Chelsea into the quarters, Liverpool with their form – and maybe ambitions – quartered. That is undeniably the main impact of this entertaining 2-0 home win, beyond the FA Cup draw.
A previously relentless and almost invincible Liverpool have now lost three of their last four games, and had the four major trophies cut down to two. It could be one next week, if this form continues into the Champions League against Atletico Madrid.
That’s an ‘Invincible’ league season and the classic treble gone in four days, something that will feel more significant than any single cup elimination.
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It is still likely no more than a stutter, with some of it borne out of Jurgen Klopp’s inevitable selection decisions – not least that of Adrian – but it does make them feel that bit less fearsome.
Chelsea will meanwhile feel that bit more encouraged, and emboldened. This was not just a fine win, but one of their canniest, not least for the way they picked at Liverpool’s weaknesses and picked them off.
There was also the important impact of some of their players less used of late. The twinkling Billy Gilmour staked his claim for a place in the main squad more often, goalscorer Ross Barkley staked his claim for a place in the first XI, and man-of-the-match Kepa Arrizabalaga staked his claim to be number-one again. He was that good, that defiant.
That is a more basic point to this specific match, mind.
For all the wider implications and complications, it really did come down to something very simple: the contrasting performances of the goalkeepers.
Lampard’s primary instructions to Chelsea were evidently very simple, too: just hit the ball as hard as possible at Adrian.
It’s hard not to think there was much else, such was the frequency his side attempted it.
Barkley set the tone – and the pace – by sending the goalkeeper staggering backwards with the first effort of the game. Adrian did admittedly beat that away, just as then did even more impressively with a stronger effort from Willian moments later.
The Brazilian, however, was evidently finding his range.
With Willian’s next fierce effort, Adrian could do little more than divert its course into the net. The power was too much.
As Adrian sat on the turf in dismay, he pointed to his eyes, as if to say he’d been unsighted. He’d really just been undone, and by pure force.
The contrast with Kepe couldn’t have been clearer, or quicker coming.
In the 20th minute alone, he faced as many shots as Adrian had done in that spell up to the goal, and from closer range with more venom.
He was equal to all of them.
Sadio Mane first of all tried to force it over from just yards, only for Kepa to get his full body in the way. If that was about bloody-minded robustness, the next was about brilliant reflexes. The ball almost immediately fell to Divock Origi, who fired at the top corner, but only found the strongest of hands from Kepa. The goalkeeper then immediately got up to smother Curtis Jones’ effort, and the way he did so indicated one of those moments when an adrenaline-fuelled player is fired up by what he’s just done. Psychologists call it “flow”.
Kepa will hope he’s just called “first-choice goalkeeper” again.
He stayed strong for the rest of the night, in what was one of his best performances for Chelsea.
It wasn’t one of Liverpool’s best performances, but they were far from bad.
Such passages of pressure indicated their attacking play was as pulsating as ever, with some deft touches in small spaces amid the frenetic intensity of this cup tie.
That is why, for all that will be read into this final result with a different starting XI, there wasn’t that much off about the actual play.
Kepa just happened to get in the way of it.
On a different night, with the goalkeeper on the different form of two months ago, it might have been a very different outcome.
Another alternative might have been if Adrian was in their goal. He was left grasping at air again in the second half, as Barkley plundered the second goal.
Adrian wasn’t all bad, it must be said. He stared down Pedro for one-on-one, before excellently tipping one Olivier Giroud effort onto the bar.
You could say the difference was these weren’t powered right at him, but there was one similarity to many of these moves.
Chelsea were doing Liverpool on the break time and again.
That is perhaps a concern, especially given Virgil van Dijk was there, and a counter-attacking Atletico are to come next week.
Young Gilmour, meanwhile, had more done his part. He was one of Chelsea’s better players, something that may be all the more important given the amount of muscle injuries they’re suffering. Mateo Kovacic was the latest in this game.
There was meanwhile no late rally from Liverpool. There is a bit of a stumble, however, as we start to go late into the season.
It means that, for all the incredible numbers of this season’s league campaign, these brilliant champions may not claim the number of trophies they should have. Lampard, meanwhile, could yet claim the FA Cup.
One of four will certainly do for him in this first season.
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