After The Match 


Chelsea-Liverpool 2-0 (0-0)      19.12.07      Carling Cup (5. r.)
Goals: Lampard (58), Shevchenko (89)
Team: Itandje, Arbeloa, Aurelio, Hobbs, Carragher, Alonso, Lucas, Sissoko, Babel, Voronin, Crouch
Subs: El Zhar (Alonso 59), Benayoun (Babel 73)
Not used: Martin, Riise, Hyypia
Yellow: Alonso (26), Lucas (41), Sissoko (85)
Red: Crouch (59)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Attendance: 41,366
Shots on target: 8-2
Shots off target: 7-10
Blocked shots: 4-0
Fouls conceded: 7-17
Corners: 9-0
Offsides: 4-0
Possession: 58.1-41.9
Yellow: 0-3
Red: 0-1
HEADLINES "The performance of the team was very good."
Rafael Benitez

2012: Crouch: I have no excuses
2012: Sad air of inevitability about unlucky defeat
1912: Rafa defends Crouch challenge
1912: Crouch sees red as Blues march on 


Crouch: I have no excuses

Sky Sports

Peter Crouch says he has "no excuses" for his dismissal in the Carling Cup quarter-final defeat
to Chelsea.

The Liverpool striker was sent off for a two-footed challenge on John Obi Mikel shortly after Frank Lampard had scored Chelsea's first goal in the 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.

But Crouch insists he could have avoided the dismissal if referee Martin Atkinson had pulled up Mikel for an earlier foul in the build-up.

Crouch also claimed Mikel had "gone down like he's been shot".

The England striker told the Liverpool Echo: "Mikel came in with his studs up and that was in the back of my mind. Then I thought there was another foul in there and obviously I've lost my head.

"There are no excuses for the tackle I made but if the referee had pulled the foul up when he should have done it wouldn't have happened.

"A lot was going their way and I think frustration got the better of me.

"You give and take with referees and sometimes the decisions go for you and sometimes they don't so you can't always blame them."

Crouch added that he was far from happy with Mikel's reaction to his second-half lunge.

He added: "What I'm thinking is if you go in on Frank Lampard or John Terry would they roll around like Obi Mikel did? I don't think they would have done.

"Would someone like Carra have gone down like that? I think it's safe to say that he wouldn't.

"Foreign players have brought a lot to our game but that's something you don't want to see. I didn't catch him but he's gone down like he's been shot.

"It's frustrating because I thought we played okay as a team and obviously it was always going to be difficult from the moment I was sent off."

Sad air of inevitability
about unlucky defeat

By Ian Doyle - Liverpool Daily Post

There are now only three things certain in life: death, taxes and a deflected Chelsea goal against Liverpool.

Frank Lampard supplied the latest entry into the Stamford Bridge hall of fortune to help knock Rafael Benitez’s 10-man team out of the Carling Cup last night.

The midfielder’s lucky 59th-minute strike sent the Londoners on their way to victory in a tight quarter-final contest in which Andriy Shevchenko’s last-minute goal gave the scoreline a flattering appearance. A largely second-string Liverpool emerged with credit from defeat, albeit with one notable exception.

Benitez’s side were forced to play the last half-hour with 10 men following the sending-off of Peter Crouch for a reckless challenge on Jon Obi Mikel.

While there was no debating the red card – the fourth in Crouch’s career – Mikel’s histrionics after being felled would have made even Cristiano Ronaldo wince. Instead, Benitez’s ire was directed at referee Martin Atkinson for the official’s failure to penalise Mikel seconds before Crouch lost his head and effectively lost Liverpool the chance of what would have been a two-legged semi-final against neighbours Everton.

The striker had already seen his frustration at spurning Liverpool’s clearest opening of the match amplified by the fortuitous manner in which Chelsea went ahead just minutes later. It was that kind of evening for Benitez’s side, once more left to curse poor finishing, Petr Cech’s goalkeeping prowess and the ill luck that has dogged them at Stamford Bridge in recent years.

Since losing 2-0 to Middlesbrough in the first leg of the semi-final in 1998, Liverpool had scored in 32 successive League Cup ties going into last night’s game. However, the Anfield outfit had failed to score in six previous visits to Chelsea under Benitez. One of those records had to give; sadly for Liverpool, it was the latter.

But while Liverpool’s most recent defeats to Reading and Manchester United have prompted lengthy post-mortems, this third loss in four games should not.

