Brendan Rodgers was thankful for his bright young starlet up front, Raheem Sterling for ensuring that the second leg at Stamford Bridge next week will at least begin on level terms. Although he will be acutely aware that with away goals counting double in the Capital One Cup semi-finals after extra-time, his Liverpool side will still need to score at least once against Chelsea there if they are to have any chance of progressing through to Wembley for the final, but a loss would have been harder to bear.
That equation is for another day though as he had cause to be pleased with a bright performance from his players last night, as they sought to build on the recent good form that saw them begin the night having not lost a match since 14th December. In truth, they probably deserved more than the solitary goal that lifted the hearts of the Anfield faithful, after they had gone behind to Eden Hazard's first-half penalty. Liverpool's goal came from a moment of individual magic from England international Sterling in the second-half, just as it had looked like it might be another disappointing night at the hands of the team labelled as denying them the title last season, with their league victory on the same ground.
The home side started the better and their crisp interchanges were almost rewarded, when Steven Gerrard unleashed a powerful shot towards goal that seemed to swerve and dip in flight. Chelsea's number one Thibaut Courtois was the equal of it and batted the ball away to safety and over the bar. Moments later an incisive piece of play by Chelsea down the left, resulted in Hazard cleverly drawing contact from the German Emre Can and down he went in the area. Referee Martin Atkinson had no doubt about the foul and pointed to the spot. Hazard took it himself and coolly deceived Simon Mignolet to put the visitors ahead on 18 minutes. Hazard continued to cause the home side concern and used his body to draw fouls from both Lucas and Gerrard that resulted in slightly harsh yellow cards.
Still it seemed that the Reds continued to be the dominant force, despite having few genuine attempts on goal or threats to the well-drilled Chelsea back line. Chelsea seemed content to control where the home side were allowed possession and pressed them as Mourinho's teams of old have always done.
There was an interesting moment during the first-half when Lazar Markovic tried to break clear down the flank, only to be held up by Filipe Luis and had what seemed like a stray hand brushed against his face. To Markovic it may have reminded him of his own dismissal during his cameo performance against Basel in the Champions League, on the night that the Reds departed this season's tournament. On this occasion though, the referee decided that a yellow card was sufficient punishment for the Chelsea player.
Into the second-half and finally the energy and sharp passing by Liverpool bore some fruit, as Sterling ran through the centre of the defence, maintained his composure and placed an accurate left foot shot beyond Courtois and into the net for his seventh goal of the season. Cue wild celebrations from his team mates as they saw an opportunity to push on and look for the winner in the last half-hour of the match.
Sadly for them it would not come, despite their having several chances to establish what would have been a priceless advantage, as they now contemplate the tough assignment to come down in London in the second leg. A shot count of 20-2 in Liverpool's favour should have yielded more goals in all truth. Gerrard was anguished to see his shot strike the outside of the post, while substitute Adam Lallana hit an exquisite strike that Courtois somehow kept out of the net. #FootballThere is still all to play for in the second leg then, but the odds must now be heavily stacked in Chelsea's favour as they require just a goalless draw to go through. One doubts that will be Mourinho's primary option though as he will be confident of putting the tie to bed inside the ninety minutes one feels with home advantage.