The result, a 1-1 draw with league leaders Chelsea despite Liverpool holding two-thirds of the possession and outshooting the visitors by a 7-1 margin, was bitterly disappointing. Liverpool’s performance, though, was anything but, and that leaves hope. Hope that after struggling so much early on this season, this is a side that has now found its identity, and that with the return of Daniel Sturridge that will lead to a run of results.
Against Chelsea last night, they almost didn’t need Sturridge. Against any other goalkeeper in the league, they almost certainly would have won the match with Adam Lallana’s late, clean strike that seemed destined for the back of the goal. Thanks to Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea are instead celebrating a result that gives them the edge heading into the second leg of the League Cup semi-final despite that Jose Mourinho’s high-priced side were embarrassed in the run of play.
"I can’t believe the ‘keeper saved it," was Lallana’s understandable reaction to the unlikely stop by Courtois of his driven effort from 20 yards. "I was half way [to starting] my celebration. It was a fantastic save and probably one of the reasons why he got Man of the Match. He is world-class and Chelsea are a world-class team. We come off the pitch disappointed but still in the game. We’ll go to Stamford Bridge and we’re fully confident we can go through to the final."
Another performance like last night’s, particularly if Sturridge is fit to make a significant contribution, and they just might upset the league leaders. Another performance like last night’s, one that can only leave any fan not invested in Mourinho and Chelsea’s success wondering if the likes of Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce couldn’t do the same job if given the backing of the Portuguese manager, and it would be hard to call a trip to Wembley for the final any kind of an upset.
"I thought we played well in the first half but gave away a pretty soft penalty," added Lallana, who made an unexpectedly early return from injury off the bench against Chelsea. "The lads showed great character to get back into it. We said at half-time to be patient and that we were going to get chances. Being on the bench for the first hour, and especially for the first 15 minute of the second half, we knew we were going to come back and get chances—eventually we got the goal."
Heading on the road for the second leg makes for a far tougher task if Liverpool are to advance. Following last night’s dominant performance, it no longer seems an impossible task.