Chelsea striker Cole Palmer squandered a hat-trick of chances as Hayden Hackney handed Sky Bet Championship Middlesbrough a priceless first-leg lead in their Carabao Cup semi-final.

The England international, who had earlier been denied by Boro keeper Tom Glover, passed up three opportunities either side of Hackney’s 37th-minute strike, which ensured Michael Carrick’s men will head for Stamford Bridge in a fortnight’s time with a 1-0 lead.

On a night when the 2004 winners managed to frustrate the side who beat them in the 1998 final for long periods, the big-spending Premier League club failed to find top gear despite boss Mauricio Pochettino naming Thiago Silva, Levi Colwill, Enzo Fernandez, Moises Caicedo, Conor Gallagher, Raheem Sterling and Palmer in a strong starting line-up.

For their part, the Teessiders were organised, dogged and a threat on the break, and reaped the rewards three days after suffering a heartbreaking late defeat by top-flight Aston Villa in the FA Cup.

The visitors’ goal came under threat within seconds of kick-off when Colwill’s poorly-directed header delivered the ball straight into the path of Emmanuel Latte Lath, although the striker scuffed his shot straight at keeper Djordje Petrovic as defender Axel Disasi tried desperately to close him down and caught him in his follow-through.

The Boro frontman struggled on after treatment, but eventually limped off to be replaced by Josh Coburn with just five minutes gone.

Palmer forced Glover into a full-length save as Chelsea responded, but with widemen Isaiah Jones and Alex Bangura – whose evening was ended prematurely minutes later by a hamstring injury – enjoying the space afforded to them, the Teessiders made early inroads.

The occasional flurry from Noni Madueke aside, neither team was able to create a chance of note until Colwill headed over from Palmer’s 29th-minute cross, but Jonny Howson was fortunate to get away with a dreadful crossfield pass which put Palmer in on goal two minutes later, only for the 21-year-old to drag his shot wastefully wide.

Chelsea were made to pay with eight minutes of the first half remaining when Dan Barlaser played Jones in behind Colwill and he crossed to Hackney at the near post to stab past Petrovic.

Palmer had two glorious opportunities to level in stoppage time when he spooned the ball over the top after Glover had spilled Enzo Fernandez’s shot from distance, and then failed to beat the keeper after cutting inside from the right.

The visitors remained patient on their return but largely played in front of Boro, who looked comfortable in their shape as they protected a precious advantage with little fuss.

Madueke headed straight at Glover from Fernandez’s 53rd-minute cross and then flashed the ball dangerously across goal after worming his way in from the right, and Gallagher fired wide on the turn eight minutes later amid relentless pressure.

Mykhailo Mudryk and Armando Broja were introduced with little sign of an equaliser imminent and after Barlaser had shot high and wide from a pacy counter-attack, Glover needed two attempts to collect Mudryk’s 73rd-minute attempt.

However, that was as good as it got for Pochettino’s misfiring side, who have work to do on home soil in the deciding leg.

Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick is hopeful his side can take the “positive experiences” from their FA Cup third-round loss into their Carabao Cup semi-final against Chelsea.

Boro were knocked out of the FA Cup by Matty Cash’s late strike in the 87th minute, which took a deflection into the bottom corner.

However, Boro’s attention quickly turns to the Carabao Cup, where they come up against Premier League Chelsea at the Riverside on Tuesday and Carrick hopes his players can take inspiration from their performance against Aston Villa.

He said post-match: “The boys are disappointed, which is good that they’re disappointed.

“It’s not an acceptance of ‘we’ve got beat’, it shows to me, more importantly, how much they felt they were right in the game. That’ll help us.

“We’ve got a lot of young boys in there that are learning, developing and experiences like that and the positive experiences we’ll take from it are no end for Tuesday hopefully and to the end of the season.”

Two games against Chelsea stand in the way of Boro reaching the final of the Carabao Cup, which they won in 2004, and Carrick insists his side are already relishing the test against the Blues.

“I won’t have to lift them (for the Chelsea match),” he added.

“It’s a huge game for us obviously, for each individual it’s a massive game, but for us collectively it’s a massive game.

“There won’t be any issues with recovery or motivation, my job’s already done for that one, they’ve done it themselves by getting into a semi-final.

“It’s a different game completely in terms of tactically and the dangers Chelsea have got, we’ll obviously have to adapt and look forward to that.

“They’re dangerous, at any point they can change a game, we know that.”

