Chelsea hold Liverpool at Anfield in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final
Liverpool were boosted by the return of captain Steven Gerrard, who recovered in time from his hamstring strain, for Chelsea’s visit to Anfield in the first leg of the semi-final in the Capital One Cup. Chelsea made two changes for the crucial tie, with Thibaut Courtois coming on for Petr Cech and John Obi Mikel replacing Oscar in the first XI.
Chelsea lined in a familiar 4-5-1 that they use for big away matches, while Liverpool continued with the formation that have brought them recent success – 3-5-2.
Liverpool got the match underway, amidst a vociferous Anfield crowd, and were on the front foot straight away. Chelsea’s game plan was clear from the offset – not to let the Reds have a clear run on goal, while trying to hit them on the counter – as they put men between the ball and Courtois’ goal.
After dominating for the opening quarter of an hour, Liverpool were left shell-shocked when the referee pointed to the penalty spot after Eden Hazard drew a foul from makeshift centre-back Emre Can. The Belgian stepped up to take the kick against his national teammate Simon Mignolet, but came out on top as he sent the Liverpool custodian the wrong way to give Chelsea a crucial away goal and the lead at Anfield against the run of play.
Chelsea, smarting from a 5-0 win at Swansea, let the home side have the ball in their own half, but, closed down the Reds as soon as they would try to enter the final third. Liverpool tried to find the equalizer and appealed, unsuccessfully, for a penalty when the ball hit Costa’s hand in the Chelsea box, but the referee deemed it unintentional and let play go on. Chelsea’s defence held firm as they closed out the half with a one-goal lead.
Liverpool came out the same way in the second half, keeping possession of the ball and moving it around well. Courtois was a busy man as Liverpool tried to beat the Belgian from distance when they weren’t able to break the resilient Chelsea defence.
The equalizer came through the young Englishman, Raheem Sterling, who received a pass from Jordan Henderson and a smart turn got him away from Nemanja Matic. He raced towards goal and Gary Cahill’s decision to not put in a tackle and run with the youngster proved decisive as Sterling shifted the ball to his left foot before unleashing a precise finish beyond Courtois’ reach.
It was no more than what Liverpool deserved and the goal buoyed the Reds to go in search for a winner. Gerrard came closest with his left-footed shot, but the departing captain was denied by the post. Adam Lallana, soon, replaced Gerrard as the home side continued to apply the pressure. The substitute had an instant impact as he hit a half-volley with his left foot, that was brilliantly saved by Courtois.
Jordan Henderson’s rasping drive from outside the box was deflected away by Courtois and Sterling’s resulting effort was easily gathered by the man with the gloves. The match continued to be played in the Chelsea half as Liverpool pinned them back, but the away side’s defence stood firm and Courtois denied Liverpool an important goal that would mean they would carry a lead into Stamford Bridge.
The referee blew the whistle after two minutes of stoppage time to signal the end of the match. Liverpool were held at Anfield by Chelsea and Jose Mourinho would definitely be the happier man. Liverpool had 20 shots, while Chelsea had 2 and Brendan Rodgers was left wondering how his side could not find the winner. The answer was Courtois, as he picked up the man of the match award after keeping his side in the game with a few brilliant saves.
Liverpool 0-1 Chelsea: Eden Hazard (pen) (18’)
The Chelsea winger stepped up to take the spot-kick after winning the penalty. He did what he has so successfully done before, send the goalkeeper the wrong way as he put his penalty on the goalkeeper’s left side to give Chelsea the lead against the run of play.
Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea: Raheem Sterling (59’)
After receiving a pass from Jordan Henderson 40 yards away, Sterling raced towards goal after beating Matic with an intelligent turn. His speed left everyone else behind and he shot with his left foot soon after entering the box. The precise finish wrong-footed Courtois as it hit the side net and the youngster wheeled away in delight amidst the euphoria of the Anfield faithful.