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Benitez target League Cup success

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REUTERS

Chelsea's interim manager Rafael Benitez (centre) and his players celebrate after their win against Leeds.

Leeds, United Kingdom – Rafael Benitez has targeted his first piece of silverware with Chelsea after they routed Leeds 5-1 to book a League Cup semi-final clash with Swansea.

Chelsea interim manager Benitez is desperate to lift the League Cup as he tries to stake a claim to take the job on a permanent basis, but the Spaniard also warned his side they face a tough task to make the Wembley final.

The Blues shook off the effects of jet-lag to seal their place in the last four with a stunning five-goal second-half blitz to blow away their Championship hosts in the quarter-finals at Elland Road on Wednesday.

Benitez's men will host fellow Premier League side Swansea in the semi-final first-leg in early January, and the former Liverpool boss insists they will have to be at their best to progress.

“Any semi-final of a major competition is going to be difficult,” he said.

“We know we're up against a team who try to play football, who try to play football on the floor and keep the ball.

“They're doing well right now so it will be an interesting tie. The motivation is there for both teams to go through.”

Benitez is fighting to win over Chelsea supporters who continue to voice their opposition to the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo - and the choice of the former Liverpool manager to replace the departed Italian.

In the circumstances any trophy, even the often ridiculed League Cup, would be a significant boost to Benitez.

“To win trophies is important for any manager, we're a game closer to the final at Wembley, so we'll concentrate on that game when it comes,” Benitez said.

“We take every competition we're in seriously and we're a step nearer to the final.

“A top side has to try to win every competition and now we're in the semi-finals we're close to winning. We're doing well, but we can still improve”

Chelsea took the first half to overcome the effects of their gruelling 13-hour return flight from the Club World Cup in Japan, falling behind to Luciano Becchio's 15th goal of the season.

But they stormed back with goals from Juan Mata, Branislav Ivanovic, Victor Moses, Eden Harzard and Fernando Torres' 13th goal of the campaign to win with something to spare.

The stirring comeback was sparked by a half-time pep-talk between the players, and skipper Frank Lampard said: “We had a word with ourselves at half-time and upped it because in the first half we weren't at our best.

“We were a bit slow with the tempo of the game and we gave a away silly goal that allowed them to score. Once we upped it with a bit of pace in our game you could see a big difference.”

Lampard refused to use jet-lag as an excuse for Chelsea's sluggish start as they returned to action just 48 hours after landing back in the country.

“We didn't make the greatest preparation but there's no excuse, we had to up it,” he added.

“The early goal after the re-start gave us the impetus, we believed from then on and we didn't think we could lose the game.

“Some of the football we played, we opened them up and showed what we could do.”

Meanwhile Neil Warnock paid tribute to his Leeds players, insisting the final score was harsh on them.

More than 36,000 fans braved a rainswept night to roar on their team and the Leeds manager said: “The scoreline doesn't reflect the game, but I've no complaints and we can take plenty of positives. It was a great occasion.” – Sapa-AFP


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