It was the night of some Capital One Cup action when Liverpool made a trip to Stamford Bridge to line-up against Chelsea in the 2nd leg of the Semi-final.
The first leg was held at Anfield last week where we just managed to notch up a draw; thanks to our good luck and to a large extent, Courtois. What followed after that is something I prefer not to talk about!
So let’s just keep it at this; after our fringe players managed to lose against a League One side on the weekend, Jose Mourinho chose to go with a full fledged squad for this fixture with Kurt Zouma and Filipe Luis as the only minor surprises (although, after watching Cahill and Azpi’s performance in the weekend, I shouldn’t exactly call it a surprise!).
Without wasting any further time let’s get on with the initial reaction to see how the game panned out for the Blues:
– It was a big game for Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea especially after our debacle against Bradford. Both teams started the game with the high press tactics and an incredible tempo. Who says Capital One Cup ain’t relevant? It was quite evident from the start as to why Mourinho went with Kurt Zouma instead of Gary Cahill. The big man had the job to bully Raheem Sterling who started as a Striker for the Merseyside club and the Frenchman seemed to perform the job well in the starting few minutes.
– Liverpool had a terrific opportunity in the 17th minute as Sterling broke free on the wings rounding off John Terry with sheer pace but thankfully Kurt Zouma was there to save the day for the Blues as he recovered superbly to deny Sterling a shooting opportunity and possibly a goal scoring chance. Take a note Gary Cahill! With 5 players in the midfield, Liverpool dominated the possession game and Chelsea reverted to the tactics of playing long balls to Costa as Hazard and Oscar struggled to exert themselves into the game in the first 20 minutes.
– Chelsea should have been awarded a penalty in the 23rd minute as a brilliant trickery by Costa inside the box saw Skrtel trip the Spaniard to the ground but the referee decided against the spot kick as has been the case on numerous occasions this season. A campaign against us, maybe? The savior of our first leg came to the rescue in the 26th minute when Alberto Moreno’s shot was expertly denied by Courtois at the far post. And if that wasn’t enough, the Belgian made an absolutely brilliant save to deny Coutinho a couple of minutes later to what would have been a superb goal from the Brazilian. What a talent he is!
– Half an hour gone and although it wasn’t surely a one way traffic but it was the visitors who were looking more likely to open the account in this second leg of the semi-final, while Chelsea were guilty of losing possession a little too soon, once we managed to get into their final third.
– The first half ended 0-0 as both the teams were unable to get on the score sheet. Liverpool definitely had the best of chances to go 1-0 up, only to be denied by the Belgian at more than one occasions. As for Chelsea, our decision-making in the final third was dire as we were unable to find that killer, defense splitting pass to break open the Liverpool back four. Fabregas was guilty of dropping too deep while Willian looked confused going forward as we struggled to create anything remarkable from the midfield. There was also a small case of penalty for Diego Costa but then again Michael Oliver probably knows what he is doing, denying a clear foul inside the box? Frankly, we have seen that so many times this season that it’s futile even to talk about it! Anyway, let’s see what second half has in store for us.
– The second half started with Jose Mourinho making no changes to the starting line-up. Fabregas was subbed off quite early in the second half though, as the playmaker was replaced by Ramires in the middle of the pitch. An interesting sub, given the City fixture in 3 days time.
– A brawl between Costa and Skrtel? Well we probably saw it coming, didn’t we? A bad foul on Oscar from Lucas saw the Brazilian go to the ground and while the referee dealt with the challenge; Costa and Skrtel started some of their own at the far post before they were taken aside. A proper Cup game we have got on our hands! The inevitable “Eden Hazard moment” came in the 59th minute for the Blues when the Belgian broke free in the midfield and rounded off four (!) defenders just to see his shot go wide off the goal. What a goal it would have been if the Belgian had managed to put it past Mignolet!
– Diego Costa had a great chance to open the scoring just a minute later, but Simon Mignolet somehow managed to deny the Spaniard’s deflected shot with an instinctive save at the far post. It was an end to end stuff from both the teams as they searched for the winner. The quality of football was so amazing that it was impossible to take your eyes off the screen even for a second. Frankly, it was surprising to see not a goal scored in this fixture till now, as we got to experience some high-level stuff at the Bridge.
– This match was turning out to be quite an epic affair with chances after chances for both the teams as Diego Costa and Ramires went close to open the scoring for the Blues. On the other end, Courtois had to make yet more World Class saves to deny Sterling from getting it past the Belgian. For Liverpool, Henderson was fortunate to escape from a handball as the midfielder was already on a booking before committing a deliberate foul.
– Cesar Azpilicueta had to come on for Filipe Luis in the 78th minute as the fullback limped off the pitch to what looked like a muscle pull for the Brazilian. We hope nothing’s serious! With fatigue kicking in among the players of both the team, the last 10 minutes were all about breaking free and hitting the other team on the counter. The Blues pushed hard for a winner as we didn’t want an extra 30 minutes on top of this frantic affair. More so when we had Citizens visiting us on the weekend!
– Chelsea pushed very hard to get a winner in the final few minutes, but it wasn’t meant to be as we loomed to the added time in this crazy fixture at Stamford Bridge. With Chelsea having a cushion of an away goal, we just needed to stop Liverpool from getting on the score sheet to reach the finals of the Capital One Cup. Game on at Stamford Bridge!
– The first half of the extra time started with both the teams looking dead tired in the middle. However, Ivanovic had some other plans as the Serbian got behind Balotelli to head away a goal from a beautiful Willian free kick resulting from a silly foul from Lucas on Hazard. And just like that it was 1-0 Chelsea!
– Henderson had the best chance of the game to equalize from a header with 9 minutes passed, but the midfielder missed the target altogether. Sterling did brilliantly on the wings to create the chance and Henderson shrugged off Azpilicueta rather easily but, fortunately, couldn’t make the right connection from the ball to see the chance go to waste.
– The second half of the extra time started with Brendan Rodgers introducing Rickie Lambert as the final sub as the Merseyside club went all out attack at the Bridge.
– With no real pressure on Mourinho’s side we just looked to keep the ball in the midfield as a trip to Wembley seemed more an more imminent for the Blues. Liverpool, on the other hand, kept knocking on our door to get an equalizer, but the fatigue plus some poor play from Balotelli stopped the Merseyside club from scoring anything.
– Didier Drogba came on for Willian in the closing minutes as the game ended in a 1-0 win for Chelsea. 2-1 on aggregate for the Blues. It was an amazing game of football as we booked our trip to Wembley with an Ivanovic goal in the extra time. Still in for Treble! KTBFFH!
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Edited By: Ankur Bhatt