LEEDS United fans were brought down to earth with a bump after Luciano Becchio had them dreaming of a shock win at half-time of their Capital One Cup quarter-final against Chelsea at Elland Road.
The Argentinian striker fired the Whites into a 37th minute lead and the players left the field to a standing ovation at the break, but it all went wrong in the second half as Chelsea equalised within two minutes of the restart and went on to hammer in four more unanswered goals.
The class of the European champions finally came out, but they were given a test for the first hour and were hustled out of their stride at times before their expensively put together side quietened the home crowd.
Chelsea were far from fluent in the opening half, although dangerous left winger Victor Moses did force two saves from Leeds keeper Jamie Ashdown, who passed a late fitness test to maintain his run in the side in the Capital One Cup.
United struggled to test Petr Cech at the other end, but the Chelsea keeper easily gathered a Paul Green header and was relieved to see headers by Becchio and Jason Pearce fly off target.
The game suddenly came to life, however, when visiting defender David Luiz lost the ball in the home half and Michael Tonge sprung a quick break with a pass that sent Jerome Thomas free down the left. His low cross with the outside of his right foot was perfect for the unmarked Becchio, who finished with confidence.
It stayed 1-0 to half-time, although the Whites came close to doubling their advantage when El Hadji Diouf picked out Tom Lees with a cross, but the defender sent the ball just over.
Frank Lampard showed that Chelsea were still a threat with a well struck free-kick that brought a good save from Ashdown.
The visitors were level two minutes into the second half when the previously excellent Ashdown got a hand to Juan Mata’s low shot from the edge of the box, but could not keep it out.
Ashdown made amends with a fine save to keep out a Fernando Torres header, but he was beaten again on 65 minutes as Branislav Ivanovic headed a Lampard corner in at the near post.
Within two minutes it was 3-1 with Moses lashing a shot in from just outside the box.
Tonge and Diouf hit efforts wide as Leeds tried to respond, but after Ashdown saved long range strikes from substitute Eden Hazard and Oscar it was game over on 81 minutes when Hazard was sent clear by Luiz’s pass and had no trouble beating the keeper in a one-on-one.
Chelsea still had time for one more goal with Torres left with a tap-in after Ashdown had beaten away yet another great long range shot by Lampard only for Hazard to follow up to play the ball across for his striker to finish.
Aidan White got an effort on target with a late overhead kick, but there were some harsh lessons for the Leeds side against a Chelsea side that did them a compliment by bringing a strong side that had cost almost £200 million to assemble.
United boss Neil Warnock thought the final score had been harsh on his side.
He said: “We had our opportunities. We played some great stuff and, at 1-0, if Tom Lees’ header goes in just before half-time it is a different ball game for them.
“Going in 1-0 at half-time you knew we needed to be strong early on in the second half and look what happens - Jamie Ashdown makes an error and world-class players punished us after that.
“It was almost a relief to them to get back into the game and it gave them a huge lift. We couldn’t cope.
“But the crowd were great and if Leeds sort themselves out that atmosphere is what it should be like week in, week out.”
Leeds United 1
(Mata 47, Ivanovic 64, Moses 66, Hazard 81, Torres 84)
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Capital One Cup, quarter-final
Leeds: Ashdown, Byram, Lees, Pearce, Peltier, Green, Brown (Norris 72), Tonge, Thomas (White 68), Diouf (McCormack 72), Becchio.
Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Bertrand (Cole 74), Marin (Hazard 60), Lampard, Oscar, Mata (Ferreira 85), Moses, Torres.
Referee: Andre Marriner.