Raheem Sterling’s equaliser saw Liverpool ensure they travel to Stamford Bridge with plenty to play for, as they drew 1-1 with Chelsea an Anfield.
The Reds started superbly and hunted for an early goal, however it was the west
London club who took the lead when Edin Hazard slotted his penalty past Simon Mignolet on the 18th minute after being fouled by Emre Can.
Brendan Rodgers’ side were not disheartened by the strike that went against the run of play and kept pressure on Thibaut Courtois’ goal, with Steven Gerrard forcing the Belgian to tip his effort over the bar.
Liverpool did get an equaliser in the 59th minute, when Sterling thrust through the Chelsea back-four and guided his effort into bottom right-hand corner.
The Merseyside club now head to next week’s return leg with plenty to play for and there are several things we learned about the game.
Steven Gerrard desperate to go out with trophy
After a 26-year association with Liverpool, Steven Gerrard will be parting ends with the club come the end of the season and cross the Atlantic to join LA Galaxy.
However, before he leaves Merseyside, the Reds’ skipper is willing to go to any means possible to end his Anfield career with one final piece of silverware.
His performance last night was everything you associate with the 34-year-old; crunching tackles, excellent distribution, shots with venom and most importantly, passion.
Gerrard has captured the League Cup three times during his career, last winning the cup in 2012, however winning it one more time would by far be the closest to his heart, one that would summarise his time playing for his boyhood club.
From the word go, the former England captain put really put himself about, offering his services where available and made Kopites believe.
He was not fazed by Chelsea fans’ taunts about his slip that cost Liverpool the league last season, and if anything, it fuelled the already burning fire.
Gerrard tested Courtois twice, firstly forcing the Belgian to tip his effort over the bar and then sending a crashing shot against the post that had the former Athletico Madrid goalkeeper well beaten.
The Liverpool skipper was replaced with 20 minutes remaining however did not look too disheartened. After picking up a small injury against Sunderland a few weeks ago, he, nor Rodgers, wants to aggravate that further and both know how big a part Gerrard has to play in the second-leg.
Raheem Sterling’s break has worked
There was uproar from many when it was announced that Raheem Sterling has been given a mid-season break and took a holiday to Jamaica.
The England international had played a serious amount of games in the first half of the season, spending more time on the pitch at just 20-years-old. Come the end of 2014, his performances were dropping and looked to be losing his sharpness that was present at the start of the campaign.
After his holiday, he looks to have regained his sharpness and looked the player that made him one of the most feared attackers in Europe.
Jose Mourinho had given clear instructions for John Terry and Gary Cahill to keep a close eye on Sterling and barely gave him any breathing space within the first period, but it didn’t stop the youngster finding space due to his pace and got behind the pair before fluffing his lines.
After the interval, the game became more open and Sterling began to become free more and more often. He dropped slightly deeper in the build-up for his goal, and received it with space to thrust into, that he could really open his legs up and run at the Chelsea defence. Once he got going, there was no stopping the former QPR man, leaving Cahill for dead and finished past Courtois accurately on his wrong foot.
He broke free once again minutes later, however this time could not convert.
His goal implies that when Daniel Sturridge returns and take the strikers' role, Sterling will be even more effective coming from a deeper role were he can menace defenders with his speed.
Emre Can has passion
Usually when defenders give away a penalty their heads drop and put in a poor shift for the remaining period of the game.
Emre Can’s foul on Edin Hazard was silly – shouldn’t have dived in but in all fairness he was exposed at the back.
Nonetheless, it was a penalty and Liverpool went 1-0 down because of his foolish mistake.
The brilliant thing was that the error brought an even better performance out of the German. There wasn’t many occasions that Hazard once again beat Can, and he failed completely in the second-period as he bullied the Belgian off the ball often.
Despite playing as a centre-back, the former Bayer Leverkusen man surged forward with the ball, looking to redeem himself for his costly mistake. Can made plenty of things happen for the Reds, getting up and down the right-hand side, taking Blue shirt on.
The 20-year-old excited fans, who applauded their thanks on multiple occasions.
Passion is what every Kopite wants to see. It’s the reason why Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Xabi Alonso and Luis Suarez all became part of Anfield folklore and if he continues, Can could be on the same boat.
Hope - but a fool's hope
That’s the line from Gandalf from ‘Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King’ isn’t it? Before the forces of Mordor attacked Gondor.
In the fantasy, it was the underdog who prevailed, defying Salron’s forces and winning the battle.
Rodgers’ men face a stiff task when they meet Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the second leg next Tuesday.
Jose Mourinho has made the West London ground a fortress once again. They’re yet to drop a single point at Bridge this season and the last time they tasted defeat at home was against Athetico Madrid in the Champions League in April.
The Blues come alive when they are at home, playing with such pace with Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa stepping it another gear with Stefan Matic pulling the strings in the centre of the park.
If the Reds believed they played well on Tuesday, they will have to improve even and Rodgers will have to get his tactics spot-on if he is to take his side to Wembley for the first time since taking over.
It will be Gerrard who plays the character of ‘Aragon’ the leader of the army fighting against Mordor and he will have the aid of his allies, all looking to book their tickets to the home of English football.
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