Town 1 Chelsea 2Town: Jayson Leutwiler, Jermaine Grandison, Mickey Demetriou, Connor Goldson, Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Jack Grimmer, Liam Lawrence (c), Ryan Woods, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, James Collins (Andy Mangan, 75), Bobby Grant (Jordan Clark, 67)
Subs not used: Mark Halstead, Mark Ellis, Scott Vernon, Anthony Griffith, Ashley Vincent
Chelsea: Petr Cech, Filipe Luis, Kurt Zouma, Nathan Ake, Oscar (Eden Hazard, 90), Didier Drogba (c), John Obi Mikel (Nemanja Matic, 80), Andre Schurrle, Mohamed Salah (Willian, 80), Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen
Subs not used: Mark Schwarzer, John Terry, Lewis Baker, Isiah Brown
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Assistants: Darren England, Scott Ledger
Fourth Official: Anthony Taylor
Attendance: 10,210 (1,720 from Chelsea)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
Shrewsbury Town’s Capital One Cup adventure ended tonight in an enthralling fourth round tie at a packed out Greenhous Meadow. They battled for all their worth against the multi-millionaires from West London and Chelsea knew they’d been in a game alright. Didier Drogba scored the opener for Jose Mourinho’s men but Andy Mangan equalised on 77 minutes having been on the pitch for less than two. But the game ended in heartache for Shrews as Jermaine Grandison appeared to get the final touch to a Willian cross that deflected past his own goalkeeper minutes later.
There was drama even before the game started when Liam Lawrence took his place in the side after initially being named amongst the subs. James Wesolowski dropped out of the 18 with Ashley Vincent promoted to the bench, but there was still confusion as to the nature of the late change. The Premier League leaders made seven changes to their team after they were denied victory at Old Trafford on Sunday by Robin van Persie’s stoppage time leveller. It was still a side that raised eyebrows amongst the gathered media, with Mourinho paying Shrewsbury plenty of respect with a star-studded XI representing the Londoners.
The teams came out to tumultuous applause from a packed Stadium, which was housing a record attendance (10,210) since the Meadow opened its doors for the first time in 2007. The rains had been tumbling steadily in the town for several hours, and showed little signs of abating as Salop got the game started attacking the Pro-Vision end of the ground.
The atmosphere was fantastic and went up several notches when Petr Cech had to make an early save from Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro’s header. And when Bobby Grant fired over the top after 12 minutes the noise made the hairs on your neck stand on end.
Nat Knight Percival had to be alert to shut the door on Mohamed Salah when Andre Schurrle tried to thread the ball through, but Town were competing really well with Ryan Woods central to much of their promise as an attacking force.
Midway through the half came the game’s first yellow card, and Nathan Ake could have few complaints after scything down Bobby Grant right in front of Mourinho’s technical area.
Chelsea missed a great chance when they countered with lightning pace after clearing a Town corner. Drogba did well to pick out Salah and he carried the ball forward about 50 yards before picking out World Cup winner Schurrle unmarked at the back post. But the German inexplicably decided to head back across goal when he looked certain to at least work Jayson Leutwiler. It was a let-off for Town but still they were going toe-to-toe with one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Salah was shooting from everywhere but his shots were going everywhere too - just not on target. Two minutes before the break, Drogba did put the ball in the back of the net but he’d strayed half a yard offside, and the decision was an easy one for the referee’s assistant who instantly flagged.
Half-Time: Town 0 Chelsea 0
One of the floodlights on top of the Surridge West Stand went out temporarily during the interval, but it flickered back to life five minutes before the sides emerged from the tunnel.
Bang on 48 minutes the Premier League side struck the opening blow. Drogba – who had scored in that draw at Manchester United – took a perfectly weighted ball from Salah and smashed it past Leutwiler in an instant with his left boot.
Chelsea had come out with a sense of purpose and it took the slightest of touches from Leutwiler to deflect Schurrle’s 25-yarder over the top, as the Blues looked to kill the game quickly.
Town came mightily close to a leveller as the home supporters rallied their side with wonderful backing. It came when James Collins stuck out a leg from Nat Knight-Percival’s shot and the effort wrong footed Cech but went agonisingly wide. The Irishman then had the keeper at full stretch as his own effort from outside the box flashed past an upright.
Drogba tested Leutwiler with Lawrence appealing for a free-kick in the build up, and it was still a really intriguing encounter, with Salop not in the least fazed at the size of their task and still in the tie with 20 minutes left.
Jordan Clark had come on for Grant on an energy sapping, sodden surface, in the first change of the night – with three games inside seven days perhaps starting to take their toll for Mellon’s brave battlers. Collins was withdrawn for Mangan with quarter of an hour to play as fresh legs were clearly evident. Like the rest of his teammates, Collins had run himself into the ground.
Within two minutes Mangan had done what he does best and scored the goal that nearly took the roof off the Meadow. A corner caused havoc in the Chelsea defence and Mangan turned to sweep the ball high into the net. The joyous scenes didn’t last. Mourinho made two changes with Willian and Nemanja Matic thrown on and the former made an immediate impact. Mickey Demetriou slipped when in possession and Chelsea moved the ball quickly out to the left and to an advanced area of the field. Willian swung in a really low cross and Drogba challenged with Grandison forcing the defender to turn it agonisingly past Leutwiler from close range. It was a devastating blow for Town who had worked tirelessly for a route back into the game.
Chelsea shut up shop and held possession for much of the remaining time. They saw the game out reasonably comfortably, but what a superb effort from Shrewsbury who had demonstrated to a massive television audience that they are a side going places. It was a night where you were proud to represent the club.
Full-Time: Town 1 Chelsea 2