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Chelsea 2 - 0 Liverpool


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Chelsea FC 2 - 0 Liverpool

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Premier League, 19 December, 19:50 KO, Stamford Bridge, London

Frank Lampard and Andrei Shevchenko sent Chelsea on their way to their third League Cup semi-final in four seasons, and set up a last four tie with Everton in the process.

The morale boosting result comes on the back of the League Cup holder's first Premier League defeat since September, but the Blues suffered no Christmas hangover as they entered this season's festivities with an important victory. Frank Lampard broke the deadlock after an hour for a much-changed Chelsea side that featured Scott Sinclair, before Shevchenko volleyed past young Liverpool goalkeeper Charles Itandje to seal the win late on.

With a crunch game away to Blackburn at the weekend, Chelsea manager Avram Grant looked to utilise his squad to the maximum, bringing Juliano Belletti and Wayne Bridge into the side that had lost to Arsenal so narrowly. Petr Cech continued in goal, and the defence was hugely benefited by the return of Ricardo Carvalho, who partnered Tal Ben Haim at centre-half. Essien returned from suspension and eight months after suffering an ankle injury at Newcastle, Michael Ballack took his place in the Stamford Bridge dug-out, looking for his first action of the 2007/08 campaign. Scott Sinclair continued to feature in Grant's League Cup side, and played upfront alongside Andrei Shevchenko. Wright-Phillips and Kalou operated on the wings, with captain Lampard playing in the centre of the midfield.

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Liverpool were even more changed, as Rafa Benitez made nine changes to the side that had lost to Champions Manchester United last weekend. Charles Itandje replaced Jose Reina, and Jamie Carragher captained the side in the absence of Steven Gerrard to illness. Xabi Alonso returned from injury to boost the away team's midfield options.

The match began at electric pace, as both managers knew they could not settle for a draw, for extra-time and penalties would be played. Deciding to drop the cautious opening play adopted in Chelsea-Liverpool matches in recent times, both Grant and Benitez's attacking formations allowed exciting, end-to-end football to be enjoyed by the Stamford Bridge faithful, who were in good voice throughout.

A breathtaking pacing movement of sheer simplicity lead to the first opportunity of the match. Mikel found Kalou, who spread the ball to the unmarked Juliano Belletti. Combining with Shevchenko, the Ukrainian twisted and turned in the area to lose his marker to find Kalou who had darted towards the near post. The Ivorian's effort was hit with venom, but Itandje stood firm and parried with a strong fist, to give Chelsea their first corner of the match, which was subsequently cleared by the Liverpool defence.

Immediately at the other end, Babel skipped past Mikel and entered the Chelsea penalty area. Trying to lose Ben Haim, the Dutchman attempted to find the Brazilian Lucas, but his pass was intercepted with ease by Bridge, and Ben Haim poked the ball away to safety. Liverpool were showing that whilst they were much-changed, their attack, full of pace and power, was as deadly as ever.

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Chelsea had another good chance to open the scoring but Kalou missed Lampard's whipped corner at the near post after a great run from Wayne Bridge and excellent defending by Arbeloa had won the home side their second corner kick. Moments later, Kalou's through ball took a fortunate ricochet and fell into the path of Lampard's run. The England midfielder, who had not scored from open play since Chelsea's last match in this tournament - a 4-3 victory over Leicester - tried to chip the ball over the rushing goalkeeper, but Itandje stood tall and the ball bounced out off of the Frenchman's shoulder.

But Cech was not to be out-done by the young goalkeeper, and when Lucas was played in after Voronin, Crouch and Babel had played an intricate passing move, Czech brilliantly spread himself to deny the young Brazilian, diving low to his side to parry the ball away. It was a master class in goalkeeping, and Cech once again proved exactly why he is regarded as Europe's finest. Alonso went in the book moments later for a challenge on Bridge.

Essien powered a mighty strike at Itanje's goal, but the effort was directed inches wide. Mikel had tried to power the ball home from range, but the Nigerian was deemed offside after Essien's initial shot, although the youngster failed to make any contact whatsoever.

The whistle for the first half blew, and at the interval, Chelsea were level despite dominating play. Liverpool were proving to be no push-overs, and Carragher had done well to marshal his defence on several occasions.

Straight from the restart, Scott Sinclair's darting run bamboozled the away side's defence, before he was tackled by Carragher. The all fell kindly to Essien, who was enjoying operating in a more-advanced position. His drive was true and powerful, but Itandje dived to his right to push the ball away with his hand. It was a truly magnificent save, and the young shot-stopper was giving a good account of himself.

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At the other end came the first signs of rustiness from a player who had not featured since the league game against Everton in November. Carvalho looked to find Cech, but his underpowered header fell straight to Crouch who tried to header over the rushing goalkeeper. Cech brought his defenders time as he parried the ball into Ben Haim's path. The Israeli did well under pressure, and his comfortable headed pass found Cech. Carvalho apologised for his error, but Cech and Ben Haim had once again come to the rescue.

He nearly made amends when his chipped ball found Lampard. The England player found Kalou, who took his man on, before taking the inside channel. The Ivorian launched a curling effort destined for the top-corner, but he simply could not apply the finish correctly as the ball spun a foot over the goal frame. Had it gone in, it would have been one of the goals of the season.

Lampard finally broke the deadlock in 59 minutes. Mikel found Shevchenko on the edge of the box, and the Ukraine captain headed the ball into Lampard's path. His effort bobbled under Carragher's boot and looped into the air, leaving Itandje stranded. Finally, Chelsea had their desired breakthrough.

The game turned dramatically and was over as a contest on the hour mark as Peter Crouch was sent off for a two-footed lunge at Mikel. The England striker tried to win the ball, but jumped almost two feet into the air to bring Mikel down with his studs showing. It was an obvious red-card offence, and Chelsea's superiority in terms of play was now matched by their numerical advantage.

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The biggest cheer of the night came soon after, as Mikel was taken off as a precaution. In his place came on Michael Ballack - the German had not featured at all for Chelsea in 8 months, save for a reserve outing against Birmingham - but he made a huge impact on the game with minutes to go.

Wayne Bridge fooled Arbeloa with several step-overs, before he launched a teasing cross into the danger zone. Ballack headed the ball on to Shevchenko, who made no mistake from an acute angle, firing through the young goalkeeper from an impossible angle. The Ukrainian's effort was hit with plenty of venom, but the accolades must go to Ballack's powerful leap and accurate flick-on which found the unmarked striker with room to get his effort away.

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Match Fact : Liverpool have yet to score at Stamford Bridge since Bruno Cheyrou scored in a 1-0 win in the 2003/04 season.

Chelsea: Cech (7), Bridge (7), Carvalho (6), Belletti (6), Ben-Haim (7), Essien (8), Mikel (6) (Ballack (7)), Lampard (7), Kalou (6), Shevchenko (9) (Sidwell (6)), Sinclair (7) (Joe Cole (7)).

Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Ferreira.

Goals: Lampard 59, Shevchenko 90.

Liverpool: Itandje, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hobbs, Aurelio, Sissoko, Lucas, Alonso (El Zhar 60), Voronin, Crouch, Babel (Benayoun 73).

Subs Not Used: Martin, Hyypia, Riise.

Sent Off: Crouch (60).

Booked: Alonso, Lucas, Sissoko.

Attendance: 41,366

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Man of the Match : Andrei Shevchenko

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