A howler from Adrian, gifting Willian a goal, and a Ross Barkley screamer saw Chelsea eliminate Liverpool 2-0 in the FA Cup fifth round tie at Stamford Bridge.
Making seven personnel changes from Saturday’s defeat to Watford in the capital, the European Champions produced a similarly insipid performance to the ones that saw them lose 2 of their last 3 games — to Atletico Madrid and Watford — and were deservedly defeated.
The Reds started the game the better, however, dominating both territory and possession and it should have amounted to a goal after 3 minutes.
Andy Robertson’s clipped cross from the left byline found Sadio Mané in the box. With ample time, the Senegal star controlled the ball, but his left footed shot was tame and straight at Kepa when he ought to have scored.
The chance sparked a response from the Blues and a floated Barkley cross field pass sent Pedro in behind, but, making amends for initially being out of position, Neco Williams’ block forced the Spaniards’ shot behind for a corner. From the set piece, Cesar Azpilicueta’s flick was menacing and drifted narrowly wide when a team mate being alive to the situation could easily have led to a goal. The hosts didn’t have to wait much longer, however, for the opening goal.
Testing Adrian early on from a Barkley shot, the Spaniard looked shaky when facing efforts from distance and after saving Willians first shot, the former West Ham shot stopper let the Brazilian’s second effort trickle under him and into the net. Adrian was doubly culpable after his pass out from the back put Fabinho under pressure, leading to him to coughing up possession and giving Willian the opportunity to let fire.
The visitors responded well to falling behind and a goalmouth scramble saw all three of Takumi Minamino, Mané and Divock Origi presented chances to score. Kepa, though, was equal to all of the underhit finishes and Chelsea cleared their lines.
The Reds worked Kepa again when Mané forced the former Athletic Club man into a save and Williams volleyed the rebound wide.
That was Liverpool’s last attacking salvo of the half and they went into the interval trailing 1-0.
The European champions started the second half better than they ended the first, with their midfield stepping up and improving the teams ball circulation.
But it was Chelsea who came closest to scoring. A wild Fabinho challenge — which earned the Brazilian a booking — saw the Blues win a free kick just outside the box. Mason Mount, who earlier replaced the injured Mateo Kovacic, clipped the cross bar with the resultant free.
The hosts didn’t have to wait much longer to double their lead, though, as Barkley’s long distance drive doubled Frank Lampard’s men’s lead. When Curtis Jones was dispossessed in midfield, a fortuitous ricochet from a Virgil Van Dijk header saw Olivier Giroud feed Barkley and, after a slaloming run, the former Everton man dispatched a rasping drive past Adrian from just outside the box.
2-0 should have become 3-0 straight after when Pedro robbed Joe Gomez, but — when through one on one on goal — the former Barcelona winger fired harmlessly at his compatriot.
With a likely defeat on the cards, Jurgen Klopp elected for a double change; bringing James Milner and Roberto Firmino on for Jones and Origi respectively.
The changes didn’t have the desired result and Chelsea almost trebled their lead when Giroud, exploiting a slack offside trap, was sent in behind and crashed a shot off the underside of the crossbar.
Klopp’s final roll of the dice was to introduce Mohamed Salah for the ineffectual Lallana, but no real fluency to their passing or attacks the Egyptian hardly featured and the Blues held on for the win.
Liverpool team: Adrian; Williams, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Jones, Lallana; Origi, Minamino, Mané.
Substitutions: Salah for Lallana, Milner for Jones, Firmino for Origi.
Subs not used: Matip, Lonergan, Chirivella, Oxlade Chamberlain.