The opening 20 minutes of the match proved to be quite a tight affair with perhaps the Blues looking the more controlled team in the opening exchanges – their no 8, Ruben Loftus Cheek looking particularly classy in midfield – before the home side grew in confidence and began to dominate.
Much of Liverpool’s attacking impetus was provided by wide players, Kristoffer Peterson and Jordan Ibe – who both combined for the game’s closest chance at the Anfield Road end; Chelsea’s defence managing to scramble clear the danger caused by the direct duo.
Liverpool’s no 9 Jack Dunn kept the away side’s defence on their toes, hustling and harrying Davey and Christensen throughout the match, whilst at the other end Chelsea’s quick counters remained a source of danger.
On 32 minutes, the eventual match-winner, Alex Kiwomya, burst through on goal after a Liverpool corner was cleared; an excellent last ditch tackle from captain Jordan Lussey ensuring the score reminded locked at 0-0.
The combative Lussey was then booked in the 42nd minute, stretching for the ball as Chelsea again started to boss the final 10 minutes of the half.
The opening minute of the second-half saw Chelsea’s Boga curl a shot just over the bar after a run across the 18 yard line. 5 minutes later the away side came closest again as right-back Ola Aina’s deflected cross-shot clipped the post.
Both teams outstanding midfield performers clashed in the 55th minute when Lussey and Cheek went head to head; the Reds skipper coming worse off after the collision, requiring treatment before eventually being subbed just 5 minutes later – Trickett-Smith, his replacement.
The home side then threatened when a piece of magic from Ibe split the Blues defence, however the resulting cross was deflected behind for a corner which came to nothing.
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The 63rd minute saw the match spark to life when Chelsea’s sharp-looking Islam Feruz latched onto a defence splitting pass, but could only find the post. The rebound was eventually picked up by Cheek, whose shot was well saved by Ryan Fulton.
Moments later Kiwomya was released down the left, but dallied long enough for the Reds defensive backline to pressure him, and his resulting shot was again saved by the impressive Fulton, before being cleared.
This ignited the Reds into action and again it was Ibe who provided the magic, slipping through Peterson whose shot was parried onto the woodwork by Beeney.
There were claims for a penalty in the 70th minute when Cheek appeared to bundle over Liverpool’s Cameron Brannagan, but on second viewing there appeared minimal contact on the Reds no 10.
Chelsea then had to endure two enforced substitutions to their backline when first their right-back Aina, then centre-back Christensen, suffered injury.
The game settled into an end-to-end affair with the away side happy to measure their way forward, whilst the Reds attacked with more verve. However, no sooner had the tricky Ibe been withdrawn for Jerome Sinclair, the visitors drew first blood when Kiwomya controlled a heavily deflected cross inside the penalty area, before slamming home the finish.
Then, just minutes later, Chelsea’s no 7 added his, and his side’s second when Boga tricked his way across the Reds defence, left to right, and slipped it to Kiwomya, who thundered the ball into the net in the 91st minute.
The Reds now have it all to do in next week’s second leg at Stamford Bridge, but there can be no shame in losing to this impressive Chelsea side.
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