League Cup Report: Swindon Town 0-2 Chelsea

Swindon welcomed the 2011/2012 champions of Europe Chelsea to the County Ground for the first time in almost two decades. Lee Clark was part of a capacity crowd under the lights, where Town were going toe to toe with World Cup winners such as Juan Mata and Fernando Torres was the Robin’s reward for a 2-0 win at Loftus Road back in late August.

With Ryan Mason and Ryan Harley both injured and Nathan Byrne suspended, Swindon remained light in midfield, just as they did in the 3-2 win against rivals Bristol City on Saturday. However, Town had another attacking option to add to the threat of Nicky Ajose, Nile Ranger and Dany N’Guessan as Alex Pritchard was now available having served his one match ban for picking up his fifth yellow card of the season against Wolves. He replaced Louis Thompson in the centre of the park.

The game started slowly, with neither team having any clear openings in the first fifteen minutes. Chelsea were happy enough to pass the ball around the back, hoping to find some space to exploit. Swindon remained resolute, and were also comfortable in possession themselves during this time.

Chelsea’s first chance to test Wes Foderingham came from a free kick from thirty yards. Grant Hall beat Fernando Torres in the air, but the referee harshly deemed the challenge on the Spaniard unfair. David Luiz stepped up, and unleashed a dipping shot. Foderingham decided against trying to catch the ball which was changing in direction all the time, and opted to beat the ball away.

At the mid-way point of the first half, the visitors had their first clear cut chance. Fernando Torres was played in on goal, with just the onrushing Wes Foderingham to beat. Torres attempted to lift the ball over Foderingham. Foderingham made himself big, and managed to get a hand to the shot and the danger was frantically cleared.

Moments later, Chelsea had their lead. Torres slipped in Mata, who on his right shot took aim at the far corner. Foderingham produced yet another fantastic save, even better than the one he produced just a few minutes ago. His efforts were in vain, though, as the ball started rolling towards the back post where Torres was on hand to poke the ball into the empty net just before it went out for a corner kick.

Chelsea doubled their advantage around five minutes later. Torres expertly turned Kassim around 35 yards out, and with Grant Hall and Darren Ward hesitating, he slipped in Ramires. The Brazilian finished expertly, gently chipping the ball over Wes Foderingham from nine yards. Swindon could feel hard done by to be 2-0 down at this point- they hadn’t disgraced themselves in any way and Chelsea had taken two of their three chances.

Swindon’s first real effort of note on the first half came from Kassim. The Iraqi found some space around twenty-five yards from goal. On his left foot, and with a lack of options, he unleashed a low drive towards the Stratton Bank which veteran goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer was forced to push out for a corner. The ball was destined to nestle in Schwarzer’s left hand side of the goal.

Swindon made one change at half time. Louis Thompson replaced Nile Ranger, who picked up a knock in the first half. The change seemed to improve Swindon. N’Guessan was pushed into a more central position, and he had the ball in the back of the net around fifteen minutes into the second half. A free kick from Jay McEveley was swung in towards the back post. Schwarzer missed his punch, and N’Guessan headed into an open goal. A comeback was on the cards- until the realisation set in that the linesman towards the Arkells stand had his flag up for offside. Replays showed the decision was correct a one.

The momentum remained with Swindon. They were getting closer to Chelsea, forcing them into mistakes. They created yet another glorious chance around five minutes later. Pritchard picked the ball up on the right hand side, around twenty-five yards from goal. He played in a fantastic cross, which left Dany N’Guessan stretching every sinew to get on the end off. He was denied again- this time by the hands of Mark Schwarzer, who gathered the low header at the second time of asking.

After the fifteen minutes of dominance, Chelsea took control again. Their summer signing, Willian, was played in on goal with just Foderingham to beat from a challenging angle. He opted to shoot rather than to square it to another Chelsea player who would have had a tap in. His left footed shot ended up rolling past the far post, and his wait for a first goal for Chelsea goes on.

This was to be the last major incident of the game. Swindon were knocked out of the cup by a clinical Chelsea in the first half. In the second half, they more than matched Chelsea and were perhaps were unlucky not to score in a fifteen minute spell of sheer dominance in the second half. Swindon had in no means disgraced themselves and contained Chelsea for large periods of the game, limiting the blues to only a few chances and creating a couple of good chances of their own. It was a huge payday for the club, and an enjoyable night, but unfortunately for Town, it wasn’t quite a night which will go down in cup history.

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