Arsenal will play Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final after coming from behind to beat Chelsea in a thrilling semi-final second leg at Emirates Stadium.
After a goalless first leg, Chelsea took the lead in the tie when Tiemoue Bakayoko played the ball into Pedro and he released Eden Hazard, who slotted past David Ospina from 12 yards out.
But the advantage only lasted five minutes before Nacho Monreal’s header bounced off Marcos Alonso and then Antonio Rudiger and into the net.
There was also a touch of fortune about the Gunners’ second as Alexandre Lacazette’s pull-back rebounded off Rudiger and Granit Xhaka pounced from close range.
Arsenal might have added a third but Alex Iwobi’s shot was blocked by the legs of Willy Caballero, but the miss did not prove costly.
The Gunners, bidding to win this competition for the first time since 1993, meet Manchester City in the final at Wembley on 25 February after Pep Guardiola’s side saw off Bristol City in the other semi-final.
A much-needed boost for Arsenal
A miserable couple of months for Arsenal has seen them drop to sixth in the Premier League, 23 points behind leaders Manchester City, and lose to Championship Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup.
They have also seen Alexis Sanchez, their top scorer from last season, move to Manchester United in a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
But this vital victory keeps them on course to win their fourth trophy in five years – and with it claim the only domestic competition that Arsene Wenger has not won in his 21 years at the club.
Arsenal, who saw a £43.6m bid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rejected earlier on Wednesday, went behind after only seven minutes with Hazard taking advantage of poor marking.
But rather then collapsing, the Gunners responded with one of their best defensive performances of the season to move into their first League Cup final since 2011.
Chelsea, third in the Premier League and undefeated in 12 matches in all competitions, only managed one more shot on target.
A long-awaited debut for Barkley
Chelsea’s ongoing pursuit of a target man has seen West Ham’s Andy Carroll, Stoke’s Peter Crouch and ex-Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko all linked with a move to Stamford Bridge in this transfer window.
And with Alvaro Morata out with a back injury, Antonio Conte’s lack of imposing options in attack saw the Blues boss opt for a pacy and diminutive front three of Pedro, Hazard and Willian.
The selection paid off inside seven minutes when Pedro set up Hazard for the game’s first goal, but a hamstring injury suffered by Willian later in the half forced an alteration, with England midfielder Ross Barkley introduced off the bench for his Chelsea debut.
The £15m arrival from Everton was making his first appearance of the season after hamstring surgery but was immediately in the action, first being heavily challenged by Jack Wilshere before escaping a booking after a clumsy foul on Laurent Koscielny.
Barkley started on the left, moved over to the right and later appeared in the middle but could not make an impact and, unsurprisingly after such a lengthy absence, struggled for fitness. However, his late corner did give Rudiger a chance but the Dutch defender headed over.
Without an England appearance since May 2016, Barkley will have a lot of work to do in the second half of the season if he is to force his way into Gareth Southgate’s World Cup plans.
Meanwhile, it was another impressive night for one of Barkley’s rivals for a berth in the England set-up, with Wilshere – no stranger to injury setbacks himself – continuing his fine form in the Arsenal midfield.
‘Barkley has to be more productive’ – analysis
Ex-England midfielder Jermaine Jenas on BBC Radio 5 live:
I gave Chelsea a lot of praise in the first half but they didn’t really open up Arsenal apart from their goal. After that they were a bit stale unless Eden Hazard was on the ball.
I was disappointed with Barkley but we’ve got to give him time. He’s going to have to work something out very quickly. He has to take responsibility. He needs to be more productive, score goals and make things happen and be the player that Chelsea have bought.
Fair play to Arsenal. In the first half I was worried, it wasn’t looking good. A completely different team came out in second half, they got themselves back into the game and I think the better team won.
Chelsea didn’t offer enough or do enough. Most of those Chelsea players can’t look at themselves and say they deserved to win that game. Managers are often stubborn but Arsene Wenger saw his team needed help at half-time. Moving Mohamed Elneny back [into defence] was a stroke of genius.
Man of the match was Nacho Monreal of Arsenal
Chelsea’s unbeaten run ends – stats
- Arsenal will play in their eighth League Cup final. Only Liverpool (12) and Manchester United (9) have appeared in more (Aston Villa and Spurs also on eight).
- Chelsea have now lost just twice in their last eight away games versus Arsenal in all competitions (won three, drew four, lost two).
- Eden Hazard has netted three goals in his last two Chelsea games in all competitions, as many as in his previous 14.
- Ross Barkley made his first competitive club appearance in 248 days, since playing against Arsenal at the Emirates with Everton on 21 May, 2017.
- This was Chelsea’s first loss in 13 matches, since a 1-0 defeat by West Ham on 9 December in the Premier League.