Derby County 1 Chelsea 3

Chelsearan out relatively comfortable 3-1 winners against Derby in their Capital OneCup quarter-final last night, with their Championship opposition playing someattractive passing Football, but meeting the Premier League table toppers in aclinical mood. It was indicative of their enviable strength in depth thatChelsea could afford to pick from their squad players and yet show no obvious signsof weakening their first eleven. Petr Cech and Andre Schurrle among others camein to freshen up the team but with star names throughout it showed howseriously Jose Mourinho was taking the promotion hunting home side and thecompetition itself.

Derby started positively andseemed to be settling into a confident rhythm until they came undone on 23minutes. Slack play at the back allowed their pressing guests to take possessionon the edge of the County box and moments later they were behind, as the silky EdenHazard came in from the left to improve the angle and clinically slotted hisright foot shot into the corner. Perhapsa little harsh on Steve McClaren’s men at the time, but a clear demonstrationof the ruthless efficiency within their opposition’s ranks. Indeed, for much ofthe half it seemed that the Blues had further gears to move into should they berequired as they kept Derby essentially at arms’ length. They seem to have beeninstilled with a strong work ethic under Mourinho, a likely consequence of thebattle for first team places all over the field.

There were nofurther goals in the half to dampen the home side’s spirits, although the slicksurface was indicative of the precipitation falling from the heavens. Cruellylabelled the ‘wally with the brolly’ while in charge of England, McClaren seemsto have learned a harsh lesson it seems and is now a firm convert of leavingthe umbrella at home.

Indeed both managers decided that pitchside was the placeto be, despite the soaking they endured as a result, and seemed equallyconcerned when there was a longdelay for a head injury at the end of the half to Chelsea's Kurt Zouma. Hesubsequently left the field on a stretcher but again as Branislav Ivanovic cameon as a replacement, the team were hardly weakened.

The defensivesolidity of the away side was illustrated by the point that Derby’s first real opportunityarose as late as the 51st minute, as the promising mid-fielder Will Hughes’goalbound shot was blocked by defenders. Unfortunately, it only served tospur on the men from Stamford Bridge and they doubled their advantage on 56minutes when Filipe Luis exquisitely curled his left- footed free- kick into thecorner of the net, his first goal for the club.

Gameover, or so most observers thought, but there was to be a mini revival forDerby as after the introduction of the Liverpool loanee, Jordan Ibe, theyseemed to rally somewhat as he ran at the seemingly impregnable defence thatfaced them.

They got the lifeline they had been looking for when Craig Brysonscored with nearly twenty minutes still to play, a cool finish beyond Cech. Thegathering momentum stalled though when Jake Buxton could count himselfunfortunate to be sent off and their hope was extinguished, when substituteLoic Remy’s shot was pushed out by the keeper only for world cup winnerSchurrle to slot the rebound home with just eight minutes left.

SheffieldUnited 1 Southampton 0

The Blues now advance to the semis where theycould meet League One side Sheffield United, who rather surprisingly beat theout of sorts Southampton 1-0 at Bramall Lane in the other tie played yesterday.Marc McNulty’s close range effort just after the hour mark proved enough forthe Yorkshire side, as Southampton were reduced to ten men in the dying secondswhen Florin Gardos was giving his marching orders.

It will be the Blades secondcup semi-final appearance in the calendar year after reaching the same stage inthe FA Cup in April. They will hope for better fortune this time around thantheir defeat to Hull City then.

The end of the match witnessed the refusal ofSaints’ boss Ronald Koeman to shake hands with his opposite number, NigelClough, which he later explained as being due to the United back room staff showinga lack of respect both to him and the fourth official during the game, amid rumoursthat inflammatory language may have been used.

Clough was keen toput the focus back on the performance of his players, rather than on the aftermatch spat on the sidelines. His side were deserved victors on the night asthey inflicted the Saints fifth straight loss and can now look forward to thetwo- legged semi-final in January.