Chelsea will face London rivals Tottenham in next month’s League Cup final after crushing Everton’s dream of a first domestic final appearance in eight years on Wednesday.
Joe Cole’s well-taken strike left Everton with little prospect of overturning their 2-1 first-leg deficit at Goodison Park.
An uninspiring contest was at least graced by a decisive moment of real quality, Cole gathering Florent Malouda’s 40-yard diagonal pass with a superb first touch before stroking the ball past Everton’s American goalkeeper, Tim Howard.
Everton’s need to overturn their first-leg deficit ensured a frantic start to proceedings, although real chances were thin on the ground as the home side failed to take their cue from their fired-up supporters.
Petr Cech got down smartly to his left to keep out a Joleon Lescott header from Mikel Arteta’s corner after only nine minutes, but Chelsea’s deliberate slowing of the pace soon began to have an impact on the tempo of the contest.
With Nicolas Anelka operating as a sole forward and the visitors’ back four dropping very deep, Chelsea had few problems coping with the their hosts’ limited attempts to break them down.
And gradually it was the Londoners who began to dominate proceedings, with Anelka testing Howard with a low drive just before the half-hour mark and Malouda then lifting a good chance over the bar from 12 yards.
There was another warning shot for Everton just after the break, when Anelka found space in the box for a shot that was deflected onto the bar by Phil Jagielka.
Everton finally began to threaten, with Phil Neville forcing a sharp save from Cech when he connected with a low corner from Arteta.
Cech then denied Jagielka with his feet after the midfielder had attempted to direct Leon Osman’s mis-hit shot goalwards with a clever back-heel.
Suddenly it seemed as if Everton might just be on the brink of finding the inspiration they needed but had lacked for the opening hour of the match.
Instead, it was Cole who applied the killer blow for Chelsea after a superbly judged long ball by Malouda from wide on the left.
The England midfielder’s first touch and equally assured right-foot finish did the rest and gave Chelsea an unassailable 3-1 aggregate lead.
Everton boss David Moyes responded by throwing young striker Victor Anichebe into the fray at the expense of midfielder Lee Carsley.
But the switch to two strikers came too late and Moyes was left to rue his decision to star the match with Andrew Johnson as his lone forward. — Sapa-AFP