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Caoimhin Kelleher won the battle of the second-choice goalkeepers against Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga as Liverpool claimed a record ninth League Cup after an incredible penalty shoot-out.

The Irishman scored the decisive kick, with his opposite number – sent on specifically for the shoot-out with two minutes of extra time remaining – blazing over as the spot-kicks finished 11-10 after 21 of 22 efforts were perfectly dispatched.

In a thrilling and absorbing Carabao Cup final at Wembley both sides had goals ruled out for offside in normal time, Joel Matip falling foul of Virgil Van Dijk’s transgression and substitute Romelu Lukaku marginally straying ahead.

Extra time could not settle it and it ultimately came down to the goalkeepers, but not in the way usually imagined in a shoot-out, as Kelleher – who started after manager Jurgen Klopp kept faith with him for cup competitions – was successful from the spot and Kepa, who had barely touched the ball after coming on, was not.

Kelleher had played in every Carabao Cup game bar one this season, and then only because first-choice Alisson Becker needed game time after Covid-19, and was the hero in the quarter-final penalty shoot-out against Leicester.

Kepa had similar outings in the cup competitions but his ‘live’ game time in the final amounted to less than three minutes as Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel adopted the policy he had done in the UEFA Super Cup final in August by swapping the otherwise excellent Edouard Mendy for the Spaniard, who famously refused to come off in the 2019 League Cup final.

It barely affected his shot-stopping as virtually all the penalties taken were unstoppable but cannot have helped his rhythm or feel for the occasion.

Penalties were almost inevitable after two of the Premier League’s top three sides went blow-for-blow over 120 minutes with disallowed goals and the odd on-pitch confrontation adding to the occasion.

Mohamed Salah was making only his third League Cup appearance for the club in nearly five years, having lost his previous two appearances against Chelsea in September 2018 and Arsenal in October 2020.

It was also third time lucky for Klopp, who had lost his last two Wembley appearances in the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool in the 2016 League Cup final, when they were beaten by Manchester City on penalties.

As expected Chelsea started without Romelu Lukaku, although the withdrawal of midfielder Thiago Alcantara after injury in the warm up was a significant blow to Liverpool with the midfielder, in tears on the bench, having to be consoled by team-mate Alisson at kick-off.

The late change unsurprisingly affected Klopp’s side who, for 15 minutes, appeared to struggle with Chelsea’s front three and left wing-back Cesar Azpilicueta pushing on.

Just six minutes in Kelleher justified his manager’s faith by producing a superb reaction close-range save from Christian Pulisic.

Liverpool’s first sight at goal saw Sadio Mane comically misjudge Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross and head well off target, with Salah slicing a free-kick wide.

Having got their act together Klopp’s side began to dominate possession – they had a 10-minute spell where they had the ball 87 per cent of the time – and Mendy got down low to block Naby Keita’s shot before brilliantly getting up to deny Mane’s close-range follow-up.

Salah headed wide at the far post from Andy Robertson’s cross but Chelsea continued to create the best chances with Kelleher saving from Pulisic as Liverpool waited for another delayed offside flag which never came before Mason Mount bundled wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Pulisic, sliding in at the far post, failed to connect with a Kai Havertz cross early in the second half but the most glaring miss came from Mount who appeared to get the ball stuck under his feet having been clean through and stabbed a shot against a post.

In the technical area Tuchel sank to his knees and beat the turf with his hand.

Injury to Azpilicueta saw Reece James make his first appearance since late December faced with the livewire Luis Diaz, one of Liverpool’s better players on the afternoon.

Thiago Silva belied his 37 years to race back and clear Salah’s goal-bound dink over Mendy after the goalkeeper had scuffed a clearance.

Liverpool thought they had taken the lead when Matip nodded home from Mane’s header but VAR suggested referee Stuart Atwell look at the monitor and it was chalked off for an offside against Van Dijk, who had blocked Toni Rudiger’s run.

