Benitez targets League Cup after Leeds rout
LEEDS, United Kingdom - Agence France-Presse
A rampant Chelsea crushed hapless Leeds United with five goals in a quarterfinal game in the League Cup. AFP photoRafael Benitez has targeted his first piece of silverware with Chelsea after the Blues routed Leeds 5-1 to book a League Cup semifinal clash with Swansea.
Chelsea interim manager Benitez is desperate to lift the League Cup as he tries to stake a claim to take the job on a permanent basis, but the Spaniard also warned his players they face a tough task to make the Wembley final.
The Blues shook off the effects of jet-lag to seal their place in the last four with a stunning five-goal second-half blitz to blow away their Championship hosts in the quarterfinals at Elland Road on Dec. 19.
Benitez’s men will host fellow Premier League side Swansea in the semifinal first-leg in early next month, and the former Liverpool boss insists they will have to be at their best to progress.
“Any semifinal of a major competition is going to be difficult,” he said. “We know we’re up against a team who try to play football, who try to play football on the floor and keep the ball.
“They’re doing well right now so it will be an interesting tie. The motivation is there for both teams to go through.”
Benitez is fighting to win over Chelsea supporters who continue to voice their opposition to the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo - and the choice of the former Liverpool manager to replace the departed Italian.
In the circumstances any trophy, even the often ridiculed League Cup, would be a significant boost to Benitez.
“To win trophies is important for any manager, we’re a game closer to the final at Wembley, so we’ll concentrate on that game when it comes,” Benitez said.
“We take every competition we’re in seriously and we’re a step nearer to the final.
“A top side has to try to win every competition and now we’re in the semi-finals we’re close to winning. We’re doing well, but we can still improve”
Chelsea took the first half to overcome the effects of their grueling 13-hour return flight from the Club World Cup in Japan, falling behind to Luciano Becchio’s 15th goal of the season.
But the Londoners stormed back with goals from Juan Mata, Branislav Ivanovic, Victor Moses, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres’ 13th goal of the campaign to win with something to spare.
The stirring comeback was sparked by a half-time pep-talk between the players, and skipper Frank Lampard said: “We had a word with ourselves at half-time and upped it because in the first half we weren’t at our best.”