Custom Search 1

No sign of a crisis as Wenger leads his troops to Wembley

WEMBLEY BOUND: Arsene Wenger

ARSENAL BOSS Arsene Wenger was delighted to have reached the Carabao Cup final after Arsenal saw off Chelsea 2-1 at the Emirates in their semi-final second leg.

Goalless from the first meeting a fortnight ago at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea laid down their marker when Eden Hazard slotted home after 7 minutes. But five minutes later, the Gunners were level through Nacho Monreal's header which deflected off Antonio Rudiger. Chelsea rallied and were in dominant first half form, but were unable to add to their tally.

On the hour mark, Granit Xhaka gave the Gunners the lead for the first time in the tie and that proved enough for Wenger's side to reach the final for the eighth time.

"They made us work for it, I felt that in the first half there were psychological and tactical reasons for us not expressing the quality of our game. We rectified that at half-time and in the second half we won the ball higher up, we could then get our midfield, who is technically very talent into the game and then we controlled the game.

"I felt in the second half basically we looked always like we could win this game and that’s what we did . In the end I would say it was a deflected goal in the first and then second one was as well a bit lucky, but I felt overall we controlled the game in the second half," said Wenger.

When Hazard ghosted his way in from Pedro's assist to beat David Ospina after 7 minutes, the night seemed to be heading in favour of the Blues. The lead would last only five minutes however when Monreal headed towards goal, the ball then clipping Marcos Alonso and then Rudiger.

Having been overrun for most of first half, the Gunners started to fire efficiently with a return of their passing game. Alexandre Lacazette saw his cross reach Xhaka who prodded past Willy Caballero for a 2-1 scoreline. Rejuvenated and in the mood, Arsenal grew as the visitors seemed to tire. Jack Wilshere drove from midified and Alex Iwobi when one on one with Caballero should have finished but the Blues keeper got down well to make the save. With more warrior like Gunners defending, Arsenal held on and will now face Manchester City at Wembley in the final.

Wenger made one change from the side who took Crystal Palace apart 4-1 last Saturday with David Ospina coming in for Petr Cech. Monreal caught a whack on his leg against Palace but recovered well enough to start here, and the Spain defender had a warrior like robust effect on the game.

Firstly however, Arsenal had to come through a thorough test of their credentials. Pedro had just had a goal disallowed for offside, but the warning signs weren't heeded. It seemed too easy for the visitors. Chelsea took the lead after the Arsenal defence seemed to switch off. Hazard was allowed too much space and time to collect Pedro's quick pass and slot his finish beyond Ospina. The Blues pressed and seemed to have a hold on the game.

The Gunners just couldn't string any sequence of passes together or put it the visitors under pressure. From another unlikely source however, Arsenal grabbed a leveller. Nacho Monreal got his head to Xhaka's corner and the ball hit in off both Alonso and Rudiger.

Goalless after their meeting at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago, a winner had to emerge tonight, and the sceptre of penalties wouldn't have been welcome from either side.

Under the cosh for much of the half, but with the score still 1-1, almost from nowhere, Özil had a chance in first half time added on, but saw his effort go wide after Caballero's interception. A quick change of defence with the flexibility of switching from four to a three and Arsenal went at Chelsea.

Both sides were guilty of misplacing passes, but with Hazard at the helm, the Blues were always dangerous. One particular piece of defending to clear and also in taking a yellow card by Monreal for his attentions on the Belgian summed up the good work from the Gunners defender.

Alexandre Lacazette was willing all night and it was his perseverance to hold off Andreas Christensen which saw the Gunners take the lead. The cross came off ththe Chelsea defender and with an instinctive prod, Xhaka had put Arsenal in the lead for the first time in the tie.

Chelsea kept coming but without really testing further. Alex Iwobi seems to be getting his game back on track, but he should have finished past Caballero when one on one, but saw the keeper save his effort.

With time running out, the sense of victory was palpable as Chelsea ran out of steam and Arsenal ran out winners for their first League Cup final since 2007. This time they will hope to go one better for what Wenger later agreed was " unfinished business " in this competition.

Antonio Conte was frustrated not to have won, but his side will have to pick themselves up for Sunday's FA Cup 4th round when Newcastle United arrive in west London.

"My thoughts are there is disappointment for the final result. My players must be pleased with their effort, we tried to reach the final, we conceded two goals and we were unlucky, two deflections," began Conte.

"It is a pity because we had a good run in this competition, it is a pity for me, the players and fans. We started very well, played a good first half and in the second half I saw a lot of balance.

"When there is an injury to one of your best players it is not simple, especially when on the bench the only substitute is Ross Barkley.

"Barkley has a lot of space for improvement, he is working with us only two weeks but for sure today I was forced to make this substitution, but he can improve a lot."

Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.

Annual subscription for The Voice newspaper print edition.

Read more stories like this in our weekly printed newspaper. To purchase an annual subscription, complete the form below and enter the code 'ONLINE2017.

* indicates required
() - (###) ###-####
Facebook Comments