Wed, 19 Dec 2012 18:33:00 – Chelsea produced a ruthless second-half display to book their place in the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup after coming from behind to defeat old rivals Leeds United 5-1 at Elland Road in their quarter-final contest.
Luciano Becchio had given the Championship outfit the lead against the run of play in the 37th minute in the teeming rain in West Yorkshire, only for the Blues to show their superiority after the interval, although the final scoreline was harsh on the home side.
Jamie Ashdown, who made several good stops, was culpable right at the start of the second period as he allowed Juan Mata's low long-range effort to slip under his hand before Branislav Ivanovic and Victor Moses grabbed two in three minutes shortly after the hour mark.
With Leeds pushing for a way back into the contest and with their legs clearly beginning to tire, substitute Eden Hazard put the finishing touch to David Luiz's excellent through-ball in the 81st minute before setting up Fernando Torres to tap home the fifth.
The Blues were quickly out of the blocks and Moses forced a good save from Ashdown after being found by Oscar on the slick Elland Road surface. Captain Frank Lampard went into the book in the 15th minute after going through the back of El-Hadji Diouf, following an earlier foul on Sam Byram.
Chelsea appealed in vain for a penalty in the 23rd minute when Moses tumbled in the box after brief contact with Michael Brown, with referee Andre Marriner not interested and the Blues man picking himself up to test Ashdown again.
Mata put Brown on his backside on the edge of the box only to see his shot diverted behind for a corner, before Leeds took the lead against the run of play after hitting Rafael Benitez's side with a lightning counter-attack in the 37th minute.
Centre-back Luiz advanced deep into Leeds territory, only to see his pass cut out by Tom Lees' head and picked up by Michael Tonge. The midfielder's searching pass out to Jerome Thomas on the left flank was followed by an outstanding ball across the box which Becchio rolled beyond Petr Cech and into the bottom corner with aplomb.
That sparked an immediate response from the Blues prior to the interval with Moses seeing a goal ruled out for offside and Ashdown called into action to superbly deny Lampard's dipping long-range free-kick, while Lees headed narrowly over from a Diouf cross at the other end.
Neil Warnock would surely have warned his side to be on their toes at the start of the second period, but it took less than two minutes for Chelsea to level, with Ashdown allowing Mata's low first-time shot from outside the box to squirm under his hand and into the net.
The introduction of Hazard from the bench in the 60th minute inspired Chelsea, with Ivanovic heading home a corner at the near post to put the Blues in front before Moses drilled home from 25 yards, with Ashdown beaten at his near post, although there was precision and power in the shot.
Brazil international Luiz then opened up the home defence with a searching pass to Hazard which the Belgian ran onto before finishing with aplomb, before Ashdown was beaten for a fifth time after beating out Lampard's shot, only to see Hazard pick up possession and feed Torres for a chance which simply could not be missed.
1st Half Goals
Shots on Target
Shots off Target
1st Half Poss.
2nd Half Poss.
The 23-year-old has been sidelined since Spurs' 3-0 win at Fulham on December 1 but is back in training.
Michael Dawson also picked up a hamstring injury at Craven Cottage and has recently rejoined training.
"It's good news," Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas said in relation to Bale on the club's website. "First for the player because he wants to be back in the group and he's made a tremendous recovery. He's worked extremely hard.
"Michael was injured in the same game as Gareth and they've both returned to training. It's great to have them back.
"Benoit (Assou-Ekotto) is also recovering his fitness, along with Scott Parker. Scott is a little ahead of Benoit, but he's getting back into shape and back into contention."
The defender was dismissed during Tuesday's 3-0 win over Annan in the Irn-Bru Third Division after referee Paul Robertson ruled that Wallace had fouled Jack Steele in the penalty area and produced a straight red card.
Goalkeeper Neil Alexander saved the subsequent penalty as the Light Blues went on to secure a comfortable victory at Ibrox.
A story on the club's website confirmed: "Having reviewed footage of the incident at Murray Park today, manager Ally McCoist feels the decision to remove the 25-year-old from the match early was harsh.
"And after careful consideration the Light Blues have exercised their right to appeal against the ruling.
"It is understood the consequent hearing will not take place at Hampden Park until next Thursday due to the festive period.
"That being the case, Wallace would therefore be free to play against Elgin City this weekend then Clyde on Boxing Day."
The Primera Division club's medical department revealed in a statement this evening that the 44-year-old would have surgery on his parotid gland tomorrow, before undergoing approximately six weeks of chemotherapy.
The news comes just over a year after Vilanova first had a tumour removed from his throat.
Club president Sandro Rosell expressed his "unconditional support" for Vilanova at a specifically-convened press conference this evening, in which he was flanked by on-field leaders Carles Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Victor Valdes.
Rosell revealed assistant coach Jordi Roura would take charge of the first team while Vilanova, who took over from Pep Guardiola at the Nou Camp this summer, underwent his treatment.
The club has, however, left the door open for Vilanova to return to the touchline during his recovery, saying in tonight's statement that his "treatment may be compatible with his work life".
That decision is set to be made after tomorrow's surgery but for now Rosell offered the club's full support for Vilanova and his young family.
"Tito is strong, very strong. He's shown us that and we're convinced he'll back with us very soon," he told a press conference.
"We want to express our unconditional support to Tito and his family.
"We thank everyone for their support. We have complete confidence in the team. The club is very strong and united, we're capable of overcoming adversity."
The recurrence of Vilanova's illness was first reported this morning after Barcelona cancelled their scheduled media activities for the day.
Rossell admitted Vilanova had told him of the news yesterday, but tonight's confirmation was delayed until after a meeting with the players.
"We learned the news yesterday but Tito wanted to wait until we told the players," Rossell said. "We respected his will."
The La Liga leaders, who have enjoyed their best ever start under Vilanova this season, confirmed the speculation after the players arrived for training.
"In monitoring the process of his parotid gland, an extension of the pathology was detected, requiring surgical treatment on Thursday," a statement on the club's official website read.
"He is expected to remain in hospital for three to four days.
"After the surgery, Francesc 'Tito' Vilanova will undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment for approximately six weeks. During this time, and depending on how well he recovers, Vilanova's treatment may be compatible with his work life.
"Keeping in line with the patient's wishes, we urge respect and privacy during this process."
Speculation in the Spanish press has already linked Guardiola, who left the club to take a year-long sabbatical in the summer, with a return, but sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta denied any contact had been made.
Barca travel to Real Valladolid on Saturday before the winter break and Zubizarreta emphasised Vilanova remained in charge.
"Tito is our coach and will continue to be our coach," he said. "Jordi (Roura) will be on the sidelines for Valladolid, but all the rest is pure speculation."
Zubizarreta also expressed his shock at the news, saying: "It was difficult news to hear this morning.
"Tito's only concern has centred on his children and his family. The only person he has not spoken of is himself."
The 19-year-old defender starred at centre-back as Rovers established themselves as surprise leaders of League One, but an abductor injury has curtailed a loan spell that was due to end in January.
Gibson was rewarded with a new four-year contract on his return to Teeside this week, and Moore is confident a deal can be done for him to boost to Tranmere's promotion push when he is back to full fitness.
"He's desperate to come back and we're desperate to have him," said Moore. "He's been absolutely fantastic for us and I'd like to think that we have been for him.
"He's signed a new four-year contract at Middlesbrough so I'd like to think that's obviously (because) he's proven he can play at this level.
"I would imagine that Tony (Mowbray, Middlesbrough boss) is going to push him more next season to get him into that side.
"We'd like to bring Ben back until the end of the season, there's no doubt about that, and the boy wants to come."