Another solid and professional performance from Liverpool saw them through to the last four of the Carling Cup beating Chelsea 0-2 on the night. The fringe players for the Reds done the club, the fans and themselves proud with a display that the most teams would expect from their first choice. The night was only marred by an injury to the ever-dependable and super-improved Lucas Leiva which if proves to be as serious as it looked will be a huge blow for Liverpool.
The line up, as expected was made up of the Liverpool players who haven’t quite featured in the first team of late, and boy, were they hungry! Jose Enruque was the only defender retained from the epic at Anfield on Sunday. He was accompanied by Martin Kelly at right back and Sebastian Coates partnering the recalled Jamie Carragher in the center of defence. Jay Spearing was preferred to Charlie Adam in midfield to partner the dynamo that is Lucas Leiva in the Liverpool engine room. The width provided by Maxi Ridriguez and Jordan Henderson. Craig Bellamy and Andy Carroll leading the attack
The match was a true estament to the old adage… “A game of two halves”. The first half was very quiet as both teams tried to retain possession and paid due, at times too much, respect to the other. The only noteable points were a missed penalty by Carroll on 21 minutes and some equally dissapointing refereeing decisions by man in the middle Phil Dowd. The second half began as if it was being played in another stadium on another night. Liverpool had the better of the first 10 minutes or so of the secod half and Liverpool got their just reward on 58 minutes. A clinical spot by the impressive Henderson to release Bellamy down the right who jinked inside of his marker to deliver a killer pass across goal for the in coming Rodriguez who only had to side foot the ball into the net past the exposed Ross Turnbull.
The gauntlet had been well and truly laid down by Liverpool, and Andre Villas-Boas reacted accordingly by sending on Nicolas Anelka and Juan Mata for the truly uninspiring Florent Malouda and Romelu Lukaku in an attempt to inject some urgency into his stuttering side. The change proved a good one for the next few minutes as Chelsea pressed and harried as one would expect from the home side wanting to rise to the challenge. The Reds stood firm and withstood the Chelsea attacks although, in all honesty, they never really looked too threatening when in attacking possession. The purpose instilled in the Chelsea team in the days of Jose Mourinho are now a thing of the distant past.
The Chelsea onslaught was brought to an abrupt end in devastating fashion when a Liverpool counter-attack resulted in a free kick from the Liverpool left in a dangerous position outside the Blues’ penalty area. The resulting delivery from Bellamy, a pacey menacing cross was met powerfully by the head of the young right back Kelly as he powered through to double the visitors’ advantage.
Disaster struck for Liverpool when a seemingly innocuous challenge on Lucas ended with the midfield marvel writhing in agony. An attempt to run it off proved in vain and Lucas was stretchered off in clear discomfort. Kenny Dalglish later confirmed Lucas will have a scan in the morning to confirm the extent of any damage. All Liverpool supporters will be waiting with fingers crossed for good news.
The rest of the game was simply an advert to the industry and togetherness that Dalglishes new era has instilled into this side. Chelsea, even with the once great Fernando Torres were unable to muster up anything like a meaningful attack. Save for Anelka having a chance late on with the Liverpool defence in sixes and sevens.
Liverpool ran out clear and deserved winners on the night and the players that came in were a credit and send a clear signal that this Liverpool squad has a depth that’s been missing for some years now. Let’s not get carried away, there’s still work to be done but all of the players sttod up to be counted. I have to say I was even impressed by Carroll who looked much sharper and indeed faster than I’ve seen him in a Liverpool shirt. A little over zealous at times and gave away a dangerous free kick late on, but overall I was pleased with his performance. Same goes for Coate who looks very comfortable on the ball and is by no means a pushover.
So, onward to Craven Cottage this weekend and hopefully moreof the same. Like all Reds fans, I’m only hoping that Lucas’s injury wasn’t as bad as it looked.
By Ben Green
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