Liverpool vs Chelsea, Capital One Cup: Sterling show by Liverpool in Anfield thriller
Raheem Sterling's stunning individual goal earned Liverpool a 1-1 draw with Chelsea in a rip-roaring League Cup semi-final first leg at Anfield on Tuesday but the dominant Merseysiders could be left to rue a missed opportunity.
Chelsea, having taken an 18th minute lead against the run of play through an Eden Hazard penalty, defended stoutly until Sterling, refreshed and reinvigorated from a mid-season break, levelled before the hour after bursting through the defence.
Both sides had vociferous penalty appeals turned down and Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois showed his worth with a series of superb saves to keep the tie level heading into next Tuesday's return leg.
For record eight-times League Cup winners Liverpool, however, it was a chance missed, having dominated the clash against a strangely subdued Chelsea side who will now have home advantage and be strong favourites to reach Wembley.
The winners will face Tottenham Hotspur or third tier Sheffield United, who meet on Wednesday, in the final.
"I'm delighted with the performance, disappointed with the result," was Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers' assessment of an evening of near-misses for the hosts.
Minutes after home captain Steven Gerrard had seen a stunning 30-metre effort tipped over by Courtois, Liverpool were playing catch-up.
Hazard calmly slotted home from the spot in the 18th minute after Liverpool's makeshift defender Emre Can clumsily bundled into the Belgian in the area.
The hosts had their own loud appeals for a penalty turned down when the ball hit prone Chelsea striker Diego Costa's arm at the end of the first half, but a baying Kop had to wait until the 59th minute for something to celebrate.
Sterling, refreshed from a winter break in Jamaica, received the ball inside the Chelsea half and then accelerated away from two players before knocking the ball into space and firing left-footed past Courtois.
The goal gave Liverpool their belief back and prompted a spell of frenzied pressure with Gerrard hitting the post and substitute Adam Lallana drawing a stunning one-handed save from man-of-the-match Courtois.
Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho, in typically bullish fashion, described it as a fair result, before adding that "Liverpool played well but we were in control".
The statistics told a different story, with Liverpool having six shots on target to Chelsea's one and the Merseysiders hogging 62 percent of possession, but there is little doubt Chelsea are favourites to win the tie at Stamford Bridge.
Raheem Sterling scored a gem of an equaliser in the second half to help Liverpool hold Chelsea 1-1 in the 1st leg of the Capital One Cup semi-finals at Anfield on Tuesday night
Sterling staved off the challenge from two defenders with a solid burst and with Thibaut Courtois in goal he placed it with his left foot from the left side of the box to the far right corner of the net leaving Courtois, who otherwise had a fantastic match with some brilliant saves, no chance whatsoever.
Liverpool dominated the entire match with Chelsea looking like pedestrians. Jose Mourinho will be happy to come away with a draw thanks to a penalty scored by Eden Hazard in the 18th minute after he was fouled by Emre Can.
Liverpool 1 (Sterling 59") Chelsea 1 (Hazard 18")
92" The final whistle goes off.
90" Two minutes added.
87" Finally Mourinho makes his first substitution. Cesar Azpilicueta comes in for Willian.
84" Mourinho is yet to make a substitution despite the team running out of ideas.
80" With 10 minutes to go Arsenal look more hungry for a goal while Chelsea look a far cry from the side that currently tops the EPL standings.
79" Brilliant save from Courtois diving full length in the air to his right to punch Lallana's superb volley away.
74" Courtois is kept on his toes by two shots from Henderson and Sterling and he responds with alacrity.
73" YELLOW! Chelsea's Mike is booked.
71" Liverpool earn a free-kick but Henderson's shot is headed over by Skrtel.
69" Gerrard is replaced by Lallana.
67" Courtois to the rescue saving a powerful shot from Coutinho after Liverpool exert pressure.
65" Gerrard is denied a goal by the upright after Coutinho did the spadework.
62" Diego Costa's shot is blocked by Mignolet but the striker is pulled up for off-side. He's been totally off colour today and it's a matter of time before Mourinho replaces him.
Liverpool 1 (Sterling 59") Chelsea 1 (Hazard 18")
49" Terry and Sterling get into a tangle just outisde Chelsea box. Sterling gets his first clear chance to score but squanders it up.
45" Minoglet makes a desperate clearance after Fabregas sells a dummy to put Costa through but before the Spanish striker could reach the ball the keeper charges out and kicks it out of harm's way.
Coach Brendan Rodgers will have to come up with something different as though Arsenal dominated the first half they hardl looked like scoring.
Liverpool 0 Chelsea 1 (Hazard 18")
44" YELLOW! Filipe Luis is cautioned.
44" YELLOW! Lucas Leiva is booked this time.
42" Coutinho takes a crack but the ball deflects off a defender athough Courtois was well placed to save it.
38" YELLOW! Gerrard is booked for a tackle from behind on Hazard.
