Liverpool march on to the semi final of the League Cup for the first time since 2005 after another away tie, this time defeating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for the 2nd time in 10 days and the 3rd time this year.
Kenny Dalglish extended his unbeaten LFC managerial record to 13 games against the Londoners, while Liverpool notched up their 11th consecutive unbeaten game as the reds progress continues.
Only 48 hours after outplaying the Premier League leaders, Dalglish made 7 changes to the team from Sunday to utilise the squad players pushing hard on the first team door.
Jamie Carragher returned to the first team for the first time in a month, with Uruguayan Sebastian Coates alongside him. Fernando Torres was handed a rare start for Chelsea – still with more Liverpool goals next to his name this year than he has managed for Chelsea since his £50M move.
A minute’s applause was held before the game, and the returning Craig Bellamy was clearly moved by the tribute from all sections of the stadium.
Chelsea opened the brightest, and the first incident involved David Luiz, who received a yellow card for a dive next to Coates challenge. Replays showed that the reds defender may have caught him, however the referee rightly ruled that Luiz had dragged his foot a little too purposefully to simulate the foul.
Moments later and David Luiz pushed Andy Carroll in the area – and another potential penalty was waved away.
In the 22nd minute a cross came in, and as Andy Carroll challenged for the header – Alex strangely elected to attack the ball with his forearm.
After a moments hesitation, irking the furious Geordies, the referee eventually correctly gave the penalty.
Carroll chose power over placement and Ross Turnbull got enough of his body on the ball to save.
In the second half a Malouda header hit the bar before being cleared off the line by Coates.
This galvanised Liverpool and on the hour a great through ball found Bellamy exposing Chelsea’s defence. He played an inch perfect pass in and Maxi Rodriguez slotted home. Maxi now has 10 goals for the reds in his last 9 starts – and this performance will continue to apply pressure on Stewart Downing’s place in the side.
Villas-Boas got ready to send on Anelka and Juan Mata, but while instructions were being given the reds doubled their lead and effectively sealed the tie.
Craig Bellamy sent in a in-swinging free kick, and unmarked, Martin Kelly powerfully headed down to double the lead. Kelly ran away in celebration kissing the badge to celebrate his debut goal – a tongue-in-cheek joke at the former Liverpool striker.
A nasty looking knee injury to Lucas Leiva, yet again displaying world class form, was the only disappointment of the night. He was stretchered off, to boos from the classless Chelsea supporters, and is expected to have a scan early tomorrow.
Liverpool move in to the two-legged semi-final draw – where they will finally get a home fixture in this competition.
J Reina — M Kelly, S Coates, J Carragher, J Enrique — J Henderson, J Spearing, Lucas Leiva (sub: C Adam, 70), M Rodríguez (sub: M Skrtel, 89) — A Carroll, C Bellamy (sub: D Kuyt, 79).
Substitutes not used: Doni, L Suárez, S Downing, J Flanagan.
Goals: Rodriguez (58), Kelly (63)
R Turnbull — J Bosingwa, Alex, David Luiz, R Bertrand — O Romeu — J McEachran (sub: Ramires, 41min), F Lampard, F Malouda (sub: N Anelka, 64)— R Lukaku (sub: J Mata, 64), F Torres.
Substitutes not used: Hilário, B Ivanovic, P Ferreira, S Kalou.
Booked: David Luiz, Alex, Malouda, Bertrand, Ramires.
Man of the Match
Lucas put in another excellent performance, Sebastian Coates showed more than enough glimpses of why Dalglish moved for him this summer, penalty aside Carroll worked tirelessly for the team holding the ball up well for marauding runs – but for his two assists it’s hard to look past Craig Bellamy.