian midfielder #25 Moises Caicedo (L) fights for the ball with Newcastle United’s Brazilian midfielder #39 Bruno Guimaraes during the English League Cup quarter-final football match between Chelsea and Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge in London on December 19, 2023. AFP

Chelsea came back from the brink to reach the League Cup semi-finals with a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory against Newcastle after Mykhailo Mudryk’s last-gasp equaliser on Tuesday.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side were joined in the semi-finals by Fulham, who beat Everton on penalties, and second-tier Middlesbrough, 3-0 winners against Port Vale.

Beaten three times in their previous five games, a wretched run that started with their 4-1 loss at Newcastle, Chelsea showed some much needed fighting spirit to win the quarter-final 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Languishing in 11th place in the Premier League, they were two minutes from being knocked out before Ukraine winger Mudryk came to the rescue with the leveller that set the stage for the Blues’ shoot-out success.

Pochettino’s only silverware as a manager is a French league title and domestic cup with Paris Saint-Germain.

Chelsea’s progress keeps the Argentine in contention for his first trophy in England after he lost the 2015 League Cup final during his time at Tottenham.

The defeat was a painful blow for Newcastle, who failed in their attempt to avenge last season’s League Cup final loss to Manchester United at Wembley.

After crashing out of the Champions League group stage, Newcastle’s exit was another setback for the Saudi-backed club in their bid to land a first major trophy since 1969.

Newcastle had been gifted the lead by Chelsea’s shambolic defending in the 16th minute.

Callum Wilson seized possession inside his own half and accelerated away from Thiago Silva as his lung-bursting run carried him into the Chelsea area.

Benoit Badiashile should have snuffed out the danger, but the defender’s woefully miscued attempt to clear allowed Wilson to fire home with ease.

With 20 minutes left, France forward Christopher Nkunku came on for his Chelsea debut after a prolonged injury absence since his close-season move from RB Leipzig.

Two minutes into stoppage time, Chelsea forced a shoot-out as Newcastle defender Kieran Trippier made a hash of dealing with a cross, misdirecting his header to Mudryk, who drilled into the bottom corner.

Trippier woe

Trippier’s misery was compounded when he smashed Newcastle’s second penalty wide in the shoot-out.

Nkunku converted Chelsea’s third penalty in his first significant contribution for the club.

Djordje Petrovic sealed Chelsea’s victory as he dived to his left to make a brilliant save from Matt Ritchie’s kick.

Fulham moved into the semi-finals for the first time after a 7-6 shoot-out win against Everton following a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.

Cottagers boss Marco Silva enjoyed a measure of revenge on the club that sacked him in 2019 by leading Fulham into their first domestic semi-final since the 2002 FA Cup.

Tosin Adarabioyo scored the decisive spot-kick after Everton’s Idrissa Gueye hit the post.

Amadou Onana had missed a chance to win the tie for Everton earlier in the shoot-out when his kick was saved by Bernd Leno.

Fulham went ahead in the 41st minute when Antonee Robinson’s cross took a wicked deflection off Everton defender Michael Keane for an own goal.

Everton substitute Beto equalised with eight minutes left, heading home from James Garner’s deflected shot.

Middlesbrough cruised past Port Vale to reach the semi-finals for the first time since they lifted the trophy in 2004.

Vale, 15th in League One, were making their first appearance in the League Cup last eight, but Michael Carrick’s Championship side ended their fairytale run in ruthless style.

Middlesbrough took the lead after 11 minutes through Jonathan Howson and Morgan Rogers doubled the lead before Matt Crooks bagged the third.

Liverpool host West Ham in the last quarter-final on Wednesday.

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