Chelsea’s miserable start to the season continued on Tuesday after it was knocked out in the fourth round of the English League Cup on penalties by 10-man Stoke.
The defending Premier League and League Cup champion lost 5-4 in the shootout, with key playmaker Eden Hazard missing the all-important fifth spot kick for his side.
”A few months ago I won a few matches and I was champion. People were saying there are things more important than results. Now, people say results are the most important thing,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said after his side slipped to an eighth defeat in 16 matches this season.
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There was also misery for rival Arsenal after it was convincingly beaten 3-0 by second-tier Sheffield Wednesday.
”I am very happy about the players and for the club, it is an important victory for the club,” Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal said.
Mourinho’s side has endured a torrid start to its title defense, losing five of its opening 10 matches in the league and finds itself 11 points adrift of current leaders.
Looking for a morale-boosting victory following a 2-1 defeat to West Ham on Saturday, Mourinho picked a strong starting line-up with only defender Baba Rahman and midfielder Mikel not recognized regulars.
Stoke forward Jonathan Walters scored early after the interval following a goalless first half. He turned on the edge of the area before unleashing a strike into the roof of the net. And that goal looked likely to settle the tie until substitute Loic Remy struck in stoppage time.
That forced the game into extra time and after Phil Bardsley was dismissed for a second bookable offence the tie swung in Chelsea’s favor.
Despite a series of shots at Jack Butland’s goal, the visitors were unable to find the breakthrough, forcing the game into a penalty shootout. After nine expertly taken attempts, Hazard stepped up with sudden death looming. However his effort was tipped over by Butland to put Stoke into the quarterfinals.
Arsenal also exited the competition and its loss was marred further after Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hobbled off with injury.
First-half goals from Ross Wallace and Lucas Joao stunned the Gunners, who lost momentum following the double substitution. Oxlade-Chamberlain left the field in the fifth minute clutching his hamstring and his replacement Walcott lasted 13 minutes before being withdrawn.
Sam Hutchinson added a third for Wednesday after the interval to prolong Arsenal’s dismal record at Hillsborough, with Arsene Wenger’s side failing to record a victory in its last six visits.
”It was a very bad night for us. We lost two important players in the first part of the game and then we were not at the level we needed to be,” Wenger said.
”Congratulations to them, they were faster, sharper and more decisive than us. We could not create anything. We were very naive when defending.”
Penalty shootouts also decided the evening’s other two ties with Everton beating Norwich 4-3 following a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park and Hull beating Leicester 5-4 after another 1-1 stalemate.