The Fairytale Final will happen: Swansea versus Bradford City at Wembley! You have to say that's magnificent. And both underdogs fully merit their day in the sun: there was nothing flukey about their progress. Swansea were the better team tonight and even managed to avoid kerfuffles with ballboys, which, astonishingly, Eden Hazard did not.
Swansea sweep forward anew. And Dyer lashes a shot from 23 yards. Cech tips it around the post. Thanks to Matt Mullen for recalling the escapades of Gerard Lavin, who once got his marching orders for smashing a ball at fans.
The Swansea choir is in full voice. Some Chelsea fans are too, but the noises they're making aren't quite as melodious and are predominantly in the F key.
Swansea win a corner. Meanwhile, I'm being told by many of you that Daniel Passarella was once sent off for an altercation with a ballboy. And Nigel Moore links to this, a player beigng dismissed for accosting a streaker.
There will be at least six more minutes owing to Eden Hazard and a ballboy recreating a scene from the Beano.
After a fine Swansea play Ki finds himself with a chance to make it 3-0 on aggregate ... but he dillied, and then he dallied, and Cahill dispossessed him.
Britton clears as helter-skelter Chelsea try to exert a helther-skeler sort of pressure. They are going out. Feebly. "Eric Cantona!" a lot of people are replying. But he was sent off before booting the fan.
Is this the change that is going to swing the tie in Chelsea's favour? Cole off, Bertrand on. No, Rafa, it is not.
I'm trying to recall an equivalent of Hazard being sent off for getting rough with a ballboy. The only thing that comes to mind at the moment was Andre Bikey being dismissed when playing for Cameroon for upending a first-aider. Anyone recall anything else?
Swansea seek to seal victory: Ki rolls the ball into the path of De Guzman, whose low shot from the left-hand side of the box is saved by Cech. Here's a pertinent point: "I hope those clamouring for Lampard to be given a new contract have been watching," storms Adrian Riley. "Total contribution: sweet fa."
As we digest the expulsion of the Belgian brute, Rafa decides it's time to make the change that has been needed for ages: Oscar off, Torres on.
Hazard sent off!
For getting tangled up in a kerfuffle with a ballboy! Hot dang!
Well this is odd. A ballboy is writhing in apparent pain on the ground, seemingly after being bundled to the ground by Hazard, who then kicked the ball out from under him in a bid to get the game restarted as quickly as possible. The kid looks about 13. But tough. Chris Foy has consulted with his linesman. The outcome of this will be interesting ...
Chelsea are enjoying plenty of territory now but still no penetration.
Chelsea change imminent: Torres has removed his bib. His next task is to get that gigantic monkey off his back.
Oscar dabs a dainty cross in from the left. Tremmel takes it off the head of Ba.
Mata plays a one-two with Ba and then batters a fierce shot at goal from 18 yards. Well saved by Tremmel. "Laudrup once lost a two-goal lead in extra time... in the last 2 minutes," recalls Jaime Alonso. "It is got to be reminded that it was against Bayern Munich. Laudrup is quite conscious of losing games in the last two minutes ... "
Oddly, swapping David Luiz for Ivanovic has yet to trigger a Chelsea revival. But the centreback has just played a nice ball to Oscar, who produced a reasonable cross from the left wing. But Williams was again on hand to beat Ba to the ball.
Hazard, with all too rare surge into the box, wins a corner. Ba fouls Michu to give Swansea a freekick. Petering out: will it equate to Rafa out?
Chelsea change at last: Ivanovic off, David Luiz on. "Let's not forget that Michael Laudrup missed the biggest giant-killing game of all time in 1992 because of an ill-timed retirement as a Danish international," bugles Justin Kavanagh. "Could he soon be on the wrong side of another historic upset as manager of the only Premiership team to lose to a 4th-tier team at Wembley?"
Swansea substitution: Dyer on, Routledge off. Rafa, meanwhile, waits for his Chelsea team to magically transform themselves.
After a foxy bout of passing, Swansea work an opening for Ki. But here we see the Korean's weakness: he's slow. So the gap closes before he can profit from it, and the move ends with a hopeful cross into the box.
Cole attempts a speculative shot from distance. IT doesn't even make it past the penalty spot, where Williams blocks it.
"I think Brittin is being mummified!" quips Sky man in the gantry, as an enormous bandage is wrapped around Britton's bleeding bonce. "Oscar: it's like watching a 12-year-old who before tonight has only ever played some kind of non-contact football. Is he always like this?" asks Nath Jones. No, he's actually quite tough as well as tricky. but tonight's he's been pretty irrelevant.
Arsenal are now leading 5-1. That's four goals in eight minutes. Flat-track bullies.
Clever work by Oscar to pick out Cole, who had provided an overlap. The fullback's cross is cleared as far as the edge of the area, from where Ba's trickles way wide.
Swansea are comfortable. I really don't understand why Rafa hasn't changed anything. Chelsea are just petering out of the competition.
Walcott has made it 4-1 to Arsenal v West Ham! They really are rubbish away from home, aren't they?
