Seven years ago at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, Chelsea FC and Arsenal FC squared off to determine who would be the champion of the Carling (League) Cup. It was a tense affair that included John Terry being stretchered off, Theo Walcott’s first ever goal for Arsenal, a Didier Drogba double, and a bench clearing brawl that saw three players sent off. Even if the League Cup has lost much of its luster, this final was certainly one to remember for years to come.
Arsene Wenger sent out a young Arsenal side with an average age of just 20 years old while Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho fielded a more experienced lineup with the likes of Claude Makelele, Michael Essien, and Andriy Shevchenko. With all these big names on the pitch it was 17 year old Theo Walcott who opened the scoring just 12 minutes in the to match with a fine curling effort. It was Walcott’s first goal for Arsenal and what a time to have it.
Just eight minutes later, Drogba found himself in space inside Manuel Almunia’s box and finished with his usual confidence to equalize. The first half finished without much incident and only two yellow cards were handed out to Essien and Denilson before the break.
If the first half was memorable for its goals, the second half stands out for just about everything else. In the 63rd minute, John Terry attempted a diving header from a corner and was kicked in the jaw by Abou Diaby of Arsenal. The Chelsea skipper was knocked unconscious and had to be stretchered off to the hospital. However he later checked himself out of the hospital and was able to celebrate with his teammates at the end of the match. This time however, unlike the Champions and Europa League victories, he was in a suit and not a full kit.
Halftime substitute Arjen Robben made his biggest impact in the 84th minute with a simple cross in to the box that Drogba rose up to head past Almunia for his second goal of the match. Drogba had begun to cultivate his reputation as a big game scorer and his double on this day only served to increase it. Somehow the match winning goal in the last ten minutes of the match was not the most memorable moment in this final.
As Arsenal were chasing an equalizer, a shoving match between John Obi Mikel and Kolo Toure exploded in to a brawl that seemed to involve everyone on either bench including Wenger and Mourinho. Mikel, Toure, and Emmanuel Adebayor were sent off for their involvement and Frank Lampard and Cesc Fabregas were cautioned. The match carried on in to the 103rd minute after a record 13 minutes of stoppage time were added due to the Terry injury and the brawl.
Chelsea and Mourinho celebrated the triumph over their London neighbors which added a special touch to the trophy. The Blues would go on to win the FA Cup later that year for their second domestic double but finished second to Manchester United in the Premier League. The intensity and fire shown in this final proved that even if it has dropped in the priorities of the big clubs in England, the League Cup still matters, especially when disputed between two rivals.
For highlights of the match and the brawl, check out this video:
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