Chelsea reached the League Cup final with a 6-1 thrashing of Middlesbrough in their semi-final second leg, providing coach Mauricio Pochettino a measure of relief after a poor first half to the season.
The big-spending Londoners, who lie a lowly ninth in the Premier League, had squandered a hatful of chances in the first leg away two weeks ago which Middlesbrough won 1-0.
But Tuesday’s game underlined the gulf in quality between the Premier League side and their second-tier visitors with the tie finishing 6-2 on aggregate.
“Today we were very clinical in front of goal. We missed that in the first leg and we were disappointed. Today we were really good and I think that is the difference,” Pochettino told Sky Sports.
Middlesbrough, missing key players through injury, could not repeat their defensive heroics of the first leg and, after conceding an own-goal through captain Jonny Howson in the 15th minute, were already 4-0 down by halftime.
Cole Palmer put away two for Chelsea, in the 42nd and 77th minutes, as the Blues ran rings round their opponents with a sharp, flowing, passing game.
“I missed three sitters in the first game so it was always in the back of my mind coming into this game. To score two and go through to Wembley, I’m happy,” Palmer told Sky Sports.
“We’ve not had the best of starts, there is no hiding it but to go to Wembley is a great opportunity to get a trophy and we’re looking forward to it.”
Pochettino praised Palmer’s intelligence on the pitch. The forward has now scored 10 goals in his first season with Chelsea.
“He is a player with an amazing talent. It is a player that understands the game. He has the quality and the talent to see the situation and to read the game in another aspect,” the Argentine coach said.
Enzo Fernandez, Axel Disasi and Noni Madueke also got on the scoresheet, while Morgan Rogers scored a consolation goal for Boro in the 88th minute.
Chelsea, who have won the trophy five times, most recently in 2015, will meet either Liverpool or Fulham, who play on Wednesday, in the Wembley final on Feb. 25. The Blues last reached the final two years ago, losing to Liverpool on penalties.