Cazorla has made it 3-1 to Arsenal v West Ham.
Routledge leads a Swansea counter-charge. He's surrounded by men, not unlike Geri Hailwell in that Weather Girls cover. He picks out Jonathan De Guzman, but Chelsea regroup to smother the danger.
Mata feeds Ba, who goes for a low curler into the far corner from 25 yards. It gets an "ooooh!" from the travelling fans, who may not have a good enough view to see that it actually went several feet wide of the target.
Rafa Benitez has a tendency to leave it too late to make changes. Not sure what he'\s waiting for here. OScar should be replaced by Marin or Torres, I think.
Giroud has put Arsenal 2-1 in front in tonight's Premier League game.
A wonderful pass from De Guzman dissects the Chelsea defence. Hernandez rushes on to it and is clear on goal ... until the linesman correctly pulls him back for offside.
We have resumption. No changes during the break. But watch out Swans fans: if Chelsea don' ttake your place in the final, they may try to take your manager. "If Roman is looking for the sweet passing game then he need look no further than Michael Laudrup," blurts Barry Praag. "Forget Jose and Pep this bloke is as good as and much cheaper."
Banter at the Break
"In the picture Michu is clearly signalling to the sidelines for a pint, but given that he's wearing some newfangled sort of combined shirt/sleeveless glove, it's probably a pint of Tia Maria." - Carey Smith.
Chelsea need to improve if they are to fulfill their evil godmother ambitions and thwart the Fairytale Final. Less poetically, I need to go to the toilet.
Chelsea cross into the box from the left. Swansea fail to deal with it effectively and it drops at the feet of Ba some 12 yards from goal ... but he Torreses it way over the bar!
Two minutes until oranges and megapowerfuelmagicdrink.
De Guzman tries to initiate a Swansea counter-attack ... but overhits his intended pass towards Michu. Cech gathers.
Ki is back. Chelsea still stroking the ball about without making inroads. Swansea's vigilance is strong. "The Vetch was horribly drab, smelly, wet and cold and often scary (if we were losing)," reminisces Peter barrett. "But it was a lovely place to go with your mates!"
Play resumes, with Ki off the pitch receiving more attention. Chelsea's attempt to make the most of their numerical advantage consists of stroking the ball around their back four. That sums up their lack of sharpness (and don't go telling me they were just trying to be good sports).
A break in play as Ki receives treatment following a rough tackle by Ramires. Time for Swansea to take a breather and Chelsea to come up with a better plan: they've looked marginally more threatening as the game as gone on but still Swansea are containing them too easily. Must do better.
This now resembles the first leg, except without the clearcut chances from Chelsea. Or the outrageous bungling that gifts Swansea a goal on the break.
Swansea have fallen worryingly deep. Chelsea jsut keep pushing them further and further back and when the home side to recover the ball, they send it forward to Michu, who struggles to keep hold of it long enough for team-mates to join him, mainly because of the excellence of Ramires, who has been a ubiquitous pest.
Bedlam in the Swansea box after a Mata shot ricochets all over the shop. Williams eventually restores order, pinching it off Ba in style. "My fondest memory of the Vetch was one dreary winter’s evening while they toiled in the old third division in the late 80s," recalls Alexander Cobb in the latest of our series of recollections of departed grounds. " I forget everything about the game but I remember by far the biggest cheer of the night came when the man on the tannoy said 'Would Paul Davies please report to the parking lot. His wife is waiting for him'.”
Tremmel fluffs an attempted clearance. Hazard seizes upon it 30 yards out, then tries one of his trademark skitters towards the area. Swansea see him off well.
The Chelsea threat is mounting. Mata flicked a lovely ball through to Oscar after a break led by Ba, but the Brazilian didn't anticipate it and let it run away from him. "Pardon my additional whinging," whinges Neal Butler of 16 mins fame. "But let me ask you this: who are the current European Champions?" There are none: Chelsea's ineptitude has metaphorically created a lawless land where no one rules. The sort of land, funnily enough, where an enterprising and scurrilous young buck might make himself a fortune and then buy a foreign football team.
Ramires lets fly with a tasty swirler from 25 yards. Well held by Tremmel.
Podolski has equalised for Arsenal.
Cole takes the ball off Lampard's toe and bursts into the left-hand side of Swansea's box. His low cross is cleared for a corner. Cahill wins that, Swansea stab it away, then Hazard regains possession and rolls a soft shot into the keeper's arms from 10 yards. That's the best Chelsea have mustered so far.
Ki, silky as ever in midfield, sidesteps Lampard and picks out Hernandez with a precise pass. Nothing came of it, but it was a little vignette worth mentioning, if only because Ki doesn't get as much praise as he deserves. The discreet builder.
Here's a heck of a thing: Arsenal have just fallen behind at home to West Ham, because of Jack Collison. Or possibly because of the fiendish Wenger/Gazidis axis. You be the judge.
