Chelsea were on the right side of another high-scoring match, coming out on top against Manchester United to make amends for Sunday’s league loss.
United had thrice led, thanks to a couple of defensive howlers, but three Blue equalisers from Luiz, Cahill and Hazard ensued the evening would be extended.
Sturridge then put Chelsea ahead for the first time in the game after 97 minutes, before Ramires looked to had wrapped it up by walking the ball into the net with five minutes left of extra-time. But the mayhem continued when Giggs netted from the spot, but it was too little too late for the visitors.
The Capital One Cup is seen as a chance to blood youth and give fringe players match-time, but the friendly nature of the competition would be overpowered by the rivalry of the two great sides.
For Chelsea, this was a chance to put things right. Another defeat would have spelt out Chelsea’s worst sequence for six years. For Manchester United, this was a test for how they would cope against 11 men.
And though Chelsea’s side did boast an average age of a youthful 23.5 year’s old, Sir Alex Ferguson took an even bolder risk, putting a teenage partnership at the heart of defence, who would have a tough night containing the amicably-coined Mazacar (Mata, Hazard, Oscar) trio.
Daniel Sturridge was afforded, by default, a starting role, with Torres suspended and no other first-team strikers, and though the England international had his wish of being Chelsea’s out-and-out striker, his feet could not live up to what he says he is, falling over embarrassingly after an excellent Moses cross.
Romeu and Mikel was a partnership-in-progress, and it was the former’s lack of match sharpness which caught him out for United’s first goal.
The Spaniard dithered on a short goal-kick, and Ryan Giggs guided the ball past a furious Petr Cech. With that goal, the man who turns 39 next month has scored in 23 consecutive seasons, a remarkable feat.
Piazon was denied a free-kick, before yellow cards were given to Mikel and Romeu. Out came the Chelsea chants: “You’re worse than Mark Clattenburg!”, which were defended by the 6,000 United faithful: “Always blaming the referee!”
Victor Moses was causing problems for Buttner all night long, and that pressure told when the left-back clattered Moses for a certain penalty. Juan Mata, whose Munich miss has meant duties have been given to Luiz, looked on with joy, as the defender fired low and hard, past Lindegaard.
The defender has scored in each of his four games against United at Stamford Bridge, with three going the right way and one own goal.
Well, if you can call Luiz a defender. Moments later he wandered up field, and when his pass was cut out, the ball found Hernandez with acres of space, and the combination of Cech and Cahill just could not cover the space Luiz’s advance up-field vacated, with the Mexican grabbing his fifth in eight appearances against Chelsea.
Mikel was replaced by Ramires, with Di Matteo having one eye on the weekend’s league game and the other eye fearing Mason would be Webb in disguise. United would be even more experimental, putting Fletcher at right-back and Rafael at left, which together with Wooton and Keane, would surely be a defensive shape-up Chelsea could penetrate easily.
And sure they did, in the form of another defender. Gary Cahill rose highest and even though Rafael cleared, the ball had gone over the line sufficiently.
Chelsea had equalised for a second time, and with the scoreline 2-2, it was a case of deja vu from Sunday’s outings. Would there be red cards, like this time three days ago? No, but there would be a third United goal.
Nani, often brilliant but more so unable to live up to his own hype, exchanged a one-two with Anderson and lifted the ball over an oncoming Cech.
So 3-2 it became. Would that be enough to see United through, like last time? No, but for a few seconds. Chelsea had continually knocked on United’s back-door, and when Ramires was clattered, Mason had no doubts.
Hazard’s composure was called for this time, and the Belgian rolled the ball centrally in the sixth minute of added-on time.
That called for another 30 more magical moments of trick and treats. Oscar and Nani provided the handbags as the cold night turned evil, David Luiz then hit the crossbar from a free-kick.
It was a match which has seen it all. From a streaker, to a firecracker set off in the United end, to light-hearted “Clattenburg: Referee, Leader, Legend” banners, it was time for more goals.
And a hopeful punt up by Hazard resulted in the next one. Sturridge, who had been frustratingly assured, capitalised on a defensive howler by Wooton, and went past Lindegaard for Chelsea’s 200th competitve goal against Manchester United.
The youthful legs of United told; the brilliance of Mata, Oscar and Hazard shone through victorious. Indeed, the trio had created 17 chances in the game; the whole United side had only created 13, a testament to their abilities, and a certain sense of money well spent by the landlord watching in the stands.
And it was more astonishing work by the latter which gifted Ramires a fifth, which he duly took by, like Sturridge, walking past Lindegaard.
Penalties were therefore not needed, but there was another awarded by Lee Mason, who had an excellent game. Ryan Giggs had heart where the youngsters lost belief, but it was all in vain.
With five goals against United then, Chelsea have registered 103 goals in 2012, the third team in Europe to score over 100 in the year (Barcelona 138, Real Madrid 128). Chelsea, after two losses, ended the month on a high.