It was the sign for Tuchel to send on Lukaku and Timo Werner, for Mount and Pulisic, with Werner the next to be flagged offside as Havertz headed home.

Liverpool’s triple substitution saw Diogo Jota, James Milner and Harvey Elliott introduced but it was the impressive Diaz and then Van Dijk who forced Mendy into two saves, before Kelleher denied Lukaku with virtually the last kick of added time.

Lukaku had a goal ruled out in the first extra period on a tight-looking offside call and Havertz for one less so in the second.

A series of impeccable penalties followed before Kelleher brought home Liverpool’s first domestic cup in a decade in unlikely circumstances.

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Liverpool reached the Carabao Cup final for the first time in six years as Diogo Jota’s brace was enough to seal semi-final success at the expense of 10-man Arsenal.

After a goalless first leg at Anfield last week, Jota’s first-half daisycutter caught Aaron Ramsdale flat-footed and he then saw a second-half VAR check rule he was onside following a smart finish as Liverpool won 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium.

To top off a miserable night for Arsenal, Thomas Partey – who only returned from the Africa Cup of Nations earlier in the day – was sent off just 16 minutes after coming off the bench.

It means Jurgen Klopp’s Reds head to Wembley, where they will face Chelsea on February 27.

This leg should have initially been the first of the tie but was postponed after a number of positive coronavirus cases at Liverpool, while Arsenal had successfully appealed for Sunday’s north London derby at Tottenham to be called off.

This game had been in doubt but went ahead as planned, with Arsenal able to welcome back a number of players who would have been unavailable at Spurs.

The hosts started brightly, Alexandre Lacazette hitting the crossbar with a free-kick inside the opening five minutes.

Liverpool thought they had broken the deadlock in the tie as Joel Matip poked home a Fabinho header across goal but his effort was ruled out for offside.

Jota, though, would continue his fine recent scoring record against the Gunners, getting the better of the returning Takehiro Tomiyasu and somehow beating Ramsdale with a scuffed effort.

After their lively start, Arsenal’s attacking talent was stifled as Liverpool took control of the game heading into half-time.

Lacazette passed up a great chance to level after the restart, firing over the bar after besting the Liverpool offside trap to latch onto a fine pass from Albert Sambi Lokonga.

Liverpool, too, saw an opportunity to double their lead pass them by as youngster Kaide Gordon showed a lack of composure in skying a cross from Jota when well-placed.

Ibrahima Konate, on for Matip at the interval, headed against the post from a corner as the pressure on Ramsdale’s goal intensified.

Jota’s second 13 minutes from the end killed off the dying embers of any Arsenal comeback, the Portugal forward once again benefitting from a Trent Alexander-Arnold pass before coolly finishing.

The goal was ruled out by the flag of the assistant referee, only for VAR to overrule the decision and award the goal.

Partey was then dismissed after picking up two bookings in quick succession, the Ghana midfielder having only landed back in London at lunchtime, and he will now miss the visit of Premier League bottom side Burnley on Sunday.

But it was Jota’s fifth in his last five appearances against Arsenal and went unanswered as Liverpool booked their place at Wembley, aiming to win the competition for a record ninth time.

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Ten-man Arsenal displayed all the resilience and fight which was missing in their weekend FA Cup exit as a goalless draw at Liverpool saw them carry the initiative into next week’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg.

Granit Xhaka’s second red card in just 13 appearances this season handed Liverpool the numerical advantage for 71 minutes of this tie but they had been well below their best before that and they struggled even more against an organised 5-3-1 formation.

Arsenal actually performed better with a man less and Bukayo Saka’s thrusting runs down the right ensured their hosts always had to be aware of his threat.

The England midfielder also forced the best save of the night from Alisson Becker – remarkably making his League Cup debut after three-and-a-half-years – midway through the second half.

Liverpool had 78 per cent possession but only managed to force Aaron Ramsdale into one save – in added time – from the 17 attempts they had.

