Chelsea went into this game after being eliminated from the Champions League, 13 points behind Manchester United in the league and coming back from a disappointing trip in Japan that saw them lose to Corinthians in the Club World Cup Final. For a team to have suffered so much disappointment this season their emphatic 5-1 away win showed their character and team spirit.
The Pensioners came from behind after Luciano Becchio opened the scoring for the home side but second half goals from Juan Mata, Victor Moses, Fernando Torres, Eden Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic helped them progress to the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup where they will face Swansea in a two-legged tie.
Benitez made quite a few changes going into this game as he opted for a midfield pivot of Oscar and Frank Lampard as Ramires and Obi Mikel were both suspended and Oriol Romeu injured. Ryan Bertrand and Cesar Azpilicueta filled in the full back roles as Ivanovic came in for the suspended Gary Cahill and Marko Marin was given his first start of the season.
|Introduction of Oscar in the midfield pivot|
With limited options in the midfield this season, Benitez decided to go with Oscar in the midfield alongwith the experienced Frank Lampard. Under Roberto Di Matteo, Oscar has mainly played behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation putting in those key passes but hardly tracking back to defend. Oscar was up against the likes of Michaell Brown and Michael Tongue, who are known to be tough tackling midfielders, but this did not intimidate the Brazilian who put in a master class performance.
|Oscar did not dissapoint in his new role|
Chelsea have been missing a midfielder who can come up with defense splitting passes for the last few seasons as both Ramires and Lampard are more of a box-to-box players. So keeping in mind Oscar's extensive passing range, it was a wise decision by Benitez to try him in the midfield role. Oscar can drop back and his ability to orchestrate the play from deep helped Chelsea ease past Leeds United. Although there have been question marks over his physique, that whether he can withstand the pressure of tougher opponents, but Oscar stood up to the challenge and dominated the Leeds midfield for most part of the game.
If Oscar can continue putting up such performances, Chelsea might have found themselves a solution to their underperforming midfield.
|Time up for Frank Lampard?|
Frank Lampard's return has hardly helped Chelsea in the midfield role as the side was once again exposed going forward. With Oscar playing as the more attacking midfielder, Lampard was given the defensive duties and although he had a decent game overall, there were numerous occasions where he was exposed.
|Lampard is not the answer to Chelsea's midfield|
Lampard has never been the answer to Chelsea's defensive midfield role however Benitez had no option but to give this role to the 34-year old. Lampard was once again exposed as Leeds scored their first goal from a swift counter-attack.
When David Luiz lost the ball high up the pitch, it was expected Lampard would have been there to cover up for him, which John Obi Mikel usually does. Lampard's failure to track back in time left Chelsea exposed at the back with just two defenders covering up.
Playing as the defensive midfielder Lampard usually ends up playing behind the striker or in a more advanced role, which is his natural instinct as a player. He lacks the discipline required to be a defensive midfielder.
|Chelsea FC showed character|
There were question marks as to whether Chelsea can overcome their jet lag to face Leeds barely 48 hours after returning from Japan. But they showed character, desire and determination as they came from behind to beat Leeds United 5-1.
|Chelsea came back from behind to beat Leeds|
When Benitez joined Chelsea, he cited winning trophies as the main reason for him taking over this coveted job, but since then he has seen his side miss out on the Club World Cup in addition to the club's previous failures in Champions League, Super Cup and the Community Shield. The Capital One Cup is scarcely the trophy Roman Abramovich wants this season but the manner in which this Chelsea side won was worth appreciating.
Chelsea were risking the same fate as Arsenal who suffered embarrassment in Yorkshire last week when they lost to Bradford on penalties. Frank Lampard praised Rafa Benitez's half time talk when Chelsea were trailing Leeds 1-0. "We had a word with ourselves at half-time and upped it,'' said Lampard.
The Blues went into this game after suffering an embarrassing defeat in the Club World Cup Final and had an injury hit squad. They looked far from top shape. So when Chelsea went behind they could have easily let this game go but the Blues rallied back to score five second half goals which turned out to be a morale boosting win for the European Champions.
In the end it was a fine result for the Blues who progressed to the final 4 of the competition where they will face Swansea City. The win though highlighted Chelsea's imbalanced squad and shortage of players in central midfield and striking positions which Benitez needs to take care of once the January transfer window.
Follow Shikharr Chandra on
How do you stay up with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com –your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game.