Rangel sends a diagonal cross towards Michu, who nods it down Crouch-style to De Guzman, whose shot from the edge of the box is blocked by Cahill. It's all Swansea. Except for that block, obviously. "Shouldn't you be referring to Chelsea as the current European
Champions?" whinges Neal Butler. No. They surrendered the right to be called that as soon as they flopped out of the Champions League, if you ask me, which you did.
Could it be that Chelsea are actually missing Mikel? They can\t get the ball at the moment. "Re: Michael Philip's comment at 7.44pm, I have very found memories of the old Vetch," announces someone called Armitage. "I was at Swansea Uni from 77-80, overlapping with John Toshack's heroic tenure as player manager. Nothing like a few pints at the Westbourne and then down to the Vetch with the local boys. Hard to beat 50p student discount for mid-week matches!"
Swansea are looking swish. Fluidity, poise, strength and imagination: they've shown more of all those things than Chelsea so far. Meanwhile, here's something that may or may not be true (mind you, it would be a fairly crummy thing to invent so let's believe Dai Howells on this one): "Early this morning my best friend, Bernard, was caught in traffic outside Sainsburys in Swansea. He spotted that Angel Rangel was also at the same red light. Smiling my friend wound down his window and so did rangel. Bernard said good luck for tonight's Chelsea game. Rangel responded 'lets make it a historic night they will talk about in years to come for this proud town.'"
A great save by Cech to deny Michu after Swansea sliced Chelsea apart! It was Britton who provided the most cutting pass, to Routledge, who slid it through to Michu, who, having dashed behind Cahill, walloped a 16-yard shot towards the far corner. Cech dived full-length to get rid.
A Chelsea corner is quickly cleared and Swansea hurtle down the other end before Hernandez clipped a cross to Routledge at the back post. The winger met it plum on the volley and Cech was grateful to see Azpilicueta hurl himself in front of it and deflected it fractionally wide!
After prolonged Chelsea keep-ball, Mata pings a pass to the feet of Ba, who goes down under a challenge of Davies. The ref correctly rules that a penalty would be an injustice, what with Ba having fluttered his leg into the defender rather than vice-versa. "AC/DC?" bawls Ben Bennett. "Swansea should have played Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil and sung 'pleased to Michu, hope you sign your name'!"
The tables were quick to turn: now it's Chelsea enjoying possession. But Swansea are vigilant and neither side can find any openings so far.
Swansea have started well and quickly settled into their familiar passing slickness. Chelsea scampering after them in vain at the moment.
Chelsea get the game going. Swansea only have 89:59 minutes more to hang on.
Out come the gladiators ...
... the the sounds of popular Welsh rock combo, AC/DC. "As a local boy now relocated these past two decades or so, in Los Angeles, I doubt I would recognise Swansea these days," yaps Michael Philip. "The Vetch
field was really a dreadful old building but I did see George Best play for Northern Ireland there in late 60's: I won a raffle ticket. Yes just the one, measure of frugal days.... Swans have certainly come on some. Quite incredible to witness suck flair and discipline from a steel town. Hoping 'we' thrash 'em of course. 3-1 Swans..."
Here are the line-ups for tonight's Premier League clash at the Emirates. I'll let you know if anything significant happens there. Of course, if nothing significant happens there, that too will be significant.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud, Podolski.
Subs: Mannone, Koscielny, Andre Santos, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arshavin,
West Ham: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Tomkins, Reid, O'Brien, Noble,
Nolan, Collison, Taylor, Carlton Cole, Vaz Te.
Subs: Henderson, Jarvis, Diame, Diarra, Joe Cole, O'Neil, Potts.
Come on Bradford! Oops, sorry, still intoxicated by last night's excitement. Let's have some hair of the dog here. A Swansea-Bradford final has a charming ring to it, but Bradford versus the former European champions would be choice too. But who will get there? It's a close call: Chelsea are well capable of scoring a bucketfull here, especially with Demba Ba starting instead of the £50m snowman. But, irrespective of the Rafa factor, they do remain defensively dodgy and Swansea showed in the first leg that they can take advantage of that, even if Ivanovic is unlikely to ever again play so badly (having said that, he was iffy against Arsenal on Sunday too).
Random other points
- Hasn't Azpilicueta done well since his discreet arrival. Solid at the back, dazzling going forward. Hip, hip, hurray.
Doesn't Ashley Williams look a lot like David James?
Here are three 30-somethings who have been overlooked too often by England managers: Michael Carrick, Leon Osman and Leon Britton should be playing for England
Michu is mighty but hasn't Jonathan De Guzman been a splendid signing too?
Swansea: Tremmel, Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies, Britton, de Guzman, Ki, Hernandez, Michu, Routledge.
Subs: Vorm, Graham, Dyer, Lamah, Monk, Shechter, Tiendalli.
Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole, Ramires,
Oscar, Lampard, Hazard, Ba, Mata.
Subs: Turnbull, Luiz, Torres, Ferreira, Marin, Terry, Bertrand.
Referee: Chris Foy (who has yet to show a red card this season and averages fewer than two yellow per game. You could say, then, that he's a good sort of ref insofar as he doesn't draw attention to himself, but how can that be true if we've just spent this little paragraph talking about him?)