Liverpool made seven changes from the side that lost 1-0 against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling and Dejan Lovren all returned to the starting XI while Kolo Toure misses out.
Chelsea made few changes as well. Brazilian midfielder Ramires returned to the side while Diego Costa gets the nod to start up front.
Liverpool started with lots of energy and positivity and in the opening minute came close to scoring with Emre Can moving up the midfield gets his shot away that deflects off John Terry – just wide off target.
The home side started with great tempo, as they pressed Chelsea back leaving big gaps in midfield. Emre Can exploited one of those big gaps after finding himself in acres of space and hits a long-range drive. He wasn’t closed down, and his shot took a deflection and hits the net.
It didn’t took long however for Chelsea to get back into the game. The Blues took advantage of another poor set-piece defending – Gary Cahill scored from close range after Terry’s header was brilliantly saved by Mignolet. Although Goal line technology came into rescue but that was shocking piece of defending from Liverpool.
Coutinho was one of the most consistent attacking threat for Liverpool throughout the first half. The little magician as Rodgers calls him jiggled past several Chelsea players and then played a delicate through ball into the path of Balotelli, who finds the net but was rightly adjudged offside.
Liverpool despite failing to create clear cut chances and clearly lacking penetrations kept the pressure building on Chelsea by at least pressing hard. Sterling appealed for a penalty for a ball that hit Cahill’s shoulder in the box, but referee showed no interest.
Minutes later Coutinho produced another moments of brilliance after he took the ball from midfield that came off a brilliant interception from Gerrard; the Brazilian breezed past few Chelsea players and hit the shot on target but Courtois saved it comfortably.
Liverpool’s high tempo football soon frizzled away after half an hour as Chelsea took control of the game from there on. Ramires finds Oscar outside the box, who picked Hazard on the left hand side, but the Belgian’s shot was well blocked by Johnson. Costa sailed it over the bar from the resulting corner.
Oscar came to the party again, as he scythed through an outstanding pass in the path of Ramires, who was galloping from the right hand side. The Brazilian finds Hazard in space once again, and yet again, the Belgian’s shot was well blocked by Johnson.
Hazard who looked bit jaded in the opening 30 mins was slowly coming back into the game and left his influence as Chelsea looked more likely the team to score again. Matic from the middle rushed towards the attacking third and finds Hazard again in box, but the Belgian’s shot fell straight into the hands of Mignolet.
Liverpool started the second half brightly; Sterling was impressive from the left, his low drive was superbly saved by Courtois. The Belgian quickly sets Chelsea into a dangerous counter attack through fellow compatriot Hazard. His brilliant surging run was blocked in the box finally.
Chelsea looked more threatening as the game progressed, as Liverpool struggled to give any definite shape to their attack, with Balotelli hugely disappointing again. And when you let your opponent dictate the tempo of the game, more often than not, you’re punished.
And exactly that happened for the Blues, as Diego Costa banged his 10th of the season giving Chelsea 2-1 lead at Anfield. Cesar Azpilicueta initiated the attack from the left, Mignolet could only palm it into the mixer, but Costa fired home ruthlessly.
In the 74th min, Liverpool came close, this time Henderson steamed on to the volley that was always going wide but it hits Nemanja Matic and scoops over the top.
Liverpool had a good shout for penalty but Gerrard’s left footed shot took the touch of Cahill in the box in dying minutes of the game. After several replays, it seemed like a definite & stonewall penalty.
Fabio Borini came as a second half sub for Balotelli found himself in space and connects Moreno’s flighted ball from the left but couldn’t keep the header on target.
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