Middlesbrough spring Carabao Cup semi-final surprise to beat Chelsea 1-0 at the Riverside

Hayden Hackney's goal was enough for Middlesbrough to claim a 1-0 win over Chelsea. Credit: PA

Middlesbrough took a step towards the Carabao Cup final with a 1-0 win over Chelsea in the first leg of their semi-final at the Riverside. 

Hayden Hackney’s first-half strike was enough to split the sides as the visitors passed several guilt-edge opportunities to earn a more positive result. 

Boro entered the encounter as massive underdogs given Chelsea's Premier League status and the gulf in resources between the two sides. The Blues have spent over £1billion since a takeover by American businessman Todd Boehly in May 2022 and boast one of the most talented squads in the country on paper. 

In contrast, Michael Carrick had fewer options to call on, a situation worsened by a long injury list. The 42-year-old would have been desperate to avoid any further issues but his worst nightmares were realised within the first 18 minutes as Emmanuel Latte Lath and Alex Bangura were forced off. 

Middlesbrough were forced into two injury changes in the first 20 minutes with Alex Bangura one of those to go off. Credit: PA

However, the Championship side were given a good account of themselves and were continually putting pressure on the Chelsea midfield and backline. 

Yet, it was Chelsea who fashioned the game’s first big opportunity and it came via a Middlesbrough mistake. Captain Jonny Howson’s poor pass was seized upon by Cole Palmer but the in-form England international fired wide with only Tom Glover to beat. 

Boro were causing problems down the right-hand courtesy of Isaiah Jones and it was from here that they found the breakthrough. The 24-year-old’s driving run was too much for Levi Colwill in the Blues defence and his cross found Hayden Hackney who turned home coolly to send the Riverside into raptures. 

It was the club's first goal against the Londoners at the Riverside since 2006 and had home fans dreaming that a cup shock could well be on.

The Teessiders remained in the ascendancy for a spell after the goal but would need to weather a Chelsea onslaught before half-time. 

Palmer somehow managed to miss the target with the goal at his mercy after Glover fumbled an Enzo Fernandez long-range strike. The Englishman was unable to convert again as he cut in from the right moments later as the Boro goalkeeper made a good save. 

Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick celebrates his side's win at full-time. Credit: PA

The home side understandably set up more defensively as they came out for the second half, dropping deep to protect the penalty box. 

Chelsea were often forced into shots from distance with Moises Caicedo the first to try his luck from around 25 yards out. 

The Blues fashioned their best chance of the half around the hour mark but Conor Gallagher was unable to find the target despite finding space in the penalty area. 

Boro continued to try and threaten on the counter-attack but became increasingly forced back towards their own goal. Mykhailo Mudryk, Raheem Sterling and Armando Broja all came close as the Londoners continued to push to get into the game. 

As the clock ticked towards the 90-minute mark those home supporters within the Riverside started to dream. Chelsea youngster Alfie Gilchrist found the side netting with a header in the final moments but it was not enough as Boro claimed a famous win.

Middlesbrough must now avoid defeat at Stamford Bridge in two weeks to progress to the Carabao Cup final showpiece at Wembley next month. The club won the first, and only major trophy in the competition in 2004 and could now be just two games away from emulating the achievement 20 years later.

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