LEEDS United dreams of reaching the Capital Cup semi-finals were dispatched by a ruthless five-star show by European champions Chelsea at Elland Road.
Chelsea defied jet lag and a Championship side with a point to prove as they overturned a one-goal deficit with a five-goal second-half show.
Three days after losing the Club World Cup final in Japan, the last thing a Rafael Benitez team sporting just four changes could have done with was a trip to a rain-soaked Elland Road to meet a team with whom they share a bitter rivalry.
The omens were not looking good either when Luciano Becchio gave Leeds a first-half lead with his 16th goal of the season, but, as if they had never been away, Chelsea ramped things up after the break.
Three goals in a 20-minute spell from Juan Mata, Branislav Ivanovic and Victor Moses spun things in their favour, with Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres adding extra gloss late on.
On the balance of play it was the least the European champions deserved, with Benitez’s men at least proving they have still got what it takes on home soil following their disappointing loss to Corinthians on Sunday and their Champions League exit.
That they had home goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown to thank for the goal that got them level ended up largely irrelevant, with their cutting edge in the final third more than enough and, in the process, allowing Benitez to silence his opposite Neil Warnock, who is not the Spaniard’s number one fan.
That Warnock remains unhappy for what he feels was Benitez’s part in his Sheffield United side’s relegation in 2007 was one of a number of sideshows, with both clubs also linked by Ken Bates – a chairman past and present – and a mutual dislike dating back to the 1970s.
Constant niggling started to dominate proceedings as, away from that, the action consisted of Ashdown shovelling behind a Moses shot.
It was another Moses effort, again pushed away by Ashdown, that got football back on the agenda, with Leeds restricted to trying to feed on the scraps of Becchio’s knockdowns.
All that changed in the 37th minute, though, as Becchio put Leeds ahead on the counter-attack.
After David Luiz made a hash of a foray forward, Michael Tonge picked the ball up in centre midfield and ran into Chelsea’s half, releasing Jerome Thomas on the left. With Becchio clear and screaming for a pass, Thomas waited until the right moment and squared, with the Argentinean wrong-footing Petr Cech with his 16th goal of the season.
Chelsea were fortunate to see Tom Lees plant a free header a couple of inches over just before half-time.
But once Mata levelled with a crisp strike under the hand of Ashdown just 62 seconds into the re-start Warnock’s men almost sensed the game was up.