Eden Hazard inspires Chelsea cup comeback at Anfield
Both teams made a raft of changes, with no more than eight new additions in both manager’s starting lineups. Gary Cahil started his first game for Chelsea since their FA Cup final triumph, whereas Fabinho made his full Liverpool debut. Despite the changes, neither Klopp or Sarri decided to blood youth during the game, with both managers opting to rotate their squads with fringe players.
The first half was dominated by the two goalkeepers. Mignolet, who was making his first start for the club since January, had to be on form to keep out Morata twice in twice minutes. He was first called to action on the 32nd minute, where he stood up well and closed down the angle to prevent Morata chipping him from close range.
A minute later, the Belgium international saved his team again, this time denying Álvaro Morata with his feet. The Spaniard did well to free-up space via a Cruyff turn, however he could only drill his effort into the feet of the 30-year-old.
Cesc Fabregas was masterminding the majority of Chelsea’s play, with the Spaniard acting as the architect for Chelsea’s win. The former Arsenal player was making his 150th appearance for Chelsea at Anfield.
Liverpool had only won two of their last 14 games against Chelsea in all competitions (D7 L5), with both victories coming at Stamford Bridge. Daniel Sturridge tried to immediately change their poor Anfield record in the second half, however he rushed his shot and skewed his effort well wide. An awful back-pass from Christensen put the 29-year-old in, with Sturridge doing everything right until the finish. Sturridge rounded Caballero, however rushed his effort and embarrassingly missed an open net.
Sturridge redeemed himself ten minutes later with a brilliant effort. Nabby Neita’s curling effort was well saved by Willy Caballero, however his parry fell perfectly for Daniel Sturridge. The 29-year-old did well to readjust his body, then acrobatically produce a fine overhead kick. Anfield erupted, Liverpool were in control of the tie.
Klopp’s men held the lead for 20 minutes, until an arguably soft free kick gave Sarri’s men a way back into the game. Hazard floated in a cross, which Liverpool’s high line failed to defend against. Klopp’s men defended zonally, leaving Emerson all on his own to score from four yards out. He reacted first to a fine reaction stop from Simon Mingnolet to poke the ball home from close proximity. This was his first goal for his new club and buoyed the visitors. Their tails were up, Sarri’s men went for the kill.
A moment of magic from Eden Hazard was ultimately the difference between the two sides. The Belgium international was instrumental in the build up to the goal, playing a one two with Fabragas in his own half. The 27-year-old demanded the ball back, before gliding through the Liverpool defence - effortlessly beating three players. A combination of power, skill and pure brilliance saw Hazard fire his effort past a despairing Mignolet and into the far right of his goal.
Liverpool tried to respond and brought on Mo Salah, however Daniel Sturridge hitting the bar was as close as the hosts got. Hazard has now scored his 6th goal in 7 appearances this season, with the Belgium international having also scored four goals in his last seven appearances at Anfield.