Jurgen Klopp had wanted a one-off game and that is effectively what he has now got, although following last week’s postponement of the original first leg in London because of Liverpool’s Covid outbreak the advantage is now with Mikel Arteta’s side.

Klopp had brought back his recognised first team, or as close as possible to it, for this tie but nevertheless the whole side had only 71 previous League Cup appearances for the club between them – and captain Jordan Henderson and James Milner accounted for 37 of those.

Arsenal, too, went strong after their defeat to Championship side Nottingham Forest on Sunday but still found themselves facing significant Liverpool dominance in the opening 25 minutes, not helped by the early loss to injury of Cedric Soares.

Ben White almost diverted Takumi Minamino’s cross into his own goal before the pressure finally told when Xhaka stretched to reach Andy Robertson’s searching crossfield ball and succeeded only in bringing down Diogo Jota with a waist-high challenge on the edge of the area.

Referee Michael Oliver had no hesitation in showing the Switzerland midfielder his third red card in the last 18 months.

Eddie Nketiah’s immediate withdrawal for Rob Holding saw Arsenal switch to damage-limitation mode with a back five but it gave them renewed purpose.

Willed on by an animated, arm-waving Arteta they more than comfortably kept their opponents, who struggled without top scorer Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane who are at the Africa Nations Cup, at bay.

Saka almost snatched the winner when he broke through once again only to be denied by the outstretched arm of Alisson but when the midfielder limped off nine minutes from time Arsenal settled for what they had, which was more than deserved.

Minamino, who had earlier flashed a shot across goal, blazed a half-volley over an open goal with the last real chance of the game.

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Chelsea booked their place in the Carabao Cup final with a 3-0 semi-final aggregate win over Tottenham, whose hopes of a comeback were denied by VAR misery.

Thomas Tuchel’s men did half the job in last week’s first leg at Stamford Bridge when they won 2-0 and Antonio Rudiger’s first-half goal in north London settled matters, setting up a Wembley date against either Liverpool or Arsenal next month.

They will get a chance to claim a sixth League Cup and give Tuchel the opportunity of winning a third trophy in just over 14 months in the job.

Spurs were well beaten over the course of the two games, but it could have been different had technology not ruled against them on three occasions in the second leg.

Referee Andre Marriner twice awarded penalties that were overturned while Harry Kane had a goal ruled out for offside as they missed out on a second successive appearance in the final.

The damage was done in last week’s first leg, where boss Antonio Conte was left complaining about a team that was “in the middle”.

The size of Spurs’ task in trying to recover was highlighted by the fact that no team had reached the League Cup final having lost the semi-final first leg by more than one goal since Aston Villa did it in 1994.

They started brightly as they looked to make inroads to their deficit, but Chelsea soon wrestled control and put themselves in an even more comfortable position.

Pierluigi Gollini, surprisingly selected in place of club captain Hugo Lloris, started well as he made a good save to deny Romelu Lukaku with his feet, but his evening soon took a turn for the worse in the 18th minute.

The Italian was culpable for Chelsea’s opener as he came out to punch a Mason Mount corner but got nowhere near it and the ball hit Rudiger and went into an empty net.

He went some way to atoning for that error when he made a smart stop to deny Callum Hudson-Odoi, but the damage had been done.

Spurs were in danger of being blown away, but for the first time in the whole tie began to put up a fight.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg saw a deflected effort go just wide with Kane unable to turn in Davinson Sanchez’s header from the resulting corner.

They thought they had a route back into the game in the 40th minute as they were awarded a penalty after Hojbjerg had been chopped down by Rudiger.

However, VAR ruled that the first contact occurred outside the area and the decision was changed to a free-kick on the edge of the area, which was missed by Giovani Lo Celso.

That felt an important moment as Spurs needed something to take into the second half.

It was Deja vu 10 minutes into the second period as Spurs had another penalty taken away by VAR.

