28 min: Chelsea get patient. Then they suddenly slam on the accelerator, and …
26 min: Fernandez slips a ball into the Boro box down the inside-left channel. Mudryk nips ahead of Van Den Berg on the overlap. He fails to control, though, and the ball rolls out for a goal kick. Had Van Den Berg made any contact with Mudryk – and he so nearly did – it’d have been a clear penalty. But the defender did well to pull out of the challenge at the last. Boro hearts in mouths for a nanosecond there.
25 min: A loose ball down the Boro left now, with Rogers, Forss and Hackney all barrelling after it. Colwill comes across to skelp it into the East Stand, before Boro can piece together anything coherent. That was a crucial intervention.
23 min: Chelsea take it down a notch with some sterile domination.
21 min: Van Den Berg beats Chilwell in a footrace towards a loose ball down the right … only to take a heavy touch and run it out for a goal kick, having done the hardest part of the job.
20 min: It’s all Chelsea now. That stuttering start suddenly seems a lifetime ago.
18 min: As for the goal, it’s an unfortunate one for Howson. Broja was almost certainly going to score, so the Boro midfielder had to try something. A lovely Chelsea move, though, Colwill’s defence splitter making it look easy.
16 min: Boro nearly hit straight back immediately, winning a corner down the left. From the set piece, Rogers jinks his way into the box and threads a shot towards the bottom-left corner. There’s not enough welly behind it to beat Petrovic, who smothers on the line.
GOAL! Chelsea 1-0 Middlesbrough (Howson og 15); agg 1-1
This is so easy for Chelsea. Colwill picks up possession in the middle of the park, sashaying right to left before sliding a pass down the channel. Sterling springs into the box and rolls across for Broja, who is about to slot when Howson nicks the ball off his toe only to bundle into his own net.
13 min: … and there’s no VAR tonight, so the referee’s on-field decision is final.
12 min: Chelsea so close to an opener! Silva pings a long pass down the middle for Chilwell, who beats Glover to the dropping ball. His header loops over the keeper but sails narrowly wide right of the open goal. Chilwell, having been hit by Glover after winning the header, claims a penalty, but he’s not getting one. Mudryk complains to the extent that he goes into the book.
10 min: Clarke heads it clear. The ball comes back. Some head tennis, before Van Den Berg blooters away from danger. Better from Chelsea, though the bar had been set low.
9 min: Mudryk cuts in from the left and exchanges passes with Fernandez before taking a speculative shot that’s deflected off Hackney and over the bar. The first corner of the evening coming up. Chilwell to take from the left.
7 min: Van Den Berg sends a low cross in from the right. Silva clears with Rogers lurking. Then Forss tries again. Chilwell hacks this one clear. Chelsea don’t look with it at all, and their fans let them know they need to snap out of it quicksmart.
6 min: Chelsea haven’t managed to put anything together yet. Out of frustration, or perhaps impatient ambition, Colwill clanks a long pass straight through to Glover in the Boro goal.
4 min: A couple of promising early attacks by Boro, with Howson and Rogers taking turns to probe at the Chelsea back line. Nothing dramatic occurs, but that’ll give the Championship side some encouragement.
2 min: A cracking atmosphere at the Bridge tonight. Red flares in the away section. Both sets of fans giving it plenty. The swirl of wind and rain adding some extra frisson.
Before the match, a minute of applause to remember Tommy Baldwin, who helped Chelsea to the 1970 FA Cup and the 1971 Cup Winners’ Cup. Then Boro get the match underway.
The teams are out! Chelsea in blue, Boro in red. A whirl of the organ, a toss of a coin, a shake of the hand and we’ll be off. “Given Chelsea’s penchant for buying up massive bunches of players and sending them off on loan, could this matchup be billed as ‘Lend v Boro’?” Peter Oh, ladies and gentlemen. He’s here all week. Try the locally-produced cinnamon-enhanced sweetmeats.
Michael Carrick’s turn. “I trust the boys … it’s a great opportunity for us … we’re looking forward to it … we know what we’re getting into … we know how tough it will be … we’ll have a right crack at it … we’ve got to ride the emotion, mood and momentum … ‘stay in the game’ subconsciously puts you in survival mode and you want to be a bit more expressive … that’s the balance … you have to be sensible … we want to affect the game in a positive way … we’ll be flexible and adapt … it’ll be a big test for us.”
Mauricio Pochettino talks to Sky. “This is an important game for us … the first leg was difficult … we need to win the game … it’s an amazing opportunity to make the final … we have to respect our opponent, it is going to be tough … the first leg we played well but we were not clinical enough … we need to learn … we cannot afford to lose this game … we have a second chance … it’s important for us to make the final.”
Chelsea make three changes to the team that started the first leg. Ben Chilwell, Mykhailo Mudryk and Armando Broja are in, replacing Noni Madueke and Conor Gallagher, who drop to the bench, and Malo Gusto, who is injured.
Middlesbrough also make three changes to their starting XI from that match. Isaiah Jones, Emmanuel Latte Lath and Alex Bangura are all unavailable, so Matt Clarke, Morgan Rogers and Marcus Forss step up.
… and may haunt the minds of a certain generation of Chelsea supporters going into tonight’s game. Can the five-time winners turn their 1-0 deficit from the first leg around? Or will Boro hold on to reach their fourth final, and their first since their one and only win in 2004? The story will begin to unfold at 8pm GMT. It’s on!