Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Sterling Effort From Reds Denies Blues

After securing a 2-0 win away to Aston Villa at the weekend, Liverpool played hosts for the visit of Chelsea in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg last night. Brendan Rodgers made just one change from the weekend with Steven Gerrard returning in place of Fabio Borini while Academy star Jordan Rossiter was named among the substitutes.

A cagey first ten minutes saw Liverpool become the more attacking of the two sides but the first chance of the evening came in the 12th minute as Jordan Henderson picked out Raheem Sterling who pulled the ball across the area only to find a Chelsea defender.

Sterling looked to be in with a chance two minutes later when Philippe Coutinho threaded a pass towards the young striker but the ball was intercepted by a vital block from Gary Cahill. The best chance of the game came in the 16th minute as Steven Gerrard looked to test Thibaut Courtois and did so superbly with an effort from long range which forced the Belgian stopper to tip the ball over the bar.

Despite Liverpool having numerous chances early on, they soon fell behind to Chelsea's first effort of the evening which came in the 18th minute after Emre Can fouled Eden Hazard with the Belgian playmaker stepping up to slot the resulting penalty past Simon Mignolet to give the Blues a 1-0 lead.

Liverpool's first chance to draw level came in the 27th minute when an in-swinging corner from Coutinho found the head of Martin Skrtel at the back post but the Slovakian was unable to hit the target with his effort which went wide of the post.

Chelsea came close to doubling their lead from the restart in the second half as a clever through pass was dummied by Cesc Fabregas and put Diego Costa through on goal but the Blues striker was superbly denied by the advancing Simon Mignolet.

Mignolet's clearance proved costly for Chelsea as they were pegged back by Liverpool just before the hour mark, Jordan Henderson's pass from the fringes of his own half picked out Raheem Sterling who raced towards goal, blitzing through the Chelsea defence before slotting past Courtois into the bottom corner for 1-1.

Chelsea came close to regaining the lead just four minutes later when a well-worked attacking move saw Fabregas and Hazard exchange passes with the latter looking to shoot only to be denied by a clever block from Skrtel.

Liverpool responded and went even closer to taking the lead when a pacy run from Coutinho saw him find Gerrard in space and the Reds captain let fly with a shot which looked to be creeping in but instead cannoned off the post and went out of play.

Philippe Coutinho continued to be a threat for the home side and forced a parrying save from Courtois after a pacy run allowed him to power at shot at goal. Gerrard went off in the 70th minute for Adam Lallana as Liverpool pushed for the lead and they came close to taking it when Henderson shot from the edge of the area and drew a parry from Courtois who had to be quick to deny Sterling from the resulting rebound.

Chelsea had Courtois to thank again for denying Liverpool after a rifling shot from Adam Lallana forced the Belgian into a superb stop before Sterling and Coutinho both hit efforts wide of the target. Chelsea seemed content with a draw but were nearly caught out in the final seconds when a clever chip from Raheem Sterling forced a crucial save from Thibaut Courtois.

So a frantic first leg dominated by Liverpool who with 20 attempts should have sealed the win and given themselves a boost into the trip to Stamford Bridge next week but a level tie spices up what should be an exciting game on Tuesday night and hopefully finish with a trip to the final for the Reds.