Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Sterling Sets up a Crunch Second Leg

Liverpool and Chelsea could not be separated as they drew 1-1 in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final at Anfield.

The Blues took the lead somewhat against the run of play when, after a great run by Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard won a penalty off a clumsy Emre Can challenge and buried the opener from the spot.

But Raheem Sterling levelled in fine style midway through the second half when he turned and drove through a group of Chelsea defenders before firing in low from just inside the area.

Chelsea made two changes from their 5-0 demolition of Swansea City in the Premier League last time out, as Thiabut Courtois replaced Petr Cech in goal and Oscar's attacking threat was sacrificed for the added defensive steel of John Obi Mikel.

Liverpool had the better of a high-tempo opening and captain Steven Gerrard, recalled to the side in place of Fabio Borini, stung Courtois's palms with a drive from 30 yards in the 16th minute.

But the home side fell behind two minutes later when Can felled Hazard inside the area and the forward sent compatriot Simon Mignolet the wrong way from the spot.

After pushing fervently for a leveller, Liverpool made the breakthrough 14 minutes after the interval. Sterling picked up the ball midway inside the Chelsea half and, after an adroit turn, escaped the attentions of Nemanja Matic and outpaced Gary Cahill before beating Courtois with a low, left-footed shot that crept just inside the right-hand post.

Gerrard hit the opposite upright soon afterwards and Philippe Coutinho brought a smart stop out of Courtois with a stinging drive as the game opened up.

Martin Skrtel headed Jordan Henderson's wicked free kick off target with 17 minutes to go as the home side pressed to find a winner.

Courtois produced a fine double stop to deny Jordan Henderson and Sterling in the 75th minute and the Belgian came up with an even better save to deny substitute Adam Lallana four minutes later, stretching at full length to his right to tip behind the midfielder's effort.

Despite piling on the pressure in the final stages, Brendan Rodgers's side could not find the winner that they so craved, leaving the tie finely balanced ahead of the second leg.

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