Chelsea’s League Cup semi final is finely balanced going into the second leg next week, after the two sides couldn’t be separated at Anfield. Eden Hazard gave the visitors the lead from the spot in the first half, but Raheem Sterling equalised in the second. The hosts then turned up the pressure, but they couldn’t find the winner to put themselves ahead going into the second leg on Tuesday.
Before the game, Thibaut Courtois returned to the side after recovering from the finger injury that’s kept him out recently, with Petr Cech dropping to the bench. The only other change was John Obi Mikel coming in for Oscar, with Cesc Fabregas taking up a more advanced role.
That set up hinted that Chelsea were planning on playing a more defensive style here, and that showed with Liverpool having most of the ball early on. They put the Blues defence under pressure, and Thibaut Courtois had to race to the left touchline to clear the ball when he was closed down in possession. It was certainly a nervy early start for the visitors, but they grew in to the game slowly.
Liverpool handed the lead on a platter after a quarter of an hour, when Emre Can brought down Eden Hazard in the box. It was the Belgian who stepped up to the spot, and he coolly tucked away the penalty to give Chelsea the lead, and a possibly important away goal.
That was the only goal of the opening half, and despite not having too many chances, the away side were actually good value for the lead. Things did change after half time though. We have seen Jose Mourinho sit back on 1-0 leads a few times this season and pay for it, and you got the feeling the same was happening after half time. The Reds came flying out in the second half looking for an equaliser.
Liverpool’s tempo was far higher, and they took the game to Chelsea, and they started to find a way through the defence that had held pretty firm in the first half. They finally got the breakthrough when the defensive shield of Nemanja Matic and Mikel parted. Mikel was out of position, and he was slow tracking back when Sterling picked the ball up in space. The entire Chelsea defence backed off the youngster, leaving him free to slot a fine effort into the bottom corner.
Steven Gerrard hit the post with a spot from just outside the box soon after as Liverpool went on the hunt for a winner. Substitute Adam Lallana came closest, as his volley looked destined for the net, but Courtois pulled off a fantastic save while the winger ran off celebrating prematurely. The Belgian keeper was superb all night, and he played a big part in keeping the scores level. This result means it’s still all to play for in the second leg next week.
LCN Man of the Match: Thibaut Courtois