The Reds forced the Blues to go through the hard way – in fact Sir Alex Ferguson’s different set of players were seconds from achieving the same 3-2 scoreline when the hosts were handed the lifeline of an injury-time penalty kick and took the game into extra time.
Javier Hernandez – with his sixth goal in nine games against Chelsea – was joined on what looked like being the winning side of the scoresheet by veteran Ryan Giggs and another recalled winger, Nani. But three Blues equalisers – Gary Cahill’s header sandwiched by penalties from David Luiz and Eden Hazard – ultimately forced the additional 30 minutes, during which Daniel Sturridge and Ramires put Roberto Di Matteo’s men 5-3 up.
The scoring didn’t end there as Giggs converted from the spot in the 120th minute to give the Reds a final flush of hope – but the lion’s share of the nine goals had been crucially claimed by the home side in an extraordinary tie that almost upstaged Arsenal’s 7-5 victory at Reading 24 hours earlier.
The Reds entered the game with ten changes from Sunday’s starting line-up, with only Rafael retained in the eleven. And the much revised side had an early let-off when two of the attacking players enjoying a rare run-out in royal blue combined. From a position wide on the right, former Wigan forward Victor Moses bent a superb long pass to Sturridge’s feet inside the area but instead of fashioning the first shot of note, the England Under-21 international stumbled on the ball to the mirth of the baying away fans behind Lindegaard’s goal. Moses’ balance was later found wanting in a similar