Marriner was well behind play when he pointed to the spot after Lucas Moura went down under a challenge from Kepa Arrizabalaga.

But replays showed the goalkeeper won the ball and the referee had to change his decision again after checking the pitchside monitor.

Nine minutes later they suffered more angst as VAR chalked off a Kane goal.

Hojbjerg won the ball back high after a bad Kepa pass, but the England captain was marginally offside when he shot into an empty net.

That ended any chance Spurs had and they were unable to find a breakthrough.

There was a lengthy delay at the end due to a medical emergency in the crowd, but that could not dampen Chelsea’s celebrations.

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Chelsea put one foot in the Carabao Cup final with a commanding 2-0 win over miserable Tottenham on a wretched Stamford Bridge return for ex-Blues boss Antonio Conte.

Kai Havertz netted his fifth goal of the campaign before Ben Davies put through his own net as Chelsea prevailed in the semi-final first leg in west London.

The Blues will now hope to complete the job in north London next Wednesday, to reach their first League Cup final since 2019.

Chelsea were left to rue a string of missed chances despite dominating Spurs however, and will hope that profligacy will not backfire in the second leg.

The Blues drew first blood in a trio of January clashes between the fierce London rivals, with an absentee-induced 4-3-3 formation paying big dividend for boss Thomas Tuchel.

Havertz cut a battered and bruised figure on his half-time withdrawal due to a head knock and a suspected broken finger, with the Blues hoping the forward will not be sidelined for long.

Positive Covid-19 tests for Thiago Silva and N’Golo Kante were of more concern on the night, but Chelsea adjusted well for a fully merited victory.

Romelu Lukaku was back in action after his internal disciplinary omission from the 2-2 draw with Liverpool, but could not bag a goal to kick-start his redemption drive.

The Belgium striker had fallen foul of Tuchel and Chelsea for a recent interview revealing unhappiness at Stamford Bridge.

After missing Sunday’s Premier League encounter, apologising and paying a fine the 28-year-old club-record recruit was back in action and determined to prove his commitment.

Such was Chelsea’s superiority and Tottenham’s malaise however that the Blues could comfortably cope with a quiet night from their £98million talisman.

Chelsea raced into the lead, hassling Spurs with precision pressing.

Marcos Alonso robbed Emerson Royal amid Tottenham’s pedestrian passing, then fed Havertz down the inside left into the box.

Germany forward Havertz latched onto the pass and pinged past Hugo Lloris, via Davinson Sanchez’s deflection.

A goalmouth melee left Havertz with a suspected broken finger, but after touchline treatment the former Bayer Leverkusen player was back in action.

Havertz should have doubled both his and Chelsea’s tally when a deflected clearance fell straight into his path, but a scuffed first-time shot allowed Lloris a routine stop.

Toni Rudiger’s far-post shot was deflected wide from a corner as Chelsea’s dominance continued, and then a major defensive bungle gifted the Blues their second goal.

Japhet Tanganga’s headed clearance ricocheted off the nonplussed Davies’ shoulder – and straight past the statuesque Lloris.

Lukaku should have made it three before the break, but the striker could only nod wide from Hakim Ziyech’s teasing cross.

Timo Werner replaced Havertz at half-time, immediately adding more width to the Blues attack.

Spurs were improved after the interval, and Harry Kane’s drilled free-kick forced a solid stop from Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Chelsea’s riposte was a hooked shot from Lukaku, but the first-time effort lacked venom.

Ziyech should have buried a golden chance when worked free by Werner’s neat link play with Lukaku.

But the Morocco winger failed to generate any power on his left-footed shot that gifted Lloris an easy save.

Werner had everybody beaten – including Lloris – with a curling shot cutting in from the left, only for the ball to whip wide of the post.

Ziyech conjured the pass of the night to send Werner clear through the middle, but Lloris extended a palm to his attempted chip to thwart the German.

