Rafael Benitez praised his side’s second-half efforts as we recovered from an early scare to book our place in the Capital One Cup semi-finals, where we will face Swansea City.
Five goals after the break ensured a straightforward-looking passage into the semi-finals at Leeds United, but a goal down at the break, we looked vulnerable until Branislav Ivanovic and Victor Moses followed up Juan Mata’s leveller to put the game beyond our old rivals, and late strikes from Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres provided an impressive margin of victory against a dogged opposition.
Benitez was understandably thrilled with his side’s display after the break.
‘I am pleased that we won and in the way we won. Coming back from Japan with the jetlag we haven’t slept too much, the players are tired, but the second half was fantastic, amazing.
‘Coming back we needed to see the fitness of the players and change some of them. To have this reaction, mentally, and after working so hard, I am really pleased with them.
‘We talk about the second half and it is closer to how I want the team. The team is improving every game and we know we have to balance the squad. We have to play so many games it is important to have good players in all the positions.
‘The team was so good tonight so it’s not fair to just talk about one player.
‘We are doing well in attack. Still we can improve, and we were talking about the goal we conceded. We know David Luiz made a mistake but the team has to react in a different way. We have to improve and we don’t have too much time. Japan was good but we still have to adjust, but they didn’t have many chances. Still we can improve.’
On team selection, with three youngsters on the bench
‘We changed some players, we had players playing a lot of games, and I don’t know how many we changed, but we had some senior players and some young players too, as some of our senior players are quite young.
We had to change players, Marko Marin hasn’t played too many games and couldn’t do 90 minutes, then we had to manage until we scored. With young players and senior players, I felt it was better to give the senior players more opportunity. The young players will have plenty of opportunities to play.
On Swansea City in the semi-finals and whether a trophy would improve popularity among supporters
‘My priority is to win against Aston Villa now, enjoy today, and it will be a question of time if we can play at this level and win games it will be easier.
‘When you go to a semi-final any team will be difficult. Swansea is a good team who try to play football, and because we are so close to the final their motivation will be there.
‘The first thing I have to do is beat Swansea, but to win trophies is important for any manager. First we must concentrate on the semi-final and after that we can talk about the semi-final.’
Neil Warnock, the Leeds manager, was pleased with his side’s efforts, and felt his side could have been two in front before Juan Mata’s equaliser.
‘Overall I thought we made it a difficult night for them and played some good football as well.
‘A mistake cost us the equaliser and world-class players had relief to be drawing the game. That was the end of the story really and quality shone through.’