Chelsea vs Liverpool
Chelsea and Liverpool faced off on Tuesday evening, as they vied to become the 2nd side to join Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
To get to the last-16, Liverpool saw off bitter rivals Everton, along with Shrewsbury Town, whilst Chelsea garnered wins over Championship outfits Nottingham Forest and Hull.
Neither side headed into this tie in particularly impressive form, though.
The Blues have won just one of their last five league ties, and were comprehensively beaten by German giants Bayern Munich in the Champions League at the back end of last month.
As for Liverpool, they had lost two of their last three outings across all competitions.
In recent times, Jurgen Klopp has opted to put out fairly weak sides in domestic cup competitions.
Liverpool’s starting eleven on Tuesday was missing a few big names, and had a couple of youngsters in it, but it was still stronger than the teams that faced off with Everton and Shrewsbury.
As for Chelsea, their line-up was pretty much full strength, although they did have some heavy hitters such as Tammy Abraham, N’Golo Kante and Andreas Christensen missing through injury.
Chelsea XI: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Zouma, Alonso, Gilmour, Kovacic, Barkley, Willian, Giroud, Pedro.
Liverpool XI: Adrian, Williams, van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson, Fabinho, Lallana, Jones, Minamino, Mane, Origi.
Adrian costs Liverpool
Liverpool started the tie on the front foot, with Chelsea’s defence making far too many little mistakes in the opening exchanges.
One of these mistakes allowed Sadio Mane to earn the first shot of the game three minutes in. But his effort didn’t really trouble the recalled Kepa.
Olivier Giroud then came close to opening the scoring after six minutes, but the Frenchman missed the ball by an inch.
Mane had a similar chance just moments later, with the Senegalese winger also coming agonizingly close to connecting with a cross.
Willian then nearly broke the deadlock in the 11th minute, but Adrian made a solid save. The Liverpool shot-stopper wasn’t so impressive moments later, though.
A misplaced pass from Fabinho saw Willian pick up the ball on the edge of the box, striking a fierce effort at Adrian, who then spilled the ball into his own net.
But whilst Adrian was off pace for the Willian opener, his opposite number was in sensational form 20 minutes in to deny Liverpool. Kepa made a trio of excellent saves within seconds of each other to prevent an equaliser.
The first-half continued to be a fairly even affair, with both sides having a few half-chances.
Chelsea’s largely positive evening then took a turn for the worse five minutes before the interval. Mateo Kovacic, who had been in great form in the first 45, was taken off injured 40 minutes in, with Mason Mount coming on in his place.
And with Jorginho suspended and Kante injured, Lampard could now be faced with the prospect of being without three of his key midfielders for Chelsea’s next tie.
Chelsea then lost Willian to injury just four minutes into the second-half.
Chelsea into quarter-finals
The second 45 had a slightly slower start than the opening 45, especially from a Chelsea perspective. But that was to be expected after losing two players to injury inside 50 minutes.
The Blues would grow into the second half, though. And Mason Mount would come incredibly close to doubling Chelsea’s advantage 60 minutes in when he clipped the crossbar from a free-kick.
Another of Chelsea’s English contingent would make it 2-0 minutes after Mount’s effort.
Ross Barkley burst forward and unleashed a superb strike, which Adrian couldn’t do an awful lot about.
The London outfit should have then wrapped up the tie 66 minutes. Pedro was clean through on goal, but his timid effort was easily saved by Adrian.
Chelsea had another huge chance to make it 3-0 in the 73rd minute. But this time Adrian got fingertips to a Giroud shot.
Klopp responded to going 2-0 down by making a double sub. Roberto Firmino and James Milner came on for Divock Origi and Curtis Jones.
Mohamed Salah was then called upon with 10 minutes remaining.
Even with their main front-three on the field, Liverpool were unable to break down a resilient Chelsea. The final whistle blew with the score still 2-0.
Arguably Chelsea’s best on an evening that should fill them with confidence going forward was Billy Gilmour.
The 18-year-old, including Tuesday’s game, has made just six appearances for Chelsea’s senior side.
Despite his lack of first-team action and experience, though, Gilmour put in an incredible shift well beyond his years vs Liverpool.
The Scotsman dominated the midfield, was incredibly comfortable picking up the ball in tight areas, his passing was spot on for the majority of the evening, and his tackling was superb.
Gilmour also proved that he is more than capable of taking the ball and charging up the pitch to start an attack.
In many ways, Gilmour did the job that Jordan Henderson normally does so well for Liverpool.
Henderson’s absence was once again apparent on Tuesday, as Liverpool’s midfield struggled to take control of the tie.
And with Chelsea’s injury problems now piling up, especially in midfield, we could well see Gilmour afforded more first-team opportunities in the near future.