A superb solo goal from Raheem Sterling ensured Liverpool go into next week’s Capital One Cup semi final second leg with everything to play for, after a pulsating 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Anfield.
The Reds can feel unfortunate to come away with just a draw, having turned in a dominant performance against Jose Mourinho’s side – during the second half in particular.
Steven Gerrard replaced Fabio Borini in Rodgers’ only change from the weekend’s 2-0 win at Aston Villa.
This was the 38th meeting between the side in the past 10 years, and a semi-final in yet another competition.
Liverpool looked to press their home advantage from the start, and began with a high tempo encouraged by the Anfield faithful.
Steven Gerrard almost fired the opener, with Thibaut Courtois tipping his dipping 25-yard strike over the bar, whilst Jordan Henderson’s run and cross into the box was well cleared by Felipe Luis.
It was the Premier League leaders who took the lead with just 18 minutes on the clock, after Emre Can was penalised for a clip on Eden Hazard in the box.
The Belgian picked himself up, and cooly sent Simon Mignolet the wrong way from the spot – in what proved to be the Blues only effort on target of the whole evening.
Liverpool responded well, but there is arguably no better side in Europe at defending a 1-0 lead – and all they had to show for their efforts when the half time whistle blew was a half-hearted appeal for a penalty of their own after a Diego Costa handball in the box.
The second half proved to be a different story however, as the Reds came flying out of the traps.
The possession stats showed it to be 85%-15% in Liverpool’s favour in the build up to Sterling’s equaliser, with Chelsea simply unable to get the ball out their own half.
When the goal came on 59 miniutes, it was worth the wait. The 20-year-old collected the ball from Jordan Henderson with his back to goal around 30 yards from goal. He turned, burst past the final two defenders before firing a superb left footed shot across Thibaut Courtois into the bottom corner to send the Kop wild.
Liverpool sensed an opportunity to take a first leg lead to Stamford Bridge, and continued their assault on the Chelsea goal.
The roof was almost taken off the stadium, when Steven Gerrard struck the post from the edge of the box with a side footed left foot strike, having been teed up by the excellent Philippe Coutinho.
The Brazilian was next to try himself, forcing Courtois into a decent save low to his right after another burst towards the Chelsea goal.
Gerrard was replaced by Adam Lallana with 20 minutes remaining – perhaps with next week’s second leg in mind.
That saw the captains armband handed to Jordan Henderson, and he almost produced the kind of heroics we have grown so accustomed to seeing from Gerrard down the years, when his low shot was parried by Courtois. Sterling failed to connect with the rebound properly, and the Belgian saved again.
Courtois was replacing Petr Cech after three games out through injury, and in a man of the match performance he kept the best save for last.
A long ball forward was superbly chested down by the excellent Raheem Sterling, and Adam Lallana struck a superb first time shot which Courtois reacted brilliantly to tip round the post.
Chelsea’s only other attempt bar the penalty was a wild strike into the Anfield Road End by Felipe Luis, which meant when the final whistle blew there was a sense of frustration around the stadium.
However, Brendan Rodgers will be adament there is everything to play for next week after another superb performance from the Reds, which went a long way towards suggesting they are getting back to the level they want to be.