BY PAUL LAGAN
Arsenal recovered from going an early goal behind to secure a date at Wembley after beating Chelsea 2-1 at the Emirates tonight in the Carabao Cup semi-final.
In truth the Blues were the architects of their own downfall.
The absence through injury and suspension of key players did not help. Bit with only Eden Hazard showing the form that could make the difference it was simply not enough.
Arsenal will face a much stiffer task when they take on Manchester City in the final.
The Blues started positively, producing excellent one-touch football. A Tiemoure Bakayoko shot from just outside the Arsenal penalty area was deflected fo a corner.
Pedro though he had heard Chelsea int the lead on five minutes, But he was marginally offside as the ball rattled the back of David Ospina’s net.
But Eden Hazard made sure two minutes later as he raced onto the perfect slide rule pass by Pedro, and slid the ball comfortably past a prone Ospina, from close range.
Jack Wilshere almost equalised on 10 minutes when he too found space in the Chelsea area. Willy caballero, in for the injured Thibaut Courtois, was quick off the mark and smothered the goal-bound toe-poke.
The equaliser did come straight from a corner, on 13 min utes and it came when nacho Montreal’s free header took a double deflection, firstly off Marcos Alonso and then the hapless Antonio Rudiger and the ball zipped past Caballero.
Chelsea responded well forcing a succession of corners of their own.
Some sublime approach play by the Blues on20 minutes almost reaped dividends. Willian found himself in the false nine position but scuffed his left-footer wide of Ospina’s goal.
The Blues lost Willian with 18 minutes of the first half left with a suspected hamstring pull. Ross Barkley took his place. But it took three minutes before play stopped to allow him to get onto the pitch.
Mesut Ozil almost put the Gooners ahead deep into added time of the first half. but his goal-bound shot took a deflection off the boot of Andreas Christensen and away for a corner.
There were no changes at half-time by either side.
The second half opened in the same vein as the first – both side looking to exploit decidedly porous looking defences. That came to fruition, 15 minutes into the half when another unlucky deflection off Rudiger saw the ball fall invitingly to Granit Xhaka who easily poked the ball home to put Arsenal 2-1 up.
Antonio decided to put on striker Michy Batshuayi, replacing Pedro in the process on 65 minutes.
Conte’s last resort to alter the fate of the club in the semi-final rested with the introduction of Davide Zappacosta. The Italian came on fro Moses with 19 minutes left.
Cabaello denied Alex Iwobi a certain goal, when he somehow managed to get a boot to the striker’s shot.
The Blues failure to latch onto any second balls resulted in a constant stream of raids on Chelsea’s rearguard.
An Alonso free kick from 25 yards out sailed night and wide of Ospina’s net as Chelsea looked increasingly forlorn.
It’s back to the meat and drink of the League for the Blues while the north Londoners head off down the road to Wembley next month
Chelsea Caballero, Rudiger, Alonso, Kante, hazard, Pedro, Bakayoko, Moses, Willian, Christensen, Azpilicueta
Subs: Drinkwater, Barkley, Zappacosta, Batshuayi, Cahill, Luiz, Eduardo
Arsenal: Ospina, Koscielny, Lacazette, Wilshere, Ozil, Iwobi, Montreal, Mustafi, Bellerin, Xhaka, Elneny
Subs: Ramsey, Chambers, Maitland-Nile-Nile’s, Koslasinac, Macey, Nelson, Nketiah
Referee: Michael Oliver