Liverpool play without fear at home against Chelsea
SEMI-FINAL, FIRST LEG
(Raheem Sterling 59)
(Eden Hazard 18-pen)
Anfield always recognises a fine display when it witnesses one.
Liverpool gave their famous home a performance to be proud of yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Even though Steven Gerrard and company fell just short of a complete performance, they proved they can go toe-to-toe with the English Premier League leaders and are even capable of pipping them to a spot at Wembley.
The Reds had Chelsea by the scruff of the neck and should have finished them off in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final clash.
They didn't, and the 1-1 result isn't quite as handy to take into the second leg on Wednesday morning, when the Blues will be properly dug in at their Stamford Bridge fortress.
But the Reds' display suggests they still pack much venom when they abandon their fear.
A full-strength Chelsea side forced their hand.
Jose Mourinho's side even took the lead via an 18th-minute penalty by Eden Hazard after defender Emre Can bundled the Belgian over in the area.
How Liverpool responded.
Manager Brendan Rodgers ordered his men to reply with force and fortitude.
They flew off the blocks after the break.
They toyed with one of the Premiership's meanest defences. They rattled the Premiership leaders. They hunted them down like a pack of ravenous scavengers.
And they got their reward - an equaliser through a well-worked Raheem Sterling goal in the 59th minute.
For the first time this season, Liverpool made superior opposition look inferior.
For the first time, they more than held their own against a team many believe are already one of Europe's best.
Statistics show that the Reds registered 20 shots to the visitors' two, if you were to include Hazard's effort from the spot.
If they repeat such verve and vigour in the second leg, a place in the League Cup final is well within reach.
Sterling, who operated as a false No. 9, will be key to their hopes.
His appetite showed from the first minute to the last.
His individual brilliance saved his side from what would have been an unjust defeat.
After collecting the ball in the no man's land between defence and midfield, he turned to run at England defender Gary Cahill, found his space and proceeded to tuck his shot into the bottom corner of the net.
Philippe Coutinho clocked his most brilliant shift in a long while. He glided in and out of tight areas, always looking for an open man, always ready to harass the Blues' backline.
Adam Lallana came on in the second half as a replacement for Gerrard, but played like he should have started.
Lucas Leiva, a big reason why Liverpool have been better and better in recent weeks, was a colossal figure in front of the Liverpool defence.
Lazar Markovic's work rate on the flank was a demonstration of his willingness to adapt his game for the sake of the team.
Even more remarkably, the three-man backline of Can, Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel stopped the Premiership's top-scorers from making a breakthrough from open play.
A quite remarkable effort, considering Chelsea have scored 51 goals in 22 league games.
A truly remarkable effort, when the top flight's highest scorer, Diego Costa, with 17 league goals under his belt, hardly had a peek at goalkeeper Simon Mignolet's face.
The Reds have turned the corner after a disastrous start to the season.
They are undefeated in nine matches in all competitions.
They have taken a long time to find their groove, but a late start is better than none at all.
Carragher: Different at the bridge
Expect a different ball game when Liverpool visit Stamford Bridge for their League Cup semi-final return-leg clash on Wednesday morning (Singapore time).
Their former defender Jamie Carragher warned Liverpool might struggle without the home-crowd factor, which galvanised the Reds in the 1-1 draw at Anfield yesterday morning.
Liverpool could not finish off Chelsea after Raheem Sterling cancelled out Eden Hazard's successful first-half penalty in a dominant second half.
Carragher said on Sky Sports: "It will be totally different. What I saw from Liverpool was them at their best.
"When you have that pace and penetration in your play, bring the crowd together and use the energy from the players and crowd together, they caused Chelsea massive problems.
"They won't have that at Stamford Bridge. I'm sure they'll take six of seven thousand Liverpool fans, but they won't be able to use the crowd."
Television pundit Carragher feels Reds manager Brendan Rodgers will need to employ the correct tactics in the return leg.
"Chelsea were very lucky tonight, but it will be about how Liverpool set up.
"(Liverpool) will be buzzing that they came back against the top team in the country, but it's going to be a big ask at Stamford Bridge."
Chelsea were content to contain Liverpool at Anfield, according to former Chelsea midfielder Gus Poyet, now Sunderland manager.
"It was a totally different Chelsea. Not the Chelsea that were aggressive at the weekend, they were holding, waiting.
"It was like the Chelsea of a few years ago when they won the league, making it difficult for the opposition."
But Rodgers is in buoyant mood, especially with Daniel Sturridge possibly available after a long injury absence.
The Reds boss said: "You would expect Chelsea to open up more playing at home and that will suit us even more.
"There is absolutely no doubt we can go to the second leg and get the performance we need and we will have confidence in that."
After hammering Swansea 5-0 last Saturday, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had expected more from his side, especially after they took the lead.
"Obviously Liverpool didn't deserve to lose, but I go (away) frustrated," he said.
"To score only one goal frustrates me." - Wire Services.