Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea Six Things: Hazard the difference

Eden Hazard shows his brilliance – @SkyFootball

A wonderful solo winner from Eden Hazard at Anfield fired Chelsea through to the Fourth Round of the EFL Cup with a 2-1 win over Liverpool. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

Chelsea’s bright start

With James Milner looking jaded early on and Fabinho seemingly lacking match sharpness, the visitors were on the front-foot early on. Cesc Fabregas pulled strings from deep, Mateo Kovacic retained the ball well in good areas, Willian pressed well while Victor Moses offered width. They might have led with a confident goalscorer up top but while Alvaro Morata got the better of centre-backs Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren, his finishing lacked conviction.

Liverpool’s improved pressing

Liverpool lacked the pace in forward areas to replicate their usual counter-attacking performances – Daniel Sturridge and Xherdan Shaqiri need numbers around them to be effective – so it was important that the Merseysiders corrected their pressing in the latter stages of the first period. We then saw more creativity from Shaqiri, who set up a header for Sadio Mane which was well-stopped by Willy Caballero, who also did well to deny the increasingly lively Naby Keita.

Chelsea’s errors

Liverpool created two clear-cut chances in the first five minutes of the second half; both came from Chelsea errors. Firstly, Andreas Christensen’s tame back-pass was intercepted by Sturridge but the striker rolled wide with the goal gaping, before Mane was unable to find the net following Barkley’s clumsy backward header. It was third time unlucky for the Blues: a stray pass from Cesar Azpilicueta was pounced on and although Caballero brilliantly stopped another Keita strike, Sturridge wanted the re-bound more than Emerson Palmieri and his scissor-kick flew home.

Hazard shows his class

Eden Hazard took his time to get into the game, but he displayed his world-class quality in the final 10 minutes. When the Belgian’s free-kick was headed goalward by Barkley, Mignolet pushed the ball away and Emerson was quicker than Firmino to turn home. Four minutes later, he went on a wonderful mazy run from the right channel to beat three opponents including the suspect Alberto Moreno, before thumping past his compatriot to send Chelsea through.

Can the Reds rotate?

This EFL Cup exit is far from disastrous for Liverpool, who have enjoyed perfect starts to their quests for Premier League and Champions League glory. It does, however, re-emphasize the importance of Salah and Firmino because, Sturridge and Shaqiri both had their moments, neither offer quite the same qualities. Like-for-like replacements (similar in style if younger and less polished), would be ideal for when any of the main front-three are absent – or even leave altogether – just so that the approach play can remain the same.

Silverware for Sarri?

Early performances indicate that there remains a slight gap in terms of quality between Chelsea and Man City – even though they’re level on points – and it’s unlikely that the Blues will win the Champions League while Maurizio Sarri is still shaping his squad. Staying in this competition was therefore key to their efforts to finish 2018-19 with silverware; they will need to improve defensively to achieve that goal, but while Hazard is around, they have a chance.