35" Arsenal are doing all the running but Chelsea are lucky to have scored despite failing to find their bearings.
31" Sterling wins a free-kick for Liverpool on the left flank but Gerrard's shot is punched away with both hands by Courtois.
28" Emre Can makes a long run unchallenged and tries to find Sterling but the ball is too fast for the striker.
25" Arsenal get their third corner but Skrtel sends his header wide.
Liverpool 0 Chelsea 1 (Hazard 18")
18" GOAL! Eden Hazard scores from the spot sending Minoglet the wrong way.
17" Chelsea earn a penalty after Hazard is brought down by Emre Can in the box.
15" Gerrard's pile-driver from 25 yards is tipped over by Courtois. Another corner wasted by Liverpool.
13" Courtois is put to the test making a timely charge to deny Sterling from reaching Gerrard's through ball.
12" Liverpool earn the first corner of the match but Gerrard sends it long.
10" Gerrard long ball for Sterling who finds Henderson but is cross has not takers.
7" Chelsea come under unnecessary pressure again although Liverpool don't look threatening.
3" Chelsea put themselves in a spot of bother with some back-passing which almost had Courtois clearing in haste and almost making a mess of it.
It's a noisy Anfield crowd as they sing the club's anthem and show their support for Gerrard.
Arsenal get the match underway.
It's a chilly night at Anfield with some light snow making for a wet playing area.
The match is set to kick-off in 15 minutes as the players have gone back into the dugout.
Steven Gerrard, who was rested for the match against Aston Villa, has been included in the starting XI. Chelsea will have Thibaut Courtois in goal after he missed three games due to a minor finger injury, while Drogba has been benched by Jose Mourinho.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Can, Skrtel, Sakho, Henderson, Gerrard, Lucas, Moreno, Markovic, Coutinho, Sterling. Subs: Jose Enrique, Lambert, Manquillo, Lallana, Borini, Rossiter, Ward.
Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Filipe Luis, Matic, Mikel, Willian, Fabregas, Hazard, Diego Costa. Subs: Cech, Zouma, Ramires, Oscar, Drogba, Remy, Azpilicueta.
Captain Steven Gerrard is set to return to the Liverpool team after being rested for the victory at Aston Villa. Adam Lallana could feature after returning as an unused substitute from a thigh injury in that game.
Brendan Rodgers will continue in the 3-4-3 formation with which he has started to have some success recently.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has an almost fully-fit squad to choose from but could be tempted to make a few changes. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois may return after three games out with a minor finger injury but Cesar Azpilicueta is set to miss out with a groin problem.
Liverpool are the most successful club in League Cup history with eight trophies and 11 finals.
Liverpool have won four and lost just one of their last eight League Cup matches at Anfield.
The Reds have progressed through their last four semi-finals in the League Cup since going out to Middlesbrough.
Of their previous 14 appearances in the last four, Liverpool have reached the final on 11 occasions.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is confident his side can put their recent run of results against Chelsea behind them when they face the Premier League leaders' in the first leg of an English League Cup semi-final at Anfield on Tuesday.
Rodgers has lost all three of his matches against Chelsea mentor Jose Mourinho since moving to Merseyside but believes talk of a tactical battle is exaggerated.
"I think a big part is down to the players. Once they cross the line it is about them and the confidence and the qualities they have," Rodgers told an Anfield news conference on Monday.
"He is a top-class manager, Jose Mourinho has proven that over the last decade or so.
"He has great experience but once the players cross the line for me I have a big trust in the group and they are working well at the moment," explained Rodgers, whose side are 17 points behind league leaders Chelsea.
"For us it is certainly not a threat, it is an opportunity to reach a final."
Rodgers added: "Chelsea are in a really strong position. They have a very experienced squad of players who are playing well. They are five points clear (of second-placed Manchester City) but there is still a long way to go.
"I was at Chelsea when Nemanja Matic came in and he certainly wasn't the player then that he is now. He showed his quality at Benfica and has come back stronger. He is very good.
"At the top end of the field they have real talent. I love Diego Costa's game. He presses and works and has better feet than people think.
"Then you've got (Eden) Hazard and Oscar. So it is a threat. But for us it is about nullifying that threat and bring the qualities of our players into the game."
Liverpool came agonisingly close to winning the Premier League title last term but Rodgers, now in his third season charge of the Merseysiders, knows the patience of Reds fans has a limit and that a first trophy since the club last won the League Cup in 2012 would do wonders for the morale of all concerned at Anfield.
Rodgers yet to lift any silverware as Liverpool manager, said: "Our objective is still to win a trophy and qualify for the Champions League. A trophy would help build for the future.
"Chelsea have showed that once you win a trophy you can go on and sustain it. But the first trophy is always the hardest.
"We know it will be very tough but to win a competition, you have to beat the best teams. We are developing and improving as the season goes on and we are full of confidence."
The former Chelsea youth team manager said he hoped Liverpool could follow the Blues' example.