Spurs started to overrun a tired-looking Chelsea, so Mateo Kovacic and fit-again Ruben Loftus-Cheek replaced Mason Mount and the much-improved Saul Niguez.

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Liverpool have requested the postponement of Thursday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Arsenal after further cases of coronavirus within the squad forced training to be cancelled on Tuesday.

The request was submitted after the latest round of testing found more cases within the first-team bubble, days after manager Jurgen Klopp and three players – Alisson Becker, Roberto Firmino and Joel Matip – were forced to miss Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Chelsea after testing positive.

A club statement said: “The Reds have formally requested to the EFL that the fixture is rescheduled after further suspected positive tests were registered among players and staff, allied to other factors impacting selection, including illness and injury.

“In response, the club halted preparations at the AXA Training Centre, meaning Tuesday’s first-team training session was cancelled.

“Among the considerations which led to today’s application to the EFL is the need for travelling supporters to be given as much notice as possible of any potential postponement.”

Liverpool were without a total of nine players for the match at Chelsea through illness and injury, and have subsequently lost Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane to Africa Cup of Nations duty.

The request for a postponement will also raise a question over Sunday’s FA Cup third-round tie at home to Shrewsbury.

The return leg of the semi-final at Anfield is scheduled for January 13th.

An EFL spokesperson said: “The League has this evening received a request from Liverpool to postpone Thursday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg versus Arsenal, which will now be considered in accordance with the competition rules as set out at the start of the season alongside information submitted by the Club.

“We will look to confirm the League’s position as soon as possible once the circumstances have been fully reviewed.”

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Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers is confident his players will bounce back quickly from their Anfield penalty shoot-out heartbreak to meet the considerable challenge of facing Premier League leaders Manchester City.

The Foxes twice conceded a two-goal lead in the midweek Carabao Cup quarter-final against Liverpool – including an equaliser deep into added time – and then lost on spot-kicks.

More injuries were sustained in the process – striker Jamie Vardy played the last 20 minutes with a tight hamstring while defenders Caglar Soyuncu and Ricardo Pereira were forced off – which does not make their task any easier on Boxing Day.

Leicester have a decent recent record against City, with two wins in the last four meetings, but Pep Guardiola’s side look a different prospect this season.

“There is always disappointment but I said before the game ‘You are coming to Anfield, a great place to play, and whatever happens let’s impose our way’,” said Rodgers.

“That’s what I’ve always had from these players. They have been competitive against the best teams in the country and we saw that, we just couldn’t do enough to get over the line.

“They are such an honest bunch of players and it is always disappointing when you lose but I’ll get them going again.

“They (City) are playing well at the minute, so we will just have to see where we are at and then devise a plan with the players available and see what we can do.

“It doesn’t look like there are too many (City) players out, they’ve had a free week without a midweek game. They are a brilliant side with technical players, world-class players, and they are used to winning.

“We’ve done OK against them but it’s going to be a big challenge for us and we need to play with the spirit we played with against Liverpool.”

Their last two wins were in the Community Shield in August and a remarkable 5-2 victory at the Etihad in September 2020.

However, City are on an eight-match winning run in the league and have failed to win only one of the last 11.

“I think you see from the game at Liverpool we can score goals, we are creative, but we have to see what we have available at the weekend and we will try to come up with a plan to get a result,” Rodgers added.

“We went there last season and got a fantastic win. You know the challenge you are up against: they will dominate the ball and are good in transition and have the confidence to play so that’s the challenge at the weekend.

“They have top players, not too many injuries. They can rotate and change and they are playing their game, a high-level positioning game. They are virtually press-resistant, they can play through pressure and when you sit deep they have players of real intelligence to find spaces.

“You have to play with courage, and when you have the ball you have to exploit the spaces.”

A player who will be key to that is James Maddison, who is enjoying a run of five goals in his last seven appearances – the latest of which was a brilliant dipping strike against Liverpool.

“He is a real threat and to score at the Kop end a goal of that quality he will always remember that, a great strike,” said Rodgers.

