Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Ivanovic Ends Reds Wembley Dream

After being held to a goalless draw by Bolton at the weekend in the FA Cup, Liverpool continued their domestic cup duties a trip to face Chelsea in the Capital One Cup semi final second leg tonight.

Liverpool stuck with the same starting 11 as the first leg and were lucky not to fall behind early on when Diego Costa found Willian in space only to see Lucas deny the Blues midfielder with a block in the fifth minute. Tempers flared in the 12th minute when Costa appeared to stamp on a floored Emre Can but no punishment was given and it served as the first incident of what would be a fiery encounter.

Branislav Ivanovic swept in a dangerous cross in the 18th minute when was achingly close to finding Eden Hazard but his fellow Belgian teammate Simon Mignolet claimed the ball first and quelled the danger. A controversial moment came in the 23rd minute when Martin Skrtel looked to have fouled Diego Costa in the penalty area but referee Michael Oliver waved play on to the clear dismay of the Chelsea dugout.

Alike in the first leg, Philippe Coutinho proved to pose a threat as he attempted a close shot on the half hour which drew a save from Thibaut Courtois before combining with Steven Gerrard to pick out Jordan Henderson who hit wide of the target.

Oscar looked to test the Reds defence but could only hit past the post with his first effort from a free-kick before shooting wide from free play but the last meaningful action of the first half came from Coutinho who saw his chance deflected wide for a corner.

 A fairly quiet start to the second half from both sides saw the first notable chance come in the 58th minute as Hazard blazed wide before Cpsta drew a strong save from Mignolet who led a counter for Liverpool that ended with Gerrard's shot from range finding the grasp of Courtois.

Liverpool were fortunate not to fall behind in the 65th minute when a sliding attempted clearance from Jordan Henderson put Diego Costa in on goal and almost certain to score but a superb tackle from Simon Mignolet denied the Spaniard and kept the score level.

Chelsea continued to pepper the Liverpool goal with chances from Oscar and Ramires drawing saves from Mignolet before a combination between Coutinho and Gerrard saw the latter hit a tame shot towards Courtois.

The introduction of Balotelli and Lambert meant Liverpool's attacking threat was given a boost and when the Italian combined with Coutinho and Gerrard, the latter blazed over the bar before Eden Hazard thundered a shot from long range which Mignolet saved superbly.

The last chance of the 90 minutes came from Raheem Sterling whose run and shot failed to trouble Courtois meaning the tie would be extended into an extra-time period. Balotelli blazed a chance over in the first few minutes of the period but just two minutes later his miss proved costly.

A free-kick from Willian out on the right found the head of Branislav Ivanovic who evaded the zonal marking from Liverpool to head into the net with Mignolet helpless to prevent the strike which despite giving Chelsea the lead, meant Liverpool still only needed to score once to stay in the tie.

Liverpool's best chance came in the 100th minute when a clever cross from Raheem Sterling found the head of Jordan Henderson whose header went achingly past the post before Sterling himself had a good chance go wide after Balotelli's cross.

Time ticked on and Liverpool continued to push for a vital goal and when Balotelli collected the ball on the left, he chose to try a shot from an acute angle rather than find an open Rickie Lambert at the back post which could have brought the Reds level but it wasn't to be as as Chelsea held on and secured the trip to Wembley.