Chelsea are knocked out of the Carling Cup after a routine win for Liverpool. In the freezing November cold, Liverpool opted to select experience, whilst Chelsea’s line-up suggested AVB was sticking to his plan at the start of the campaign as using this competition to blood youth. Maxi scored for Liverpool for the second time in nine days against this opposition, whilst Kelly walked in the second to round off a dire Chelsea performance.
AVB opted to rest a few key players: Cech was not included, nor was Drogba. Fringe players like Anelka and Kalou could only settle for a place on the bench. Lampard was made captain with John Terry suspended, with youngsters Bertrand, Romeu, McEachran and Lukaku all given the chance to show off their potential.
The start was really quite cagey. Neither team really made much of an effort to go up. David Luiz had an early shout for a penalty when he was brought down, but Dowd opted to yellow card the Brazilian for diving, much to the home fans’ dismay. Liverpool had perhaps the better of the starts, but their long balls to Andy Carroll were in vain. Chelsea were creating some good movement of themselves, but equally hopeless Fernando Torres was failing to execute chances.
Then in the twentieth minute, Liverpool were awarded a penalty. Dowd deemed that Alex handled, but the situation was handled (excuse the pun) extremely poorly. Dowd seemed to be caught in two minds, and his assistant was not much more use. Dowd’s mind swayed to give a penalty quite simply when some of the Liverpool players came charging at him and protesting. Andy Carroll was the man who stepped up, but his lack of confidence was shown when he thumped it straight down the middle, only for Ross Turnbull to save. The shot was hit so hard that the ball ricocheted a good 35 yards away from goal before it even bounced. Perhaps Andy Carroll ought to practise more on his penalties, rather than puffing his cheeks out in disgust.
The match continued with few chances either way, Chelsea players were getting booked, whilst one youngster Josh McEachran was injured and his night was cut short. Another Chelsea youngster was booked when it ought to have been another player – Ryan Bertrand taking the punishment for a reckless Lukaku challenge, which summed up Dowd’s evening. Nearing the end of the half, Bosingwa crossed, only for Lukaku’s header to creep agonisingly wide. 0-0 it remained at half time.
The second half was a much more open affair. Liverpool were showing no signs of fatigue just 48 hours after playing in the league, whilst Chelsea players continued to press, without much success. Chelsea came closed when Malouda’s shot hit the crossbar, but it was Luiz who had the better chance for the rebound, diverting the ball goalwards, only for Coates to be in the right place at the right time. Liverpool took the lead in the 57th minute, in a goal seen too often to Chelsea supporters. Bellamy found ample space down the right when Bertrand failed to pick him up, and sauntering into the box, he squared to Maxi, who coolly tapped in from four yards.
Chelsea’s good start to the second half was not showing. Sensing an urgency by Andre Villas-Boas, the Portuguese manager decided it was necessary to make two changes, with Mata and Anelka coming on. Villas-Boas decided to hold fire and let Liverpool take a free-kick before making the substitutions, a decision he will probably regret not. Bellamy swung in a beautiful free-kick, and no-one picked up Martin Kelly, who walked it into the net. A catastrophic defensive situation, virtually wrapping up the tie.
Torres, who had been totally anonymous, had a header approaching the 75th minute, but that was saved two-handed by compatriot Pepe Reina. Alex had a free-kick, but it was wayward. That proved to be the last chance for Chelsea, whose poor run of form continues.