Craig Bellamy produced a fitting tribute to the life of close friend Gary Speed by inspiring Liverpool to the Carling Cup semi-finals after they overcame Chelsea for the second time in nine days.
The 32-year-old, who was omitted from the side to face his former club Manchester City on Sunday following the death of the Wales manager, set up Maxi Rodriguez and Martin Kelly to put Kenny Dalglish’s side into the last-four of a competition they’ve won on seven occasions.
Andy Carroll’s first-half penalty miss paled into insignificance as The Blues recorded their sixth defeat under the tenure of Andre Villas-Boas, with David Luiz toiling in a yet again faulting back-four.
Just over a week on from their Barclays Premier League meeting, Chelsea and Liverpool contested a Carling Cup quarter-final that would go a long way to deciding whether either side would pick up a trophy this term.
Prior to the game, a minute’s applause was held to celebrate the life of Welshman Speed, a moment which left his close friend Bellamy tearful at kick-off.
Unlike in the league meeting, both clubs started with their big money signings recruited during the last January transfer window, with Fernando Torres and Carroll handed the opportunity to impress.
It was one of The Blues’ other January signings, Luiz, who was at the centre of controversy early on as he was booked for diving despite appearing to be tripped by Sebastian Coates in the penalty area.
The Brazilian could have given away a spot kick of his own had referee Phil Dowd spotted his push on Carroll, but centre-back partner Alex wasn’t as fortunate to avoid the officials’ glare, as he handled from Jose Enrique’s cross.
But Ross Turnbull replicated what Petr Cech did in the last round, and saved the subsequent penalty from Carroll.
The miss appeared to settle both sides down, and despite three of Chelsea’s back-four picking up first-half bookings they were able to keep the visitors at bay and could have even gone into the interval in front had Romelu Lukaku’s header been on target.
Chelsea created the best opening of the game just after the break as Florent Malouda hit the bar, before Coates cleared Luiz’s header off the line.
But the away side were rewarded for their defensive resilience as they hit the front just before the hour mark, with Bellamy, capitalising on Luiz playing a poor defensive line, breaking in behind to give Maxi the simplest of opportunities.
It was the same duo who combined to consign Chelsea to defeat in the pair’s league meeting over a week ago, and as if Villas-Boas needed further proof his side are failing to learn from their defensive errors, Liverpool doubled their lead just four minutes later.
Bellamy’s free kick soared towards the unmarked Martin Kelly, who nodded past Turnbull for his first-ever goal for the Anfield club.
The introduction of Nicolas Anelka and Juan Mata almost inspired a instant revival from Chelsea, as the Frenchman bypassed Pepe Reina but couldn’t manufacture an effort on goal, before Torres’ header was comfortably saved.
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