Wycombe 1 Chelsea 1
Jermaine Easter’s late strike embarrassed Chelsea and earned Wycombe a memorable draw in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final at Adams Park.
Easter, who has scored in every round of the cup this season, finished coolly past Hilario with 13 minutes remaining to reward the League Two side against the Premiership champions.
Paul Lambert’s minnows had started brightly but fell behind to Wayne Bridge’s opener, yet the side that had beaten Fulham and Charlton in previous rounds remained in the game and battled towards parity.
Lambert’s men remain unbeaten at home since October.
Chelsea struggled to make chances and, despite being in the box seat to reach the final against Arsenal or Tottenham, were matched in every department on the night.
As expected, the hosts started with pace and chased everything, not allowing Chelsea’s makeshift defence time on the ball.
Michael Essien and Paulo Ferreira, neither of them centre-backs by trade, were harried by Tommy Mooney and Easter from the first minute.
Easter, the hero of the last round against Charlton, showed plenty of pace and Wycombe used every opportunity to switch the play from left to right to try to find him.
The Chairboys had the ball in the net after 13 minutes, but the play had been pulled back well before for an Easter push before Hilario allowed Mooney’s effort to trickle in.
The League Two side created the first real opportunity after 20 minutes, with a sweeping move after Easter chased a long ball down the left.
The striker even checked he was onside before crossing to the far post, where Kevin Betsy was in space, but Hilario got just enough on the cross for the ball to clear the crossbar and prevent an open goal for Matt Bloomfield.
Chelsea, who had drawn their three games prior to Saturday’s win over Macclesfield in the FA Cup, had struggled to impose themselves.
With Didier Drogba suspended, Salomon Kalou led the visitors’ attack but did not have the presence of Chelsea’s top scorer and saw little of the ball early on.
After surviving the early storm, Chelsea gathered a little momentum, with Bridge finding room in the area but getting crowded out and then Shaun Wright-Phillips and Mikel Jon Obi firing over the crossbar.
They were ahead in the 36th minute when Kalou showed the composure he had previously been lacking, turning on the halfway line and releasing Bridge with a fine reverse ball.
Bridge, playing in midfield rather than full-back, raced on and lobbed Ricardo Batista for his first strike of the season. Both goalkeeper and goalscorer required treatment for clattering into each other but were fine to carry on, Bridge with a facial cut.
Bridge could have doubled the lead in first-half injury time but Batista saved well after a corner had broken to the Chelsea player.
Wycombe refused to surrender to their top-flight opponents, with Easter volleying well over as they tried to maintain their pace.
After the break, Mooney neatly played through Bloomfield but the midfielder sliced horribly wide with his side’s best chance of the game.
Mooney was causing trouble in attack and also dropping into midfield. His tackle on Claude Makelele led to both players being booked, with the Chelsea midfielder now set to miss the Premiership clash against Liverpool.
From the resulting set piece Mooney won a header at the far post but his effort lobbed onto the top of Hilario’s net.
Makelele was making a return to the starting 11 along with Michael Ballack in midfield. Ballack had been criticised recently for his limited impact since arriving from Bayern Munich and he struggled to find time on the ball again.
Wright-Phillips was taken off just after the hour mark for Ben Sahar, while Frank Lampard came on for Bridge for the last 23 minutes.
Stefan Oakes had sight of goal with a free kick after Kalou handballed on the edge of the area, while at the other end Sahar forced Batista into a save with a low drive.
The hosts were level in the 77th minute after Mooney flicked on for Easter to chase, showing strength to hold off Essien and then steering past Hilario.
Oakes could have grabbed glory with three minutes remaining but his free kick was off-target as the hosts ensured they would head for west London on level terms.