The Carling Cup has long been bottom of the list of priorities for Benitez, and the Spaniard continued with his policy of giving his fringe players a first-team opportunity as only Jamie Carragher and Alvaro Arbeloa survived from those that started against United on Sunday.

That didn’t sit well with some pundits when the team sheet was handed out before kick-off, Sky TV in particular incandescent the Liverpool manager should, in their view, treat the League Cup with such contempt. Lately, it seems Benitez is damned if he does or damned if he doesn’t. Had the likes of Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano and Sami Hyypia been selected, the Spaniard would have been criticised for overworking his players ahead of a busy festive Premier League schedule.

Yet by making the league the priority – the one competition by which Benitez continues to be judged by his doubters – the manager was once more ridiculed. Why? After all, lifting the Carling Cup in February would convince nobody that Liverpool are any nearer to threatening the domestic dominance of Manchester United and last night’s opponents.

Chelsea were without injured duo John Terry and Didier Drogba but, while resting a handful of first-team regulars, manager Avram Grant selected by far the stronger line-up, winger Scott Sinclair the only lesser-known name. However, the home team were unimpressive and unconvincing in victory and could easily come unstuck in the last four.

With many travelling supporters delayed by a serious accident on the M40 earlier in the day, the away end was dotted with empty seats at kick-off despite Liverpool selling out their 6,000 allocation.

The demands of live television meant the game began on schedule regardless, although there was a more light-hearted delay when a referee’s assistant pulled a hamstring seconds before the start.

When proceedings did begin, Liverpool weren’t helped by referee Atkinson’s tendency to award a free-kick against every challenge by a visiting player. It was something that would prove influential later on.

But Benitez’s much-changed side acquitted themselves confidently during a first half they could claim to have shaded.

The return of Xabi Alonso after, an aborted 68-minute appearance against Arsenal in October apart, more than three months out with metatarsal problems brought composure and direction to a midfield in which Lucas once again shone.

The Brazilian’s tenacity created the first opening in the ninth minute, dispossessing Michael Essien before feeding Crouch who pulled his shot horribly across the face of goal.

Soon after, Ryan Babel dithered before finding Wayne Bridge with his final ball after a forceful run down the left had taken him past Mikel.

In between, Charles Itandje – deputising for Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal – turned a near-post Salomon Kalou shot around after Shevchenko had stepped over Julian Belletti’s cutback from the right.

And Chelsea then twice came close midway through the half. Kalou failed to gain enough purchase on his header from Lampard’s corner before, after Jack Hobbs gifted possession to Kalou, the ball broke kindly off Alvaro Arbeloa to put Lampard clear but Itandje blocked the home skipper’s shot with his chest. But Liverpool should have gone ahead on 26 minutes. Intricate play around the Chelsea area between Lucas, Andriy Voronin and Crouch ended with the latter playing Lucas in, but the Brazilian opted to fire across goal and give Cech the chance to produce a fine parry.

Alonso fired a low volley wide and Voronin dragged similarly off target as the visitors ended the half the brighter. But Itandje was forced into the first save after the interval, springing to his right to palm behind Essien’s shot with the ball having broken to the Ghanaian after Carragher halted Sinclair’s dangerous run. Then came the five-minute spell that settled the outcome. A poor header back to Cech by Ricardo Carvalho gave Crouch a chance but the striker’s attempted lob was just within reach of the Chelsea keeper, whose touch allowed retreating defenders to clear.

At the other end, Kalou curled an effort over from a good position before the home side took the lead in traditionally fortunate fashion on 59 minutes when Lampard’s drive deflected off Carragher and looped over the helpless Itandje. It was unfair on Carragher, easily the game’s stellar performer and whose disgruntlement was made patently obvious on television replays.

And Liverpool’s hopes diminished a minute later with the sending-off of Crouch. The striker, unhappy at referee Atkinson’s failure to penalise Mikel for a foul, launched into the Chelsea man with an unwise two-footed challenge and was instantly dismissed.

To their credit, the 10 men kept pressing forward. Substitute Nabil El Zhar, scorer of a screamer in the previous round against Cardiff City, screwed a shot wide and Voronin struck a shot that was deflected wide for a goal kick.

But Liverpool’s fate was sealed in the last minute when the previously ineffective Shevchenko fired through Itandje at the near post.

Rafa defends Crouch challenge

By Lewis Rutledge - Sky Sports

Rafa Benitez felt Peter Crouch should have been better protected by the referee following Liverpool's Carling Cup defeat to Chelsea.

