Lampard helps Chelsea kill off 10-man Liverpool

Society Materials 20 December 2007 04:00 (UTC +04:00)

( AFP ) - Frank Lampard sent Chelsea into the League Cup semi-finals as his deflected strike set up a 2-0 win against 10-man Liverpool on Wednesday.

Lampard broke the deadlock in the second half at Stamford Bridge before Peter Crouch was sent off for a nasty two-footed foul on John Obi Mikel a minute later.

Crouch's red card effectively ended Liverpool's hopes of a comeback and Andriy Shevchenko's late strike ensured the holders reached the last four for the third time in four seasons.

While Chelsea celebrated a quarter-final win over their bitter rivals, Liverpool are in danger of failing to deliver on the promise they had showed earlier in the campaign.

Rafa Benitez's side are already 10 points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal and this defeat leaves only the Champions League and FA Cup as realistic ambitions.

Benitez claimed Crouch was only reacting to provocation from Mikel. "Mikel tried to kick Crouch twice. That is the reason Crouch lost his head. If the referee blows his whistle before you avoid the sending off," Benitez said.

"It could be a sending off but I have seen more dangerous tackles and sometimes they are a yellow card or nothing."

Avram Grant insisted Liverpool had been targeting Mikel throughout the match. "Maybe Rafa was angry but first it was a bad tackle and second Liverpool made seven or eight fouls on Mikel in the first half," Grant said.

"Crouch didn't need to do it. It was in the middle of the pitch. The priority is to protect players from bad tackles because we have already lost John Terry for six weeks."

Grant's side face Everton in the next round and he added: "We have already drawn against them at home so it will be tough. Playing any Premier League team in a semi-final is not easy."

Chelsea had grown sick of losing to Liverpool in cup competitions, so it was no surprise Grant sent out a virtually full-strength team.

Benitez made nine changes to the side that lost to Manchester United on Sunday, with Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Dirk Kuyt among the big names absent.

Gerrard had a stomach bug but his place was taken by Xabi Alonso, who was back in action after two months out with a broken foot.

Chelsea must have feared the worst when they handed a cup clash with Liverpool for the fourth successive season. Benitez's side had won two Champions League semi-finals and an FA Cup semi-final against the Blues since 2005.

The hosts played as if intent on revenge. Salomon Kalou had the first clear sight of goal when he latched onto Juliano Belletti's cutback and hit a first-time shot that Charles Itandje parried.

Lampard wasted a glorious chance to put Chelsea ahead when Jack Hobb's deflected tackle gave him a clear run on goal. Instead of opting for power, Lampard tried to chip Itandje and the French keeper stood up well to block.

Liverpool responded with a flowing move. Andriy Voronin and Crouch combined to cut open the Chelsea defence and set up Lucas. The Brazilian looked certain to score but Petr Cech produced a fine save to keep out his low strike.

Lampard should have done better than blaze wildly over from the edge of the area as Chelsea started the second half on top.

They threatened again when teenage winger Scott Sinclair surged towards goal. The ball broke to Michael Essien and his powerful effort was destined for the top corner until Itandje brilliantly tipped it away.

Crouch had a chance when Ricardo Carvalho's back-header dropped short of Cech, but the Chelsea keeper and Tal Ben Haim combined to clear.

It was a costly miss as Chelsea took the lead in the 59th minute thanks to a large dose of good fortune.

When Shevchenko's pass gave Lampard room to drive in a low shot, Jamie Carragher tried to make a block but only succeeded in deflecting the ball high over Itandje into the net.

Liverpool's frustration was clear and it came to the boil a minute later as Crouch threw himself into an ugly lunge on Mikel. It was a totally needless foul and referee Martin Atkinson wasted no time showing Crouch the red card.

Itandje saved well from Lampard before Michael Ballack, back from an ankle injury, came on for his first Chelsea appearance since April.

Shevchenko put the result beyond doubt when he drove a low shot past Itandje in the last minute.