The 1-0 victory on Saturday night saw Aston Villa break their poor FA Cup run to progress to the fourth round for the first time since 2016.

Their best chances came from a succession of corners in the second half where goalkeeper Tom Glover pulled off an excellent save to deny John McGinn before Ezri Konsa’s header smashed off the inside of the post and Alex Moreno blasted the ball over the bar from close range.

The winning moment fell to Cash who struck from outside of the box to beat Glover and he revealed it was something he had worked on in training.

He told VillaTV: “I think I’ve worked closely on it in training, out of the box shooting and trying to keep the ball on target, and that’s all you can do.

“Obviously got a lucky deflection but I’m delighted it’s gone in, I’m really happy to get a goal.

“Since I’ve been here I haven’t progressed through to the next round, we made it clear before the game we wanted to do that and we’re obviously delighted to get into the fourth round.”

Exeter gave Middlesbrough a scare in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, but the Championship side’s superior quality ultimately prevailed as they won a cracking cup tie 3-2 at a sodden St James Park.

Boro started the first competitive fixture between the two clubs well but it was League One Exeter that broke the deadlock in impressive style in the 13th minute.

A quick throw released Kyle Taylor down the right and he pulled the ball back to the edge of the penalty box where Ryan Trevitt hit a stupendous half-volley over goalkeeper Tom Glover and into the goal off the underside of the crossbar.

Dael Fry volleyed just wide as Exeter struggled to clear a corner, while Samuel Silvera forced Vili Sinisalo into a smart stop as Michael Carrick’s team responded well to the setback.

Exeter suffered an injury blow when the dangerous Demetri Mitchell, the hero of their 1-0 win in the previous round against Premier League Luton, hobbled off and was replaced by Vincent Harper in the 33rd minute.

The home side rarely threatened going forward but approaching half-time Harper stood the ball up perfectly to the back post, only for James Scott to get his header wrong and see the opportunity go begging.

Boro always looked the more likely to score and went close again on the stroke of half-time, but Sinisalo was equal to Silvera’s effort and tipped it over the bar.

The Teessiders stepped things up after the break and drew level within four minutes of the restart.

Jack Fitzwater failed to clear his lines – although it appeared the Exeter was fouled – and the ball came to Morgan Rogers, who curled a delightful shot into the roof of the net from 20 yards.

It got worse for Exeter just before the hour mark as Silvera was given too much space on the edge of the penalty and he lashed a shot that skipped off the slick surface, through the arms of Sinisalo and into the bottom corner.

Silvera was just off target with another effort from distance, with the Championship side in complete control of the game.

However, out of the blue, Trevitt drew Exeter level in the 66th minute with another superb long range strike, which took a slight deflection of Paddy McNair before nestling into the bottom corner of the net.

Sinisalo made a brilliant save to deny the dangerous Silvera, who slipped through the Exeter defence with ease, Hayden Hackney curled a free-kick into the side-netting, then Exeter’s Finnish international goalkeeper saved well from Emmanuel Latte Lath.

However, Trevitt went from hero to villain as he gave away a needless penalty for pulling the shirt of Rogers and Latte Lath sent Sinisalo the wrong way from 12 yards to settle a pulsating tie with eight minutes remaining and give Boro an eighth win in nine matches in all competitions.

Middlesbrough have completed a double swoop for Melbourne City keeper Tom Glover and Central Coast Mariners midfielder Sam Silvera.

Both free agent Glover, 25, and 22-year-old Silvera, who has joined for an undisclosed fee, have signed three-year deals at the Riverside Stadium.

Glover, an A-League title winner in 2020-21, was on the opposing side as Silvera’s Mariners took the prize at the end of last season.

He will provide competition for Liam Roberts and Sol Brynn and plug the gap left by Zack Steffen following his return to Manchester City after last season’s loan spell.

A product of Tottenham’s Academy, Glover did not make a senior appearance for the North London club before moving back home to Melbourne in August 2019 after loan spells with Central Coast Mariners and Helsingborg.

He has represented his country at Under-23s level and was part of the Socceroos squad at the Tokyo Olympics, and although he was called into the senior party for last month’s friendly Against Argentina, he is yet to make a first appearance.

Glover found himself in the headlines in December 2022 when he was rushed to hospital with concussion and lacerations after being struck with a metal bucket in a pitch invasion during the derby clash with Melbourne Victory.

London-born Silvera, who has also turned out for Australia’s Under-23s, scored eight goals and provided five assists in his club’s title drive.

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