Rodgers right to let Sterling have a holiday
Despite there being a valid argument to do so, the decision to let Raheem Sterling rest in Jamaica last week would be the first thing used to beat Brendan Rodgers with should Liverpool’s form worsen, but thankfully for him Sterling was excellent last night. There was no hint of burnout at Anfield as he spun on the ball and danced to the edge of Chelsea’s penalty area before striking home for Liverpool’s equalise, just before the hour mark. Sterling also played the full 90 minutes and while it’s a little early to safely say he is reenergised for the remainder of the season, it does so far justify Rodgers giving the Jamaican-born England international the time off. If he continues to show the form of yesterday, we may even start seeing more instances of it by other English clubs.
Anfield still a tough cup venue for Chelsea
While this year’s limp performances in the Champions League dampened talk of those ‘famous Anfield nights’, the stadium remains an inhospitable place to travel to in cup competitions, especially for Chelsea. The sides didn’t play each other at Anfield in any cup competition until 2000, with Liverpool winning 2-1 after extra time in the League Cup, and Chelsea have won just one of their six cup visits since. The Blues may have taken the lead but it was Liverpool who dominated the game, with 19 shots to Chelsea’s two, and the home crowd were in great voice as their team pushed for the win. Having failed to do so, it’s unlikely that Liverpool will get the required result in the second leg to make the Final, but given the club’s form this season they have more hope than expected based off last night’s display.
The spirit of last season’s Liverpool is still there
There was a great fear over the autumn that the Liverpool team and morale that saw the club come so close to the title last season had been stripped away for good. The sale of Luis Suarez would hurt any club, as would the injury to Daniel Sturridge, but the summer signings have largely failed to live up to the expectations raised by last year’s efforts. Yesterday’s performance, though, was a rare glimpse of that all-conquering Liverpool side again, which would provide much relief to Brendan Rodgers and the Anfield faithful. Lazar Markovic in particular has improved in recent weeks and was impressive again last night, and together with last season’s stars The Reds even gave Chelsea more of a scare then they managed in the league last season. The game was a real statement of intent by Liverpool and hopefully it marks the return of that formidable team spirit for the run-in.
Chelsea can still park the bus when necessary
It wasn’t so long ago that this Chelsea team was expected to brush aside all in its way through the entire season, and all while playing great football. While the magicians of the side, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard, both played a big part in the Chelsea penalty award that was the most we saw from them for the remainder of the evening. Liverpool turned the screw in pursuit of a leveler and rather than try to match them, Mourinho saw that his side sat back and protected what they had. The combination of Jon Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic in holding midfield offers great protection for the back four, and the Liverpool goal came from one of the rare occasions when Raheem Sterling had space to run at goal between them. Perhaps it was with the second leg in mind, but it’s already clear that Chelsea won’t be able to destroy every club in the way they did Swansea, for instance, and will sometimes need to revert to the defensive unit of last term. Given the defenders in the squad, though, there is nothing wrong with that.
The Capital One Cup still means something to the big boys
The lost magic of the FA Cup has been a subject of debate for several years, though the disinterest towards that is none compared to what is normally given by top-level sides to the League (Capital One) Cup. It was expected – by us, certainly – that Chelsea would field a second-string team last night, given their Champions League and Premier League ambitions, but that was not to be the case as Jose Mourinho fielded the strongest Blues side available. Liverpool doing so was less of a surprise due to their lack of silverware opportunities elsewhere and the fact they haven’t won a trophy since their League Cup success in 2012, but the importance still held to this competition by Mourinho – the first trophy he won in England – shows that it still means something to the best in the country and continues to have value in existing.