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Football

Chelsea claim English League Cup


CARDIFF, Wales -- Chelsea won their first silverware for billionaire owner Roman Abramovich and outspoken manager Jose Mourinho with a see-saw 3-2 victory over Liverpool in the League Cup final at Cardiff on Sunday.

John Arne Riise put Liverpool ahead after just 43 seconds only for Reds captain Steven Gerrard to head past his own goalkeeper on 78 minutes.

Extra-time goals by Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman put Chelsea 3-1 ahead before Antonio Nunez's headed reply.

Mourinho was forced to watch the finale of the match from the stands after being banished by the fourth official for allegedly taunting Liverpool supporters after Gerrard's unfortunate own goal.

But it did not trouble the confident Portuguese after a traumatic week which had seen his side knocked out of the English FA Cup then lose 2-1 in the first leg of a Champions League last 16 tie in Barcelona.

"To me it's unusual to be sent off by a policeman. Not by a referee or a fourth official but by a policeman," the Blues manager said after he had been told to leave the bench during his team's 3-2 League Cup final triumph over Liverpool.

"The policeman told the fourth official 'Mr. Mourinho has to go out.' It's a bit of a special situation for me. If I made a mistake I apologize."

Chelsea keepr Petr Cech found himself picking the ball out of the back of his net with under a minute gone inside the Millennium Stadium.

Chelsea's defence may have been the cornerstone of their progress this season but they remained uncharacteristically rooted to the spot as Fernando Morientes arced over a searching deep cross.

Riise was unmarked at the far post, although the Norwegian still needed to produce a thunderous first-time volley to leave Cech rooted to the spot.

Gerrard responded by setting the example in winning his first full-blooded 50-50 tackle with Frank Lampard. And with Luis Garcia in behind Morientes, Liverpool were able to pressurise Chelsea's three-man central midfield, with Lampard's influence curtailed.

It was left to Joe Cole to provide Chelsea's impetus but there was precious little of that as Jerzy Dudek did well to divert Drogba's shot around the post from the midfielder's through-ball.

Jamie Carragher was otherwise in commanding form, even if central defensive colleague Sami Hyypia came close to being sent off just after the break. Hyypia, who had already been booked, brought down Cole and referee Steve Bennett looked set to issue another yellow card before realising what this would entail.

Hyypia instead escaped and Mourinho started to lose his temper as he berated both Luis Garcia and Carragher from the touchline as the match grew in intensity.

The Chelsea boss had nevertheless already influenced the outcome with his introduction of Eidur Gudjohnsen at half-time, replacing the ineffective Jiri Jarosik.

Gudjohnsen re-energised his team as Chelsea laid siege to the Liverpool goal, even if Steve Finnan denied Drogba and Dudek conjured up a fantastic double save from first Gudjohnsen and then William Gallas.

Liverpool were sitting deep and defending hard, although Cech still needed to foil Dietmar Hamann on a rare counter-attack. Benitez increased the pressure by bringing on Milan Baros and, just moments later, Gerrard came agonisingly close to putting his side 2-0 up only to divert Nunez's cross inches wide.

Terry also just denied Baros, but it was Chelsea who broke away next and, after Hamann had brought down Lampard in full flight, the Blues duly equalized.

Gerrard jumped highest to meet Paulo Ferreira's flighted delivery but succeeded only in diverting the ball past Dudek.

Mourinho could not contain his celebrations and was dismissed from the touchline. Still Chelsea pressed, however, and Dudek needed to performed further miracles to keep Duff at bay.

The Poland international was injured in the process and, with his side's three substitutes already on, it was a nervous wait for Benitez before he carried on.

Lampard shot wide, but so too did Baros, as the match was taken into extra-time. Both sides continued to trade blows thereafter, with Drogba striking the post with a header, while Biscan nodded an effort just over the top.

Just a minute into the second period of extra-time, Hyypia failed to cut out substitute Glen Johnson's long throw and Drogba bundled the ball over the goal-line from close range.

Tensions threatened to boil over as Hamann and Claude Makelele were warned after a shoving match, but Chelsea struck again. Dudek failed to hold Gudjohnsen's fierce cross and Kezman succeeded in prodding the ball just over the line before the keeper could react in time.

Liverpool rallied immediately, with Nunez just beating Cech to a header as he flicked the ball into the net. However, Chelsea held out - and Mourinho was guaranteed a hero's reception from the Chelsea fans when he finally reappeared after the final whistle


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