Liverpool lost their third game in their last four matches – this time in the Carling Cup quarter final at Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard put the home side ahead courtesy of a lucky deflection on the block by Jamie Carragher and when Peter Crouch was sent off within two minutes, the match was dead. Schevchenko added a second for Chelsea late on.
Rafa Benitez opted to give youth and reserves their chance in the League Cup quarter final with Chelsea, with captain Gerrard out sick and Torres, Reina and Mascherano rested. In came Xabi Alonso returning from injury, along with Lucas and Sissoko.
On paper it looked like a 4-3-3 / 4-3-2-1 formation with Crouch leading the line and Babel and Voronin playing off him. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case though and Benitez in his wisdom decided to play Voronin once again out of position as an orthodox right midfielder, Babel as a left midfielder — despite most Reds wanting to see him play more through the middle where he has looked dangerous coming on as sub in recent matches and where he played more regularly for Ajax and Holland — and Brazilian Lucas in a more advanced role just off Crouch.
This lead to Crouch numerous times being isolated in the first half in particular and playing flick-ons to the Chelsea defenders and keeper. Lucas clearly isn’t ready for playing a playmaker role away to Chelsea and this showed, more so in the second half when he was eased out of possesion numerous times, but he did have Liverpool’s best chance of the match in the first half when he was played in but his shot across goal was saved well by Cech.
In goal for the Reds was Charles Itandje and he showed himself well, making a crucial save from Lampard in the first half and then from Essien in the second. But he was hapless when Lampard opened the scoring when his shot was blocked by Carragher and bounced up and over the keeper and into the far corner. The Chelsea captain ran away – typically – as though he’d scored a stunning 30 yard free kick. Insert your own expletive here.
Within minutes Crouch showed the frustrations of all the Liverpool players and he himself in particular having run around in a hapless task with little service and no second striker for support. Crouch’s challenge on Jon Obi Mikel was wreckless to say the least, with two feet in the air, the ref had little choice but to send him off. His frustrations showed further with his clear ‘f**k off’ to the Chelsea fans as he went down the tunnel.
The match might as well have been over as Chelsea sat back and Liverpool looked less likely to score than a Man United player at their Christmas party. The odds reduced even further once Babel was taken off in place off and the ineffective Voronin occupied the main forward spot.
A frustrating night all around for players and supporters as Liverpool went out the League Cup and are left to focus on their upcoming League matches with Portsmouth, Derby and Wigan over the festive period.
LFC Team and Ratings:
Itandje 7, Arbeloa 6, Hobbs 6, Carragher 8, Aurelio 6, Alonso 6, Sissoko 6, Lucas 5, Babel 6, Voronin 5, Crouch 5.
Subs: El Zhar 5, Benayoun 5.
Unused: Riise, Hyypia, Martin.