It was a mouthwatering fixture which promised a lot and didn’t disappoint. Let us have a look at the important points which dereve attention prior to the second leg:
Markovic and Can:
After experiencing troubles as the back at Burnley , Brendan Rodger’s ultimately decided to tweak his formation a little bit and allow a Central midfielder to play as a centre back. Playing Emre Can in that role certainly brought about a change in Liverpool’s fortune with five wins following. However, the tweaked formation with Can as a part of the back three wasn’t tested against a top quality opposition . When Liverpool played Chelsea in the League Cup semi final, it was simply a step up in class for them.
With Markovic guarding the flank against Hazard and Fabregas, it was always going to be tough for Liverpool. The Serbian is not a natural wing back. The problems compounded when Hazard and Fabregas started making the most of the weakness. That is precisely how Can was hurried into making the error of body checking and impeding Hazard’s run in the penalty box. Perhaps top quality oppositions are not going to let Liverpool go unpunished with such a makeshift formation.
Mourinho and his tactics :
The game plan for Mourinho wasn’t much different from what they did last season at Anfield. They were looking to hold their defence tight and break on the counter. When you make game plans redundant they are bound to backfire as it did. Chelsea with all the midfield prowess failed to have even a single shot on Liverpool’s goal. Perhaps they were content with breaking on the counter but it didn’t happen as Liverpool seized the initiative and upped the ante early in the second half ultimately paving the way for a goal. Mourinho is an expert when it comes to mind games and was quick to mask the frailties of Chelsea’s lacklustre display by saying that Liverpool didn’t deserve to win . Considering the way things panned out, Chelsea are lucky going to the second leg with a draw.
Liverpool’s Defence Shines yet again :
The change in formation to a 3-4-2-1 has certainly helped Liverpool. As a result we can see the old attractive style of football back . This system when executed properly — makes it incredibly difficult for opponents to build from the back as it did for Chelsea. This system requires a lot of pressing and its physically draining to be doing it 90 minutes. When the pace drops then you can succumb to the pressure and concede towards the end but that has not happened and it deserves credit. Skrtel and Sakho partnered really well to keep Diego Costa quiet who had no shots to his name astonishingly.
Coutinho and Sterling :
The driving force behind Liverpool’s resurgence in the second half were undoubtedly these two young stars . Coutinho and Sterling were very good linking up with each other in the second half. A precious chance was generated by Coutinho with a lobbed ball inside the penalty area to Sterling who was running across to the near post. Unfortunately that shot was blocked . Sterling and Coutinho both made life difficult with 4 key passes each and 9 shots between them. Sterling ultimately gave Liverpool the goal by splitting the Chelsea defence and shooting it along the ground across the goal.
Courtois the difference :
The Liverpool faithful would believe it was a game they should have won comfortably given their impressive display in the second half catching Chelsea off guard. There was but just one man who stood between Liverpool and the victory. The Belgian goalkeeper was very alert to chances being created. His most impressive save was of the pile driver by Lallana. Not to forget the back to back saves made of Henderson and Sterling’s shot across goal from the edge of the box. It has to be admitted that he was a bit lucky with Gerrard’s shot deflected of the bar but one has to say he deserved it. In the second leg Liverpool have to ensure they make greater attempts from within the box as Courtois looks pretty comfortable stopping long rangers given his reach.
Image Courtesy : espnfc, telegraph.co.uk