Stamford Bridge, London – Chelsea’s back line looked shaky in the opening minutes with individual errors and collective errors gifting Liverpool several bites at goal in the first three minutes.
But any sign of a Chelsea wobble were soon put to rest with the home side creating good chances at the other end and, probably should have taken the lead in the 6th minute but no one connected with Willian’s whipped-in corner kick.
Ross Barkely soon tested Adrian from far outside the box with a stinging shot that left the goalie on his backside! The goalie though thwarted Willian from close range with a fine safe as both teams suddenly realized this was a knockout competition.
Willian wasn’t to be denied just seconds later as they away team got caught trying to play out from the back. The loose ball fell to the Brazilian who unleashed a shot that Adrian fumbled into his own net with thirteen minutes on the clock when he should have actually saved it.
For the home side, 18 year old Billy Gilmour was running the show from deep and one might be forgiven for thinking it was Iniesta or Xavi pulling the strings. Liverpool’s right back, looked every bit as dangerous as Alexander-Arnold but with more defensive awareness than his senior colleague.
The home side though were playing like a pride of lions on the hunt – absolutely relentless! This was the Chelsea of 2010! Liverpool struggled to keep pace really as the were pinned in their own half and no doubt Frank Lampard would have loved the way his wards harried the Merseyside team.
Marcos Alonso flashed a free kick just narrowly of Adrian’s crossbar in the 16th minute and Pedro who was making his 200th Chelsea appearance had also been growing in influence.
Kepa who had been missing in action for the blues after being alienated by Lampard due to his poor form this season, made a triple save in three seconds do deny what looked like Liverpool’s entire front line in the 20th minute.The impressive Mateo Kovacic did pull up with an injury of some sorts four minutes before the break and he was replaced by Mason Mount.
It was a more balanced affair early on in the second half with Liverpool providing more urgency and youngster, Curtis Jones providing some spark in midfield. Mason Mount was starting to influence proceedings and, in the 61st minute, rattled a free kick off Adrian’s crossbar that drew gasps from the home crowd.
Ross Barkely then went on a solo run from inside his own half as the away team’s defence were caught high up the pitch and, he made certain his run wasn’t for nothing by dispatching a rocket into Adrian’s net to send Stamford Bridge into a frenzy!
Pedro really sure have score moments later when, he made an identical run to Barkley’s but Adrian this time, came up big with a save. Liverpool’s frustration was beginning to show and Jurgen Klopp sent on Firmino and Milner for Origi and Jones as he sought to change things.
The crossbar was fast becoming Adrian’s savior by preventing Giroud’s effort yet again. And just as in Liverpool’s loss to Watford at the weekend, they had lots of the ball in the second half but didn’t really produce much cutting edge opportunities.
This was a match that had all the hallmarks of a cup final and both managers would surely have been impressed by the performances of the youngsters on display but, Curtis Jones and Billy Gilmour were the top performers amongst the ranks.
Liverpool will not be winning a domestic double this season but they sure as heck have the league in their grasp.
Chelsea showed the sort of appetite and bite that has eluded them all season and may now look upon this performance as a blueprint to build in the coming months.