Middlesbrough vs Chelsea English League Cup

Middlesbrough vs Chelsea English League Cup

Championship side Middlesbrough stunned five-time EFL Cup winners Chelsea to claim a hard-fought 1-0 victory in the first leg of their semi-final clash at the Riverside Stadium on Tuesday night.

Local lad Hayden Hackney scored the only goal of the closely-fought contest midway through the first half to ensure that Michael Carrick’s men take a one-goal advantage into next week’s second leg at Stamford Bridge.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side boasted over 70% possession and had a total of 18 shots on goal, but they ultimately lacked a cutting edge in the final third, much to the frustration of the travelling Blues supporters.

Boro Start Brightly Despite Injuries

Middlesbrough made a bright start to the contest, but they were dealt a huge blow inside the opening 20 minutes as both Emmanuel Latte Lath and Alex Bangura were forced off with injuries.

With no VAR in the EFL Cup, Chelsea were fortunate not to concede a penalty in the second minute after Axel Disasi made a crunching tackle into the ankle of Latte Lath, whose initial shot rolled wide of the far post.

Middlesbrough’s No.9 was withdrawn after attempting to continue to no avail, before Bangura hobbled off with an apparent hamstring injury after tracking back well to intercept Noni Madueke on Chelsea’s right – Boro’s injury tally has now increased to an alarming 14 as a result.

Palmer Misses Big Chance, Hackney Punishes

In between both injuries for the hosts, Cole Palmer – operating as a false nine – fired Chelsea’s first shot on target straight down the throat of Tom Glover, before Blues captain Conor Gallagher sent a volley well over the crossbar following a corner.

Palmer was then presented with a huge chance to open the scoring just after the half-hour mark when Jonny Howson’s misplaced pass played the Chelsea star through on goal, but he dragged his left-footed shot inches wide of the right-hand post.

Middlesbrough capitalised on that missed opportunity from the Blues, as the hosts broke the deadlock just five minutes later when Hackney calmly slotted home a first-time finish from six yards out after pouncing on a low delivery from dynamic winger Isaiah Jones, who caused havoc down the right flank for Levi Colwill.

Chelsea’s Domination Fails to Deliver

Chelsea controlled possession in the closing stages of the first half in search of an equaliser, and they came close to restoring parity when Moises Caicedo fizzed a low-driven shot from outside the area narrowly wide.

Glover then fumbled what should have been a comfortable catch following a curling strike from Enzo Fernandez, but his blushes were saved as Palmer somehow failed to hit the target with a cushioned first-time volley from inside the six-yard box.

Palmer had one more attempt before the half-time whistle blew, but as he checked inside onto his favoured left foot and fired a tame shot on goal, Glover got down well to his right to make the save before collecting the rebound off Howson.

Blues Push for the Equaliser

Seven minutes after the break, Fernandez teed up Madueke with a perfectly-weighted delivery from the edge of the area, but the latter was unable to generate any pace on his header which was comfortably collected by Glover.

Middlesbrough looked defensively sound, but aside from the threat down the right from Jones on the counter-attack, they offered little going forward, and it seemed only a matter of time before Chelsea pilled on the pressure heading into the final 30 minutes.

However, despite Chelsea’s dominance in terms of possession and shots, Boro held firm to secure a famous victory. The second leg at Stamford Bridge promises to be a tense affair, with Chelsea needing to overturn the deficit if they are to reach the final.