Maxi haunts Chelsea again as Liverpool reach semis - Sowetan

Liverpool claimed a place in the League Cup semi-finals as second half goals from Maxi Rodriguez and Martin Kelly ensured Kenny Dalglish's side won 2-0 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The win moved Dalglish one step closer towards claiming the first trophy of his second spell in charge of the Anfield club.

But the problems continue to mount for Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas after a defeat that will do nothing to ease the pressure on the Portuguese coach, who has been forced to deny his future at the club is under threat.

Rodriguez's 58th minute goal -- which followed his strike against Chelsea nine days ago and is his 10th goal in his last nine starts -- put Liverpool ahead before Kelly made it two in the 63rd minute, deflecting attention from Andy Carroll's first half penalty miss.

Both goals were created by Craig Bellamy who returned to the Liverpool line-up after withdrawing from the weekend draw with Manchester City following the death of his close friend Gary Speed, the Wales manager.

Both managers made wholesale changes from their weekend line-ups with Villa-Boas bringing in nine new faces while Dalglish made seven switches.

But with the memory of Liverpool's hard-fought Premier League victory here still fresh in the memory, it was clear the rivalry between the two teams remained as fierce as ever.

And an explosive start to the game ensured this cup tie carried on where the league meeting left off.

Less than three minutes into the game, Chelsea defender David Luiz made a powerful surging run into the Liverpool area where he went tumbling under the challenge of Sebastian Coates.

There was clearly contact between the two players' legs, but referee Phil Dowd decided Luiz had deliberately collided with Coates and showed the Blues stopper a yellow card for diving.

Chelsea were incensed but they had reason to be grateful for the match official's lenience four minutes later when Luiz was again involved in a penalty area clash.

This time the Brazilian appeared to push Carroll as the two men jumped for a cross in the home box but Dowd waved play on, this time provoking an angry response from the visitors' bench.

It was Liverpool who were the superior side in the opening 20 minutes, however, with Carroll's physical threat causing problems for the Chelsea defence.

Carroll's strength and height finally proved to much for Chelsea centre back Alex who used his arm to divert Jose Enrique's cross away from the striker's forehead.

Again the referee was reluctant to award a penalty before pointing at the spot after consulting with his assistant.

Carroll, though, was unable to make the most of the chance to show Dalglish he is worthy of a more regular start, firing the penalty straight down the middle of the goal and against Ross Turnbull's legs.

The miss had the effect of inspiring Chelsea who stepped up their efforts in the latter stages of the first half without troubling Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina.

A glancing header from Romelu Lukaku -- who moments earlier had escaped with an ugly challenge on Jordan Henderson -- on the stroke of half time flashed wide but that was the closest Villas-Boas's side came to breaking the deadlock.

The second half resumed at a frantic pace and Chelsea came close in the 55th minute when Florent Malouda volleyed Frank Lampard's free kick against the bar before Coates cleared Luiz's follow up header off the line.

But two minutes later Liverpool were ahead after producing the best move of the game.

Henderson's excellent ball picked out Bellamy on the right and the forward's low cross picked out Rodriguez who turned home from close range.

Chelsea needed a quick response but they paid the price for failing to pick up Kelly from Bellamy's 63rd minute free kick, allowing the defender to head home unhindered.

30 Nov, 2011

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