For Chelsea and Liverpool, the two games they played against each other in the Capital One Cup were polar opposites. On one hand, last Tuesday was the result of two teams who didn’t play to their best and neglected to take advantage of the possibilities given to them. Today, these two teams left it all out on the line and stepped up when it really mattered.
After the 1-1 draw last week, Liverpool came to Stamford Bridge feeling rather confident. Liverpool was unbeaten since December 14 and unbeaten in 10 games among all competitions. Add to the fact that Chelsea was beaten 4-2 at Stamford Bridge over the past weekend against League One side Bradford City, Liverpool knew they had the opportunity to kick the EPL leaders while they were down.
With Chelsea, they got punched in the mouth by Bradford City. To some teams, the team will get into a funk and play worse. To other teams, the team will get back with a chip on their shoulders and pity whoever they have to play next. Chelsea went for the latter.
Let’s just get this out of the way, referee Michael Oliver was horrible today. I’m not saying he’s a bad referee and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s good but he couldn’t have a worse game than today. In a game that needed a referee to lay down the law, he let things go and missed a bunch of calls. He was lucky things didn’t get worse between the two teams.
First was Lucas Leiva’s handball early on in the game that should’ve resulted in a PK.
Next, it got physical as Diego Costa was seen stomping on Emre Can’s ankle and Can was lucky Costa didn’t break his ankle. The ref didn’t do anything to Costa but I’m sure he’s going to have to answer to the FA later this week.
A bit later, Martin Skrtel seemed to payback Costa by drilling into him like an NFL linebacker and stomping on his foot in another play which could’ve been a PK. Again the ref didn’t do anything and should’ve resulted in a PK since it was in the box. On the video, it’s clear Skrtel has no intention of going for the ball and just has his eyes set on his enemy.
Costa also stepped on Skrtel. Although this was masked a little better than the step on Can, Costa kind of lost the benefit of the doubt. Mourinho unsurprisingly thought different saying that they were accidental and talking after the game, “What you call stamps and Sky calls crimes, I have to say absolutely accidental. He goes to the ball, he chases the ball, as the opponent is on the floor, they have a contact, he puts his foot there when he’s looking to the ball.”
This showed that while Costa was in the air, he’s looking down on what appears to be Skrtel’s ankle so I wouldn’t say it’s entirely accidental but Mourinho couldn’t see it from that view.
This game was huge for the two goalkeepers. Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet put in one of their best performances of the season. Especially Mignolet, who has had his confidence shaken a lot this season. He’s been benched, he’s made mental errors and has a constant feeling of being replaced by a new signing. In this game, he stepped up in a pressure situation and was fantastic.
At about 2/3 of the way into the game, Jordan Henderson committed a rather intentional handball that really should’ve meant his second yellow, especially since the referee gave the free kick. So by the 70th minute, it could’ve arguably been 10v9.
Anyway, because 90 minutes was way too much fun, the game remained scoreless and thus went into extra time.
The scoring finally kicked off with the home side breaking the deadlock. Branislav Ivanovic broke through to put forth a powerful header in the 94th minute to take the lead and eventually got Chelsea the win and advance to the Capital One Cup at Wembley Stadium against either Tottenham or Sheffield United.
Throughout all the bumps and turns, this is a pretty fair result. Although both teams gave it their all, Chelsea was just a little bit better in both games and earned the trip to Wembley. Liverpool will be disappointed by the loss but they stared down the EPL leaders and didn’t blink. They have one of the best forms in all of Europe right now and their starting striker still needs to come back from injury. We’re finally seeing the Liverpool from last year and it’s coming with plenty of time in order to make a top four and FA Cup run. These two teams meet again on Saturday May 9. It will certainly be a game you don’t want to miss.