Chelsea 6-1 Middlesbrough: 5 hits and flops as Cole Palmer sends Blues to final | Carabao Cup 2023-24 

Middlesbrough v Chelsea - Carabao Cup Semi Final First Leg
Chelsea are through to the Carabao Cup final.

Chelsea thrashed Middlesbrough 6-1 on Tuesday (January 23) to canter into the Carabao Cup final. Having lost the first leg of their last-four clash 1-0 last week, the Blues needed a big performance to avoid an embarrassing exit against the Championship side, and they didn't disappoint.

An own goal from Jonny Howson in the 15th minute put the Blues 1-0 up before Enzo Fernandez made it 2-0 shortly after. Axel Disasi and Cole Palmer scored within minutes of each other in the first half as Mauricio Pochettino's side were four for good at the break.

Middlesbrough's slender lead effectively wiped out by now, more onslaught ensued in the second half. Palmer bagged another one in the 77th minute, while Noni Madueke added a sixth four minutes later.

Blighted by a series of mistakes, the Boro saw their dream of reaching the Wembley showpiece go up in smoke despite Morgan Rogers scoring a consolation in the 88th minute.

Middlesbrough's dream run in the league cup came to an end, while Chelsea moved into the final, where a potential rematch of the 2022 title match with Liverpool awaits.

Here are the hits and flops from the game:

Hit: Cole Palmer (Chelsea)

Cole Palmer
Cole Palmer

Let's begin with the star of the evening, Cole Palmer, who had another terrific evening with Chelsea. He's been a revelation since joining from Manchester City,as he continued his incredible run of form with a talismanic brace.

Having began the clash quietly, Palmer burst to life midway through the opening stanza. He became an outlet for incisive through-balls and immaculate passes before netting in the 42nd minute.

A huge mistake at the back from Daniel Barlaser allowed Palmer to score Chesea's fourth of the game. He backed it up with another strike midway through the second half.

Completly unmarked in the box, the 21-year-old turned home a good pass from Conor Gallagher in the 77th minute to rack up his brace and put the Blues 5-0 up. He has 13 goals in 26 games with Chelsea across competitions and has also chipped in with seven assists.

Flop: Jonathan Howson (Middlesbrough)

Jonathan Howson
Jonathan Howson

Middlesbrough were completed ripped apart at the back by a ruthless Chelsea on the night. While no one player was squarely responsible for such a disaster-show, Jonathan Howson was a disaster.

In the 15th minute, he turned the ball into his own net while attempting to clear Armando Broja's shot as Chelsea went 1-0 up. Howson's night went from bad to worse when he failed to track Enzo Fernandez, who popped up right behind him to score the Blues' second.

As if that wasn't enough, Axel Disasi ran right past him in the build-up to Chelsea's third goal as Howson lacked the pace to mark him. That's three goals down to him as the midfielder had a nightmare outing at Stamford Bridge.

Hit: Raheem Sterling (Chelsea)

Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling

In one his best nights of the season, Raheem Sterling displayed shades of his old Liverpool and Manchester City self with a menacing show in attack. He didn't bag a goal but created the opener and assisted the third to make a telling impact on a goal-crazy night for Chelsea.

As Ben Chilwell laid a lovely pass into the box, Sterling got onto the end of it. After taking a touch, he squared it to Broja, whose attempt was inadvertently turned home by Jonathan Howson.

In the 36th minute, the winger bagged an assist, collecting another impeccable pass in his stride. Sterling pranced forward and cut it back for the onrushing Axel Disasi to make it 3-0.

Flop: Tom Glover (Middlesbrough)

Tom Glover
Tom Glover

Glover conceded six goals. If that wasn't bad enough, he didn't necessarily inspire confidence between the sticks either. As Chelsea cut a swathe through Middlesbrough's defence, Glover was left hopelessly exposed and left to fend for himself.

He could've done better for the Blues' second and third goals and also got a slight touch on the fifth. Glover can rightfully blame his fragile defence for the humiliating defeat but needs to have a commanding presence himself, which he lacked against the rampant Blues.

Hit: Enzo Fernandez (Chelsea)

Enzo Fernandez (right)
Enzo Fernandez (right)

Enzo Fernandez was given a free run across the pitch by Middlesbrough, and he utilised it to devastating extent, combining brilliantly with Cole Palmer to create attacking chances.

The Argentine bagged a goal on the night, lashing home from close range for his fifth of the season. He also completed two key passes and won five ground duels, a testament to his ball-winning prowess.

Signed on a £106 million transfer from Benfica last year, Fernandez is slowly looking like the player whom fans were hyped about on his arrival. With a few more goals, he elevates himself further in the Chelsea fandom.

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