"I joined Chelsea in 2004 and at that point in their history they were a club who wanted to win titles and trophies," Rodgers said.
"They have maybe done it in a different way but over the last 10 years they have shown once you have won that first one you can hopefully go on and sustain it.
"The players back then, some of whom are still there now, will tell you the first one is the most important.
"We know it is going to be a challenge but we know if you want to win the competition you have to beat the best teams and at this moment in time Chelsea are the best in the country."
Five of the best
LIVERPOOL 2 - 3 CHELSEA (after extra-time), LEAGUE CUP FINAL - 27/02/2005
Jose Mourinho's first silverware as Chelsea manager came courtesy of an extraordinary League Cup final success over Liverpool at the Millennium Stadium.
John Arne Riise put Rafael Benitez's side ahead with a volley inside the opening minute but a Steven Gerrardown-goal took the final into extra-time.
Mourinho was sent off during normal time but watched Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman both strike to put his side in control, with the Blues able to hold on for the win despite Antonio Nunezreducing the deficit with a late header.
LIVERPOOL 1 - 0 CHELSEA, CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL SECOND LEG - 03/05/2005
Later that same season the two sides met for a place in the 2005 Champions League final, with Mourinho looking to defend the trophy he had won at Porto the year before.
After a goalless first-leg at Stamford Bridge, controversy reined as Luis Garcia scored the only goal of the game on four minutes to send Liverpool into the final in Istanbul.
Garcia's 'ghost goal' caused hysteria amongst Chelsea's camp as the ball did not appear to cross the line before being hacked away by William Gallas- but it was the Reds who went on to win their fifth European Cup after a penalty shoot-out victory over AC Milan in the final.
CHELSEA 3 - 2 LIVERPOOL (after extra-time), CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL SECOND LEG - 30/04/2008
Chelsea were the side celebrating when the two teams met in the semi-finals three years later - with the match following a similar script to their 2005 League Cup final encounter.
Having drawn 1-1 at Anfield, Drogba drilled Chelsea ahead only for future Blues striker Fernando Torresto level and send the game into extra-time.
There, a Frank Lampard penalty and a second of the night for Drogba put Avram Grant's Chelsea on course for the final and they reached Moscow - where they would lose on penalties to Manchester United - despite Ryan Babelscoring a late consolation for Liverpool.
CHELSEA 4 - 4 LIVERPOOL, CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUARTER-FINAL SECOND LEG - 14/04/2009
The teams met yet again, this in the last eight of the 2008/09 competition, with Chelsea holding a 3-1 advantage after an impressive win at Anfield.
But Liverpool threatened to stage a remarkable comeback as a Fabio Auerilo free-kick and Xabi Alonso's penalty put Benitez's side back in the tie with a 2-0 half-time lead.
The fightback was ended before the hour however, as Drogba and Alex struck for the hosts - with Lampard adding a third before Lucas and Dirk Kuytput Liverpool back in front on the night.
Lampard levelled late on to end the scoring and take Guus Hiddink'sside into a semi-final with Barcelona that ended with the Spaniards qualifying for the final.
CHELSEA 2 - 1 LIVERPOOL, FA CUP FINAL - 05/05/2012
Chelsea, under interim manager Roberto Di Matteo, got the better of Kenny Dalglish'sLiverpool as Drogba once again proved the thorn in their side.
The Ivory Coast striker netted his fourth FA Cup final goal to double Chelsea's advantage after Ramires had put them in front at half-time.
Liverpool rallied and the introduction of Andy Carroll from the bench caused problems for the Blues defence, with the former Newcastle man pulling a goal back before seeing a header tipped onto the bar by Petr Cech.
Di Matteo'sside hung on and went on to complete a cup double by sealing their first European Cup success two weeks later with a penalty shoot-out victory over Bayern Munich.
Jose Mourinho has been streets ahead in previous meetings when it comes to a winning game plan. Brendan Rodgersneeds to devise a way to compete while still retaining attacking drive but not at the expense of leaving the back door open.
Critics have suggested the midfield loses its dynamism when the long-serving captain is at its centre but his experience may be key over two legs. He remains a threat at set-pieces and his ability to pick a pass is still there but he cannot afford to by over-run by livelier opponents.
Sterling is likely to play centrally again but he is far from a natural finisher, as he showed at Aston Villa at the weekend. His pace and movement will be a problem for John Terry and Gary Cahillbut only if Liverpool can find a way of releasing him into space.
Whatever system Rodgers has employed, Liverpool have always looked vulnerable at set-pieces and even bottom side Leicester managed to score twice at Anfield recently. The current back three have kept consecutive clean sheets but Costa, with 17 goals this season, presents an altogether different threat and of the two options, a goal for him seems more likely.
Fabregas or Matic
Away from home, probably Matic. The Serbia international does the dirty work so others don't have to and presents such a formidable barrier that you suspect if Liverpool's forwards have to feed off scraps, it will largely be down to him.
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