As I was lucky enough to attend the second leg of the League Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Chelsea, I thought I’d post a few thoughts on the match, the tie overall, and of course throw in a few stats.
I’m tired and hoarse today, but it was a great game, and I’m certainly not disappointed with how Liverpool played. I think pretty much everyone played well last night. Massive credit has to go to Simon Mignolet; he was great at Stamford Bridge regardless, but after all of his recent troubles his performance was virtually superhuman (kicking aside, but then you can’t have everything). The Reds have now only conceded three goals in their last six games: a penalty, and (surprise surprise) two from set pieces. Rodgers’ Reds are looking really solid these days, which is certainly an improvement on the start of the season.
I thought all three of the Liverpool back line were brilliant, and Can particularly continues to impress me; the German made nine tackles in the two-hour match, when top tacklers average around four per game. The Sakho injury (for the second year in a row at Chelsea, weirdly) was a major blow though, as the Reds lost his ability to pass it out calmly from the back, even when pressed. The Frenchman posted Liverpool’s top pass accuracy on the night (86%) and this was sorely missed once he went off.
I don’t get to too many games unfortunately, but I struggle to recall witnessing a better performance than Lucas Leiva’s in this match, particularly in the first half (when he was at our end of the ground so easier to see!). Similar to Can, the Brazilian made eight tackles and backed it up with three interceptions too, plus he created the Reds’ final chance of the match. Liverpool’s other Brazilian, Coutinho, undoubtedly deserves a mention here for completing a remarkable ten take-ons during the match, when top dribblers average four to five. Not only that, but nine of them were in the Chelsea half, and as we can see here, he was gliding past the likes of Matic and Ramires in the centre of the pitch.
If we take a look at the chance creation combinations, we can see how influential Steven Gerrard was in the early stages. Most players would be delighted by creating four chances in a match, yet the skipper did that inside the opening thirty-five minutes, and for four different players too. Sterling was the next top creator with three, and like Gerrard, each was for a different colleague. In terms of the top combinations, Gerrard and Coutinho linked up three times, with Henderson/Sterling and Balotelli/Sterling linking up twice.
Moving on to the subs, I was surprised that Adam Lallana didn’t get a run out. It seemed odd to bring Mario Balotelli on (who I actually thought did okay in his standard way; his quick passes and flicks were fine but there was a distinct lack of movement and his shooting was woeful) and then play him in wide midfield. It also seemed a bit strange that Liverpool had Balotelli and Lambert on the pitch when they needed a goal, and yet (from my memory) they didn’t go direct. I appreciate that dealing with that sort of thing is one of Chelsea’s great strengths, but the Reds barely seemed to try it at all.
Here are the shot stats across the entire semi-final, and there’s no doubt that it was Liverpool’s finishing which cost them dearly. Courtois was given the man of the match award in both legs, but equally I think that the Reds’ generally made the saves easier for him than they might have done.
Chelsea v Liverpool
Shots in the box 9-14
Shots on target 6- 10
Looking forward, Liverpool have lost just once (in ninety minutes) in their last seventeen games, which is a decent run in anybody’s books, but they’ve also drawn too many matches. The Reds have only scored 2+ in eight of these games, and the teams they’ve done it against are mostly dross: Ludogorets, Leicester twice, Bournemouth, Arsenal, Swansea, Wimbledon and Villa. The return of Daniel Sturridge should obviously help here, but as last night showed. the Reds desperately need a couple more decent strikers and more goals from midfield. But on the whole, and after the horrors of autumn, things are definitely looking up for the Reds right now.