“He is starting to get back to the levels and producing, which is what he has to do: create goals, score goals, work hard, and he is doing all of that.”

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Reds battle back from the brink

Liverpool are through to the Carabao Cup semi-finals after edging Leicester 5-4 in a penalty shootout having overturned a two-goal deficit in a gripping 3-3 draw.

Caoimhin Kelleher saved two Leicester penalties before Diogo Jota – a key figure off the bench – converted the crucial kick to send Jurgen Klopp’s much-changed Reds through.

A Vardy brace had initially put the visitors 2-0 up early on at Anfield, and although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got Liverpool on the scoreboard, a spectacular Maddison strike had Leicester cruising at the break.

But half-time substitute Jota reduced the deficit again after the hour and Takumi Minamino equalised deep into stoppage time to force a shootout.

Minamino was the sole Red to miss his kick, but it mattered not as Kelleher denied Luke Thomas and Ryan Bertrand to allow Jota to wrap things up.

It had all looked so promising for Leicester when Vardy had them two up in the 13th minute, finishing off incisive passes from Maddison and then Patson Daka.

The Reds quickly pulled one back, Oxlade-Chamberlain slamming home from 18 yards after being teed up by Roberto Firmino.

But Maddison soon restored Leicester’s two-goal cushion, blasting past Kelleher from distance as the ball sat up kindly.

Vardy then hit the post in a one-on-one situation.

A seemingly perturbed Klopp made three changes at the break, and one of them paid dividends as Jota fired beyond Kasper Schmeichel, setting up a tense final 20 minutes.

Minamino struck a dramatic equaliser right at the end and would have sealed the win had he not hit the crossbar with his effort in the following shootout, but Kelleher and then Jota spared his blushes to send Liverpool through.

Liverpool’s record in this competition has not been great in recent years, but they overcame that with a real show of character here.

Their semi-final tussle with Arsenal early next year will be their first appearance in the last four of the EFL Cup since 2016-17 and boosts their hopes of winning silverware before the end of the season.

Granted, Liverpool will have their sights on loftier prizes, but it is always good to be in the conversation for trophies.

Vardy was on fire in the first half, but Jota’s introduction at the break for Liverpool proved inspirational. 

Not only did he get the goal that provided a spark of hope, but he went close with another effort and then held his nerve for the crucial penalty. 

Klopp gave him a huge embrace at full-time, highlighting just how important the Portugal forward was.

Young centre-back Billy Koumetio was making his first start for the senior side but he endured a difficult 45 minutes before being withdrawn. 

The Reds’ backline was not helped by a lack of midfield protection, but Koumetio routinely struggled to get close enough to Daka and Vardy, who ran riot before half-time.

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Chelsea scrape into semi-finals with late double

Chelsea scraped past Brentford 2-0 in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals after Pontus Jansson scored an own goal and Jorginho converted a penalty in the final 10 minutes. 

Just as they did in the Premier League meeting between these sides back in October, Chelsea dominated possession but struggled to create any decent openings. 

Kepa Arrizabalaga did well to keep out Yoane Wissa and Mathias Jensen in the first half, with Thomas Tuchel forced to call upon senior players as he chased the game in the second period. 

The contest looked destined for penalties until Jansson put through his own net in the 80th minute and Jorginho put the result beyond doubt when he slotted home a spot-kick. 

Kepa produced a fantastic save to stop Wissa finding the back of the net with a free header from six yards out inside 12 minutes, though he may well have been deemed offside had VAR got involved. 

Jensen warmed the gloves of Kepa and Xavier Simons – one of three debutants for the Blues alongside Harvey Vale and Jude Soonsup-Bell – had Chelsea’s first shot on target in the 39th minute, but he allowed Rico Henry to surge in behind him seconds later and needed his keeper to bail him out. 

Vale failed to make the most of a glorious delivery from Cesar Azpilicueta before the break and Tuchel introduced Christian Pulisic and Jorginho for the second half. 

