Liverpool saw their Capital One Cup ambitions end last night in Stamford Bridge as they lost out 2-1 on aggregate after extra time thanks to a Branislav Ivanovic header in the 94th minute.
As disappointing as the defeat will be for Brendan Rodgers and his squad their was plenty of positives to take from both legs that will give encouragement to them in the coming months as they hope to claim a top4 spot and attempt to win a trophy in either the FA Cup or the Europa League or maybe even both.
The performance of the defence in both legs is one sign of the work that is being done on the training ground to resolve the clubs long running defensive woes. League leaders Chelsea were only able to score from a penalty in the first leg and were kept goalless for ninety minutes at Stamford Bridge, a big achievement for any side. Of course it didn’t take long in extra time for Chelsea to catch Rodgers’ side out from a set-piece although that could be put down to tiredness and poor marking by Mario Balotelli who we would not expect to be given much defensive duties in the future. In reality they have come a long way in the past two months defensively and no longer look as nervous at the back.
A large factor in this improvement at the back must go down to the resurgence of Belgian keeper Simon Mignolet. After an atrocious start to the season and after being dropped for back up keeper Brad Jones his return to the starting eleven has been a lot smoother than what was expected. His performance last night was excellent, unfortunately he could not keep a clean sheet but he could do little about the goal and should be happy with his performance. He seems to have a new air of confidence about him and looks a lot more assured since his return.
Despite being on the wrong end of the result, over the two legs Liverpool were arguably the better team, in the first leg they were fantastic and if not for the great performance of Thibaut Courtois and the absence of a clinical finisher they could have had the tie wrapped up before they even got to Stamford Bridge. The away performance was not as dominant as the first but Liverpool gave as good as they got and if Daniel Sturridge was fit and firing they may well have won the game but it was not to be.
The two performances were a small reminder of the Liverpool side we saw last season, the quick attacking play and high pressure on the opposition is back and they once again look a threat to the top teams in the Premier League. Lucas Leiva and Jordan Henderson have developed a great partnership in the middle while Couthino and Sterling have been in great form going forward. Couthino in particular is becoming a real menace to opposition defences and seems to have found the eye for a pass that we are so used to seeing from the little Brazilian.
The biggest positive for Liverpool starting this weekend is the return of main man Daniel Sturridge, goals are the main thing missing in this Liverpool side and the return of Sturridge could potentially bring Rodgers’ side to the next level. There are many positives to take out of these games but unless Rodgers can build on them Liverpool’s season will inevitable end in disappointment.