Belfast Telegraph

Branislav Ivanovic: 'character' got us through in Liverpool clash

By Matt McGeehan

Branislav Ivanovic hailed Chelsea's character after they overcame Liverpool to reach the final of the Capital One Cup.

Ivanovic's goal at the start of extra-time gave Chelsea a 1-0 win on the night, meaning hey progress 2-1 on aggregate, but it was a stern test not only for all 120 minutes on Tuesday night, but also in the first leg which finished 1-1.

"It was a very, very difficult game and we are very happy we are going to Wembley," said Ivanovic.

"We are waiting for tomorrow's game (the other semi-final between Tottenham and Sheffield United), but this is a game where we showed the real character of the team and we are happy, very happy."

Ivanovic headed home from a free-kick in the 94th minute, having escaped the attentions of Mario Balotelli.

"It was very difficult," he added.

"I'm happy about my goal, but this game was an example of how the team has to play and how the team wins the game."

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was happy with the win, but made sure to praise Liverpool, managed by his former protege Brendan Rodgers.

"I think in the second half we were better than them and also in extra-time, but I want to be honest, fair with them," said Mourinho.

"I want to say they were there, a very good team, it's great work by Brendan changing the shape and the mode of play because the way they started the season they were not going in the right direction.

"He was intelligent enough to change, to create a new team, because this is a new Liverpool and they were a very difficult opponent and I'm even happier because we beat a very good team over two legs."

Tempers threatened to boil over more than once on the night, with Chelsea striker Diego Costa appearing to stamp on Emre Can before being denied a penalty of his own - just two of several incidents that referee Michael Oliver did his best to quell.

Mourinho added of the penalty claim: "If I speak, people will say it's Mourinho again.

"If I speak the FA will try to punish me as they always do so I think it is better for you to do it, but it's so clear, so clear, and that is difficult to accept, even winning the game, so I have to ask myself why."

Liverpool boss Rodgers claimed that his side was the better team over the two legs, with Blues goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois proving the main obstacle between them and a trip to Wembley.

"I'm very proud of the team, over the two legs we were the better side and their goalkeeper has got them to the final," he said.

"At Anfield and here tonight he's made very, very important saves and that's won them the game.

"Obviously they got the goal at the beginning of extra-time but that was irrelevant - we knew we needed to score tonight and the players gave everything.

"They're dead on their feet at the end. We pressed, worked hard, played fantastic football and created chances to win the game but unfortunately we were not clinical enough."

On Costa's clashes, he added: "These things happen, but I don't think anyone watching likes to see what Diego Costa's done, not just on Martin Skrtel, but also on Can, a young player who is clearly stamped on. It's easy to land somewhere else without having to land directly on an opponent's ankle and it's disappointing to see on the replay.

"He's fortunate the linesman and referee didn't see that."

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