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Arsenal Reach League Cup Final with 2-1 Comeback Win over Chelsea

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2018

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 20: Granit Xhaka of Arsenal in action during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Crystal Palace at Emirates Stadium on January 20, 2018 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Arsenal reached their first League Cup final since 2011 as they came back from a goal down to beat Chelsea 2-1 in their semi-final second leg at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

After a goalless draw in the first leg, there was all to play for in north London, and Chelsea drew first blood when Eden Hazard swept home the opener inside the first 10 minutes.

An unfortunate own goal from Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger drew Arsenal level in the 12th minute, but the Blues still looked the more dangerous side in the opening half.

However, the home side turned the momentum in their favour after the break, and Granit Xhaka's 60th-minute strike proved the decisive goal in the tie and sent the Gunners into the final to face Manchester City on February 25. 

Both clubs provided their lineups ahead of kick-off:

Arsenal FC @Arsenal

📋 Here it is - our starting XI to face @ChelseaFC #AFCvCFC https://t.co/44StWKv1Bk

Chelsea FC @ChelseaFC

Chelsea team: Caballero; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Bakayoko, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Hazard, Pedro. Subs: Eduardo, Cahill, David Luiz, Zappacosta, Drinkwater, Barkley, Batshuayi. #ARSCHE https://t.co/MpZXMyk8ed

Chelsea had the ball in the back of the net after just five minutes, but Cesar Azpilicueta was adjudged offside after he headed home.

Just two minutes later, the Blues were ahead for real when Hazard slotted home from 12 yards after a defence-splitting ball through the middle from Pedro.

Chelsea were unfortunate to be pegged back five minutes later, although they were culpable for some poor marking at a corner.

Nacho Monreal headed goalwards from a deep delivery, but the ball only ended up in the back of the net after successive deflections off Marcos Alonso and Rudiger.

Willian dragged an effort wide on 20 minutes as Chelsea looked for a second goal but was then forced off before the half-hour mark through injury, with Ross Barkley replacing him for his Blues debut, per Match of the Day:

Match of the Day @BBCMOTD

21st May, 2017: Ross Barkley plays for Everton against Arsenal at the Emirates 🏃 *doesn't play for eight months* 24th January, 2018: Ross Barkley plays for Chelsea against Arsenal at the Emirates 🏃 https://t.co/lYIuLFw8Di

Chances were few and far between for the remainder of the opening half, but Chelsea would have felt aggrieved going in level at the break given the nature of the equaliser and the balance of play.

Arsenal looked more fluid at the start of the second period and were rewarded for their improvement on the hour, although again there was an element of fortune to their goal.

The lively Alexandre Lacazette did brilliantly to hold off Andreas Christensen on the right of the area, and his attempted delivery into the middle took a huge deflection off Rudiger and fell into Xhaka's path.

The Switzerland international showed opportunism worthy of a striker as he latched on to the ball and stabbed home from close range, but the chance would never have presented itself without the ricochet off Rudiger.

It was arguably deserved, though, given Arsenal's improvement after the break, and they continued to dominate proceedings having taken the lead.

A wonderful team move involving Hector Bellerin and Mesut Ozil 14 minutes from time should have finished in a third goal for the Gunners, but Alex Iwobi could only fire straight at Willy Caballero having been found in space 15 yards out.

The Nigeria international was not made to rue his miss as Chelsea were fairly toothless in their attempts to force extra-time.

Alonso ballooned a free-kick way over the bar in the dying moments of normal time, and Barkley then delivered a weak corner with effectively the last kick of the match as Chelsea bowed out with something of a whimper.

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