Chelsea stormed into the League Cup final with a 6-1 thrashing of second-tier Middlesbrough to easily overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
The Blues struck four times before half-time as Jonny Howson’s own goal, Enzo Fernandez, Axel Disasi and Cole Palmer put Mauricio Pochettino’s men on the road to Wembley next month.
Palmer and Noni Madueke piled the pain on Middlesbrough in the closing stages on a night that could prove the turning point in Pochettino’s early reign in charge.
A much tougher test awaits against either Premier League leaders Liverpool or local rivals Fulham on February 25, but there are promising signs for the Argentine that an expensively-assembled yet still raw squad is beginning to come together.
The former Tottenham boss had to call for calm after sections of the Chelsea support turned against Pochettino and his players after losing at the Riverside a fortnight ago.
But Boro are 11th in the Championship and the gulf in class between the sides eventually told over 180 minutes.
The first blow of the night for Michael Carrick’s men was a self-inflicted one as veteran midfielder Howson turned into his own net as he tried to prevent Armando Broja from tapping in Raheem Sterling’s cross.
After struggling at home in the early months of Pochettino’s reign, Chelsea have now won seven consecutive games at Stamford Bridge and the floodgates opened on Middlesbrough as the hosts found their flow.
Disasi was only deputising at right-back due to injuries to Reece James and Malo Gusto, but the Frenchman played a huge part swinging the tie in Chelsea’s favour.
Firstly, he combined beautifully with Sterling to square for Fernandez to put the five-time League Cup winners in front on aggregate.
Disasi then showed the composure of a striker to stroke home Sterling’s low cross for just his second goal for the club.
If the second and third goals owed much to Chelsea finding their form, the fourth was a gift from the visitors as Daniel Barlaser coughed up possession inside his own box and Palmer kept his head to roll in his 10th goal in 23 games since his move from Manchester City.
Chelsea were able to take their foot off the gas in the second period with one eye on another major knockout clash against Aston Villa in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday.
Yet, two more goals in the final 13 minutes rubbed salt into Middlesbrough wounds.
Of the more than £1 billion ($1.3 billion) spent by Chelsea’s owners over the past 18 months, the £40 million splashed out on Palmer is looking the best investment.
The England international stroked home Conor Gallagher’s pass to make it 5-0.
Substitute Madueke’s effort then had too much power for Rav van den Berg to clear off the line.
But there was a crumb of consolation for the thousands of travelling fans from Teeside who continued to vociferously back their side all night.
Morgan Rogers may have been playing his final game for Middlesbrough as Aston Villa line up a move for the 21-year-old before the end of the January transfer window.
Rodgers showed why he is attracting Premier League interest with a fine finish into the far corner from outside the box two minutes from time.
World Cup News
/ 3 months ago
FIFA on Saturday confirmed that three bids to host the Women’s World Cup in...
/ 3 months ago
A set of six jerseys that Lionel Messi wore during Argentina’s victorious 2022 World...