By the time the final whistle was blown, there were nothing but smiles around Anfield — well, that is, if you weren’t part of the contingent of travelling West Ham United supporters.
Three league wins on the hop, another clean sheet and a pair of goals for the Kop to celebrate all topped off with Daniel Sturridge making his first appearance for the better part of five months. After a blustery opening period where Liverpool created but failed to deliver, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling combined well to send the youngster free for his eighth goal of the campaign. If that didn’t quite amount to sweet relief after a frustrating week, than seeing Sturridge find the net with what looked to be a routine finish a mere twelve minutes after replacing Lazar Markovic was more than enough to get those endorphins rushing along.
An inability to find the net at the weekend put Liverpool in a precarious position by allowed Bolton Wanderers to snag a replay in the FA Cup, and that worrying trend carried on as the Reds were knocked out of the League Cup by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Despite being arguably the best team in the land, it took the Blues until extra time before they could fashion a winner with Branislav Ivanovic’s free header from a Willian free-kick from the edge of the box enough to secure Jose Mourniho’s men safe passage to Wembley Stadium. On the back of such a pulsating affair, it’d be a bit harsh to say that Liverpool’s defending let them down again — to be fair, this one should have been wrapped up long before the Serbian nodded home.
The last thing we needed was another match on the fixture list, but Liverpool will be heading to
the Midlands Lancashire in ten days time after failing to create enough — or capitalizing on what they did — as a dogged Bolton Wanderers side held on to force a replay at the Macron Stadium.
With the second leg of the League Cup semi-final coming up on Tuesday, Reds boss Brendan Rodgers made a handful of changes to the side that held Chelsea at Anfield earlier in the week and it certainly showed with his disjointed at the worst of times and just short on luck at the best of them. Good chances fell to Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho and Fabio Borini, but Trotters ‘keeper Adam Bogdan was more than up to the task as a string of fine saves and near misses kept the hosts frustrated throughout.
There’s everything to play for when these two sides meet next week at Stamford Bridge after Raheem Sterling’s second half strike saw Liverpool came from behind to pull level with Chelsea at Anfield.
The hosts enjoyed the early run of the game with Thibaut Courtois tipping over a pile-driver of a shot from Steven Gerrard, but it would be the Blues who’d get on the board first when Emre Can showed his inexperience at the back when he upended Eden Hazard in the area. The Belgian’s penalty sent the visitors into the break ahead, but the Reds never looked like giving up and were given their just rewards when Sterling’s direct run ended with the youngster firing hard and low across the face of goal to settle the scores.
Liverpool were once again plagued by an inability to truly kill the match off, but rare goals from Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert on either side of the half were more than enough to put their hosts to the sword as the Reds ran out winners in the Midlands.
Much Like last weekend’s trip to Sunderland, Brendan Rodgers side started brightly and were enjoying dictating proceedings when Borini put the visitors ahead with a cool finish from Jordan Henderson’s cross. Villa found thier feet after the break though and when Rickie Lambert put the match out of their reach with a composed finish from the edge of the area, it was only through sheer luck that he was giving them a two goal cushion.