Swansea City have reached their first major English football final, but their historic win was marred by an ugly incident that made an instant celebrity of an apparently wronged ballboy.
The home side progressed to the League Cup final, after holding Chelsea at bay in the second leg of their semi to win 2-0 on aggregate today. After securing a shock 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago, the Welsh club put in a resilient rearguard display to draw 0-0 in front of their jubilant fans.
But the visitors' unhappy evening was compounded late on, when playmaker Eden Hazard was sent off for trying to kick the ball away from a ballboy who was lying on top of it.
The Belgian lost his cool and tried to kick the ball from underneath the ballboy, but in the process caught him in the ribs.
Referee Chris Foy called him across and gave him his marching orders, effectively ending the visitors' hopes of securing a route back into the tie.
"Demba Ba told me the ball boy held onto it, but I saw him kick him and you can't do that to a young boy," Swansea captain Ashley Williams told Sky Sports.
Within minutes, thousands of followers flocked to the Twitter account of Charlie Morgan, Swansea Football & LAD.
"The king of all ball boys is back making his final appearance #needed #for #timewasting", tweeted Morgan, before the match.
His account increased from about a few hundred followers to more than 50,000 soon after the game and several paraody accounts were also set up, trumpeting his fame.
Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez said his player had apologised following the match to the ballboy, who walked away from the incident grimacing and clutching his side.
"Eden Hazard has been in to see the ballboy and the two have apologised to each other," Chelsea's interim manager said, after a reverse that is likely to bring further scrutiny on his own position.
"The ballboy knows he was wasting time. We are disappointed to lose the player, but we cannot change things."
Dream trip to final
Swansea will face fourth-tier Bradford City in the final at Wembley Stadium on February 24.
"We go to Wembley, which is what we all dreamt of as little boys," Williams added. "We kept to the game plan brilliantly.
"We will do our work on Bradford and we can't take them for granted. They have beaten three Premier League teams this season."
Chelsea made one change from the team that beat Arsenal 2-1 in the Premier League on Monday (NZT), with January signing Demba Ba taking the place of the out-of-sorts Fernando Torres.
The game was six minutes old when the Senegal striker was involved in controversy, as he burst into the box and appeared to be tripped by Swansea defender Ben Davies, but Chelsea's penalty appeals were waved away by Foy.
Chelsea were spraying the ball around confidently, but the best early chance fell to the hosts.
Winger Wayne Routledge played a clever throughball for Michu, but the Spanish striker, whose superb start to life in the Premier League was rewarded with a new four-year contract today, failed to find the corner and his shot was saved by the diving keeper Peter Cech.
With Torres looking wistfully on from the bench, Ba was on the end of Chelsea's best early efforts.
A deep cross from Ashley Cole was blasted high over the bar by the striker on the stroke of halftime and he curled a decent effort narrowly wide five minutes after the restart.
Chelsea had to wait until the 72nd minute for their next sniff
of goal, when Juan Mata drilled a low shot that was well-held by
Swansea keeper Gerhard Tremmel.