London, March 4 (IANS) Chelsea prevailed 2-0 over Premier League champions-in-waiting Liverpool to advance to the fourth round of the FA Cup and smash the Reds’ hopes of winning the treble.
Jurgen Klopp’s men suffered their third loss in four outings, though Liverpool were better than in last weekend’s shocking Premier League defeat to Watford, reports Efe news.
And while mistakes by Reds backup goalkeeper Adrian were a major factor on Tuesday night at Stamford Bridge, it was Chelsea’s solid performance that determined the outcome.
Kepa, ousted as the Blues starting keeper after some disappointing results in the league, made the most of his opportunity in the cup competition, making some impressive saves to ensure the victory.
As expected, Klopp chose a starting 11 heavy with subs. His Chelsea counterpart, Frank Lampard, also turned to the reserves, though partly out of necessity, as N’Golo Kante, Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham are sidelined with injuries.
Back in the Chelsea goal for the first time since Jan. 21, Kepa got off to a great start, denying Sadio Mane before making a spectacular triple-save that brought the crowd to its feet.
At the other end of the pitch, Adrian stopped Willian from point-blank range, but conceded to the Brazilian in the 13th minute after a giveaway by Reds midfielder Fabinho.
Though Fabinho’s mistake loomed large, Adrian should have done better.
Kepa, meanwhile, came up with another good stop against Mane before the break. And only the cross-bar stopped Mason Mount, who came in to replace the injured Mateo Kovacic, from doubling Chelsea’s lead on a free kick.
In a microcosm of Liverpool’s recent woes, Virgil van Dijk – arguably the world’s best defender – gave the ball away to Chelsea’s Ross Barkley. The former Everton man charged into the box and beat Adrian to put the hosts up 2-0 in the 64th minute.
Klopp sent in Roberto Firmino (70th minute) and Mohamed Salah (80th minute) to spur a comeback, yet the closest either team came to scoring was a strike by Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud that Adrian managed to deflect toward the cross-bar.
Liverpool, who lead the Premier League by 19 points, are still on track to win the English top flight for the first time since 1990, and the Champions League holders’ defense of their title remains alive.
Though the Reds are down 1-0 to Atletico Madrid in their Champions League knockout stage tie, the second leg will be at Anfield.