Chelsea Cruise Into Carling Cup Semi-Finals

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England, Dec 20: Holders Chelsea are through to the semi-finals of this year"s Carling Cup after a 2-0 win over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.

Frank Lampard scored the first goal just before the hour, with a shot that deflected off Jamie Carragher and over goalkeeper Charles Itandje. Liverpool"s Peter Crouch was dismissed a minute later for a horror tackle on Mikel John Obi, then Andriy Shevchenko slammed a second in the final minute. Both sides made changes to the starting line-ups from Premier League games on Sunday, though Chelsea"s eleven was less experimental than a Liverpool line-up that included Jack Hobbs and substitute goalkeeper Itandje.

The game was held up for five minutes after a warm-up injury to one of the assistant referees, with fourth official Peter Walton taking over the flag. When play eventually got under way, Crouch shot horribly wide from the right channel when set free by Andriy Voronin on eight minutes, then Ryan Babel showed poor decision-making when holding onto the ball in the penalty area after drifting into the box.

The Dutchman tried to cut the ball back to Leiva Lucas, when an earlier slide pass to Voronin would have been more profitable.

In between the two chances, Itandje made a good parry from Salomon Kalou after a fine build-up down the Liverpool left.

The Frenchman produced an even better save on 24 minutes when a misplaced Alvaro Arbeloa interception dropped to Lampard in the centre of the goal.

However, the Reds" goalkeeper managed to stay on his feet and block the chip with his shoulder.

At the other end, Chelsea stopper Petr Cech made a sharp block from Lucas, after the Brazilian had been set up by a good pass from Crouch.

Michael Essien then saw a 36th minute arrowed shot drift an inch past the post, with Mikel stretching to get a touch. However, the Nigerian was in an offside position, so any contribution from the former Lyn Oslo player would have counted for nothing.

The game drifted to half time, but both sides looked up for the battle as they came out for the second half.

Lampard saw a 52nd minute effort balloon over, but Itandje then made a very sharp save from an Essien effort from outside the box, after the ball had dropped to the Ghana international from a Jamie Carragher tackle on Scott Sinclair.

The game was hotting up as a spectacle now, and Voronin and Kalou both saw shots within a two minute time-spell go over the bar.

In between those, Ricardo Carvalho almost gifted Crouch a goal with a poor back header, but a combination of Cech and Tal Ben Haim was able to deal with the England striker"s ineffectual effort.

A goal was inevitable given the end-to-end nature of this spell of the game, and it eventually came on 59 minutes.

Lampard took a Shevchenko pass in the penalty area wide of goal, and Carragher deflected the goalbound shot over Itandje and into the top of the net.

Crouch was then shown a red card by referee Martin Atkinson for a ridiculous tackle on Mikel a minute later, an inexplicable two-footed lunge as the midfielder tried to shepherd the ball by the touchline.

Mikel was replaced on 67 minutes by Michael Ballack, making his first appearance after eight months out with ankle injuries.

Liverpool substitute Nabil El Zhar and Voronin were well wide with optimistic efforts in the latter stages, before Shevchenko scored with a shot past Itandje at his near post on 90 minutes after Ballack had outjumped Carragher to a Wayne Bridge cross from the left.
   
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