Henry almost scoring an own goal in the 53rd minute was as close as Chelsea went to breaking the deadlock, so Mason Mount and Reece James were sent on after the hour mark. 

It proved key as N’Golo Kante – who made his return from a knee injury as the final sub – released James, whose low delivery to the near post was sent into the top-right corner by Jansson. 

The game was put to bed after Alvaro Fernandez felled Pulisic in the box and Jorginho confidently dispatched the 85th-minute spot-kick to put Chelsea in the semi-final draw. 

The Blues had required a shoot-out to advance in their previous two Carabao Cup matches this season – and six of their past seven in total – and looked set to be heading for penalties once more. 

However, their late double saw them edge another fortunate result against Brentford, who missed out on making the final four for the second season running having failed to do so once in their first 60 campaigns in the competition. 

He may not have been able to replicate left wing-back Ben Chilwell’s winner at this ground back in October, but Marcos Alonso was a real bright spark for Chelsea. 

His driving runs were a consistent source of danger as he drew three fouls and supplied two key passes. 

As the only senior player in the three-man attack named by Tuchel, the onus was on Barkley to lead by example. 

However, he struggled to really make a mark on the game and none of his five attempts on goal were very convincing. 

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A first senior hat-trick for Eddie Nketiah guided Arsenal to a comfortable victory over Sunderland and into the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup.

The back-up striker has reportedly turned down a new deal at the Emirates Stadium and is out of contract in the summer but shone in a 5-1 win which also saw Charlie Patino score on his first-team debut.

Nketiah opened the scoring before Nicolas Pepe doubled the lead, while the in-form Nathan Broadhead scored his sixth goal in six games to pull one back for the Black Cats before the break.

Any threat of a shock was extinguished within 13 minutes of the second half as Nketiah provided two smart finishes and Patino came off the bench to add the gloss with a late fifth.

Mikel Arteta’s side sit fourth in the Premier League and showed nine changes from Saturday’s win at Leeds as only Ben White and Martin Odegaard kept their places

Sunderland wanted a early penalty as Ross Stewart went down in the box under close attention from Mohamed Elneny – but there appeared to be no contact and the claims were waved away.

A stroke of luck almost put the hosts ahead as a Nuno Tavares cross was turned against his own crossbar by Eddie Embleton with Arsenal starting to knock at the door.

The deadlock would be broken soon after, Rob Holding’s header well-saved by Lee Burge, only for Nketiah to knee home the rebound from close range.

Pepe, the club-record signing given a rare start by Arteta, doubled the lead as he exchanged passes with Cedric Soares before seeing his strike deflected past the helpless Burge.

But if Arsenal thought they were coasting into the semi-finals, they were wrong.

Sunderland would hit them on the break, Broadhead coolly finishing a quick-fire counter from the visitors to half the arrears.

Bernd Leno was then forced into a low save to keep Arsenal ahead as the Sky Bet League One side ended the half on top – although they did lose Broadhead to injury before the interval.

Sunderland boss Lee Johnson had joked about wanting to face Arsenal in the quarter-final after seeing off QPR in the previous round – saying facing the Gunners or their north London rivals Tottenham would let them face “the really big guns” in a two-legged semi-final.

He dismissed the comment as “dad banter” on the eve of the tie but Arsenal showed – in the minutes following half-time – that even their much-changed side were more than enough to see off Johnson’s spirited visitors.

Two flicked finishes from Nketiah would settle the contest, the first from a Tavares cross and the second after some superb work from Pepe – who impressed on his return.

Embleton had hit the post in between but Sunderland were out of the tie as their vociferous following sang throughout.

Arteta was able to hand a first-team debut to highly-rated midfielder Patino for the final 10 minutes, the England Under-19 international replacing fellow academy graduate Emile Smith Rowe and sliding in to convert another Pepe assist to put the cherry on top of the cake for Arsenal.