Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal adapt to tactical tweaks to secure another Wembley date

Carabao Cup semi-final: Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea (Arsenal win 2-1 on aggregate)

By Mark Bryans

Arsenal began life after Alexis Sanchez with a comeback victory over London rivals Chelsea to reach their first League Cup final in seven years.

Following a goalless first leg at Stamford Bridge, this instalment of the semi-final was more akin to the lively Premier League meeting here just 21 days ago and it was Granit Xhaka's second half strike which set up a Wembley meeting with Manchester City on February 25.

Eden Hazard put the Blues into an early lead only for Arsenal to level through an Antonio Rudiger own goal before Xhaka settled the tie on the hour mark to seal a 2-1 win.

Gunners ace Jack Wilshere said: "It was a team effort, especially second half. We knew we had to improve second half and we dug deep.

"We might have got our formation wrong in the first 20 to 25 minutes, but we came back into it and showed great character. We showed our quality going forward.

"We have got a good record at Wembley. We know City are a good team, but we will go there to win. We are in a good moment now and we want to keep that going."

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger commented: "In the first half we gave them too much respect, maybe, and we suffered from that.

"In the second half we rectified that. We knew we could do better in the second half and that is what we did.

"We have some time to prepare for the final. We are happy to bring our fans to Wembley again. We are happy to get there again."

The Frenchman was unable to offer any details on whether the club had a bid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang turned down.

Wenger said: "No, no news on that. The clarity is 'let's play with the players we have'.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said: "There is disappointment with the final result.

"We tried to reach the final, but we were unlucky. We had a good run in this competition and now it is a pity for me, the players and the fans."

The Gunners were without Henrikh Mkhitaryan, their new signing watching from the stands as he is cup-tied having played in the competition for Manchester United before completing his swap deal with Sanchez.

Pedro tucked away an early chance for Antonio Conte's side only to be correctly flagged for offside - but the Spaniard was soon involved again, picking the ball up in plenty of space to pick a pass through for Hazard to open the scoring.

Arsenal were soon on level terms, Mesut Ozil whipping in a free-kick which was met by an unmarked Nacho Monreal, whose header ricocheted off both Marcos Alonso and Rudiger before beating Willy Caballero.

Wenger altered his formation at the interval, dropping Mohamed Elneny back into a three-man defence in an attempt to quieten Hazard.

The Belgium international appeared to have broken through despite those changes, only for Xhaka to launch a superb last-ditch challenge.

Having been instrumental at one end, Xhaka would have an impact at the other and he benefited from another fortuitous deflection off Rudiger.

Lacazette did well to keep the ball away from Andreas Christensen and, as he looked for support, his pass hit Rudiger and flashed across goal where Xhaka steered it home to send the Gunners back to Wembley.

ARSENAL: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Wilshere, Elneny, Xhaka, Ozil, Lacazette (Kolasinac, 84 mins),Iwobi (Ramsey, 84 mins). Unused subs: Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Macey, Nelson, Nketiah.

CHELSEA: Caballero, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, Moses (Zappacosta, 72 mins), Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso, Willian (Barkley, 30 mins), Pedro (Batshuayi, 65 mins), Hazard. Unused subs: Drinkwater, Cahill, Luiz, Eduardo.

Referee: Michael Oliver

Man of the match: Nacho Monreal

Match rating: 7/10

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