There will be no early visit to Wembley this season as Chelsea were eliminated from the Capital One Cup after a goalless draw in Wales.
The Blues had it all to do after a home defeat two weeks ago, and although we pressured Swansea for periods, only rarely did we look like overturning the deficit, and were dealt a late blow when Eden Hazard was dismissed following an altercation with a ballboy.
In the early stages it was the home side that looked the more likely to score, Petr Cech saving well from Michu, before Chelsea’s best spell saw goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel save from Hazard and Ramires before Demba Ba shot over just before half-time.
After the break there were no clear-cut opportunities for Chelsea, though Ramires had a decent sight of goal and Juan Mata brought a smart save from the goalkeeper shortly before Hazard’s red card brought our run to an end.
It will be Manchester City, rather than Bradford City we face in late February.
Rafael Benitez made just one change to the line-up following the weekend’s win over Arsenal, replacing Fernando Torres in attack with Ba. On the bench, John Terry continued to wait for his first start since November, while David Luiz was among the substitutes at the expense of youngster Nathan Ake.
Swansea were unchanged from the side that faced us at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago, meaning Michu started up front alone, flanked by Pablo Hernandez and Wayne Routledge.
The snow that had greeted the arrival of Chelsea fans in Wales during the late afternoon had all but stopped by the time kick-off arrived. It did, however, remain bitterly cold, but the chance of a first ever major final was enough to warm the hearts of the home fans, who must have been in confident mood following victory in west London two weeks previously.
If there was a positive atmosphere in the Liberty Stadium at the start of the game, the locals almost went into ecstasy after seven minutes, when a swift break following a Chelsea corner saw Wayne Routledge’s goalbound volley deflected behind off Cesar Azpilicueta. Just beforehand, Ba had gone down in the Swansea area under a challenge, but referee Chris Foy deemed there to be insufficient contact for a penalty.
Swansea have earned plaudits for their plaudits for their pass and move style, and it ripped Chelsea open again shortly afterwards when Routledge slipped Michu in, with only an outstretched Petr Cech denying them a three-goal advantage in the tie.
The home side were unquestionably on top, with Chelsea yet to forge a shooting chance, let alone a likely goal. Seventeen minutes in, Michu outjumped Gary Cahill on the edge of the Blues area, allowing Jonathan De Guzman a sight at goal, but the defender recovered just in time to block the shot.
A deflected Eden Hazard brought a corner and a little spell of Chelsea pressure around the 20-minute mark, which saw Cahill’s header cleared off the line by Angel Rangel, Hazard shoot tamely straight at goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel, and then Ramires drive low and on target from long range. Was the tide beginning to turn?
It seemed not as Swansea looked to have weathered the storm, twice denying Oscar inside their box before resuming their neat possession football. Chelsea had one more chance in first-half stoppage time, when the ball fell loose for Ba, but he lashed over the top and we went in at half-time goalless.
Chelsea were going to have to go for it in the second half, take risks and in doing so probably leave ourselves open to the counter, where Swansea had already threatened in the opening 45 minutes.
Ba shot wide five minutes into the second periodand Chelsea were on top, but sure enough when Tremmel punched a corner clear the Swans surged forward and it took some excellent defending from Ashley Cole to keep Hernandez at bay, with Michu and Routledge both options inside the area for the Spaniard.
Back on the front foot Ramires dragged a shot wide from 18 yards and Frank Lampard drove over after a clever free-kick from Mata, but Chelsea’s overall threat was beginning to drop as the home side began to sense they had done enough to reach Wembley.
A goal at this stage, with just over 20 minutes to go, could throw the tie back into doubt, and Mata might have thought he had it with a superb low strike from his weaker right foot, but Tremmel was equal to it and clung on to the ball at full stretch.
The task was about to get a whole lot harder, and in controversial circumstances. In trying to get the ball back into play at quickly at a Swansea goal kick, Hazard attempted to wrestle the ball from a ball boy, who then went down clutching his side. A melee ensued, Mr Foy consulted his assistant, and Hazard was red-carded. Chelsea were a man and two goals down with 10 minutes remaining. Torres replaced Oscar.
Swansea were quick to capitalise on the man advantage, and Hernandez forced Cech into another save. They could now pass the ball around knowing Chelsea were stretched. Such is the attacking nature of Michael Laudrup’s side they continued to search for goals well into the six allotted minutes of injury time, but none would come, mainly thanks to a late Cech save from sub Nathan Dyer.
The result brings to an end a six-game winning streak away from Stamford Bridge, but more importantly, our hopes of some early silverware.
Swansea (4-3-3): Tremmel; Rangel, Chico, Williams (c), Davies; Britton (c), De Guzman, Ki Sung-Yueng; Hernandez, Michu, Routledge (Dyer 64)
Unused subs: Vorm, Monk, Tiendalli, Lamah, Shechter, Graham.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic (David Luiz 67), Cole (Bertrand 85); Ramires, Lampard (c); Hazard, Mata, Oscar (Torres 80); Ba.
Unused subs Turnbull, Ferreira, Terry, Marin.
Sent off Hazard 79
Referee Chris Foy