The striker was sent off for a two-footed challenge on John Obi Mikel moments after Frank Lampard had put Chelsea ahead.

Liverpool struggled with ten men and Benitez admits the game was lost when Crouch was given his marching orders.

However, Benitez believes Crouch was provoked by Mikel and has criticised referee Martin Atkinson for not dealing with the situation sooner.

"The big decision was the sending off of Crouch because two times before he (Mikel) tried to kick him and if you protect Crouch you avoid the red card," Benitez told Sky Sports News.

"When you have a player behind you kicking you twice sometimes you lose your head.

"It finished the game. Playing against a good team when you are 1-0 down is difficult."

Benitez made nine changes from the side that lost to Manchester United at the weekend but he was happy with the way Liverpool competed.

He said: "The performance of the team was very good. They played good football and created chances."

Benitez is still confident Liverpool can go on to enjoy a successful season.

He added: "We need to think about the FA Cup, the Premier League and the Champions League."

Crouch sees red as Blues march on


Chelsea took the remaining Carling Cup semi-final spot after Frank Lampard's deflected goal set up a 2-0 win over 10-man Liverpool.

Lampard's deflected 59th-minute opener was followed, seconds later, by a moment of madness from Peter Crouch who was red-carded for a disgraceful two-footed lunge on John Obi Mikel.

Referee Martin Atkinson immediately dismissed the England striker who unleashed a four-letter tirade at Chelsea fans before disappearing down the tunnel.

Crouch will now miss Liverpool's home clash with Portsmouth and the visits to Derby and Manchester City over the festive period.

The Carling Cup has never been high on Rafael Benitez's hit-list and he underlined that by putting out a side which did not contain England midfielder Steven Gerrard and Spanish striker Fernando Torres.

Gerrard, laid low with a stomach complaint, was certainly missed by the Merseysiders - who showed little drive in a goalless opening half largely controlled by the home side.

But Chelsea's failure to break the deadlock was largely due to the agility of Liverpool's reserve goalkeeper Charles Itandje.

In the 11th minute he denied Ivory Coast striker Salomon Kalou when Andriy Shevchenko's low cross had invited him to try his luck from just inside the penalty area.

However, the Liverpool goalkeeper had to rely on his shoulder to prevent Lampard scoring in the 24th minute.

Alvaro Arbeloa's attempted clearance fell to Lampard's feet on the edge of the penalty area but the England man could not finish the job.

A minute later Chelsea had to rely on Petr Cech, playing his first game in the competition this season, when a move involving Andriy Voronin and Crouch set up Lucas.

The Czech keeper, at fault for Arsenal's winner in the Premier League on Sunday, produced a fine diving save to deny the Liverpool midfielder.

But they were the only real highlights in a first half littered with poor passes and choked by a packed midfield.

Chelsea continued to look the more likely to score but Lampard was still finding his range when he sent a 20-yard shot high into the crowd in the 52nd minute.

Less than 60 seconds later, Itandje denied Michael Essien, back from his three-match suspension, with a flying one-handed save as the Ghanaian's 18-yard effort looked destined for the corner.

Liverpool's attacks were sporadic at best but they were almost gifted a goal in the 55th minute when Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho, playing his first game since breaking a small bone in his back against Everton in early November, failed to reach Cech with a back-header.

The ball fell straight into the path of Crouch but the lanky striker could not lift the ball over the advancing Chelsea keeper.

But four minutes later, Chelsea were in front. Mikel found Shevchenko with a clever pass and the Ukraine striker put Lampard in the clear thanks to a neat first touch.

The England midfielder's shot was half-stopped by Jamie Carragher but the ball ballooned up and over the stranded Itandje to register Lampard's 99th goal for the club.

But the game erupted in the worst possible way within a minute when Crouch inexplicably decided to launch himself at Mikel right in front of the home dugout.

The two-footed lunge was high and dangerous and Atkinson had no hesitation in dismissing the England striker - to the fury of Benitez and the player himself.

Mikel was later replaced by Michael Ballack, who was returning to action for the first time since April.

In the intervening period, the Germany captain underwent two ankle operations - but he showed no ill-effects as Chelsea went in search of a second goal.

Indeed, it was Ballack's header down to Shevchenko in the final minute of normal time which allowed the Ukrainian to drill an angled shot past Itandje to put Chelsea into the last four of the competition.

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Thor Zakariassen ©