Chelsea saw off a brief fight back to win 3-1 at Pride Park and secure their place in the Capital One Cup semifinals against a Derby County team that finished the match with 10 men. After Filipe Luis added to Eden Hazard’s first-half opener just before the hour mark with a stunning free-kick, the tie looked over. Instead, to their credit, they refused to go quietly into the night and pulled a goal back through Craig Bryson. A tense finish appeared on the cards until Jake Buxton was sent off for holding back Loic Remy as he went through on goal and Andre Schürrle then made sure of Chelsea’s progress with eight minutes remaining.
It was the League Cup that provided Jose Mourinho’s first trophy in England a decade ago, and he continues to show the importance he puts on the competition in the strength of his team selections. The likes of John Terry, Nemanja Matcic, Cesc Farbergas and Hazard all started against opponents flying high in the Championship. While Chelsea weren’t at their best, they had the required quality at key times to get the job safely done and remain on course to provide Mourinho with the first trophy of his second spell in charge at Stamford Bridge. It would be a surprise were that the only silverware they lifted this season.
Top of the Premier League, into the last 16 of the Champions League and now into the final four in the League Cup, this could yet prove to be an special season indeed for London club. After an agonizing defeat in the playoff final in May, Derby will hope this campaign ends with them having secured their place to meet the likes of Chelsea regularly in the Premier League next season. But on Tuesday they received a lesson on just how far they have to go to be competitive with the current best team in England.
In the 23rd minute the message was painfully reinforced that the sort of errors that can be let off the hook in the Championship are ruthlessly exploited at the highest level. Derby defender Richard Keogh hit a misplaced pass and then an insufficient clearance to allow Fabregas to find Hazard and the Belgian to drill a low shot inside the near post for his ninth goal of the season.
Filipe Luis came close to adding a second when his fierce dive was repelled by Lee Grant in the Derby goal, but the first half ended on a worrying note when Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma was carried off having been floored in a nasty collision with Petr Cech. Branislav Ivanovic came onto replace the young Chelsea man, who was taken off on a stretcher.
Shortly after play got underway in the second half, Derby had a golden chance to level. Cech was able to repel a close-range effort from Will Hughes, but the Derby midfielder, often linked to Premier League clubs in recent times, will likely disappointed he failed to find the net. Soon after, that missed chance came into sharper focus when Chelsea’s lead was doubled. Filipe Luis struck his first goal for the club since his summer move from Atletico Madrid in style by curling a free-kick into the top corner.
With 19 minutes remaining, though, Luis was a little slow to close down Johnny Russell on the right of the box, allowing the ball to be rolled square for Bryson to connect with a clinical first-time effort. Derby’s hopes of mounting a comeback were raised, but they were soon extinguished. It’s not clear whether substitute Remy would have got to the ball ahead of the outrushing Grant had it not been for Buxton’s somewhat desperate attempt to prevent him doing so, but the Derby defender can have few complaints about seeing red. It took less than five minutes for Chelsea to capitalize when Remy’s shot was saved and Schürrle snapped up the rebound to take Mourinho’s men over the finish line.