Well. That was a match.
Thirty minutes of Chelsea dominance, followed by roughly 50 minutes of Liverpool taking over the match. And then the heavens opened up and a bolt of Eden Hazard thundered down to take a come-from-behind win and lead Chelsea into the fourth round of the Carabao Cup.
Maurizio Sarri didn’t just make eight changes to the lineup, he also let his substituted himself for the pre- and (very brief) post-match media duties.
Assistant manager Gianfranco Zola refused to be drawn into a comparison between his own wondrous skills and what Eden Hazard did minutes before — that goal was not “Zola-esque”, he insisted, it was “Hazard-esque.”
I asked Gianfranco if Eden’s goal was ‘Zola-esque’. He said no, it was ‘Hazard-esque’ #cfc— Lee Parker (@Leeparker_tv) September 26, 2018
Asked if TV commentator Jamie Carragher was right to call Hazard the “best player in the Premier League”, Zola had more to say.
“I’d like to add something on top of that, Eden is one of the best players in Europe. He’s one of the best players in the world, for sure. He’s getting better and better. He’s doing the right things at the right moment. I think Jamie is correct in what he says.”
-Gianfranco Zola; source: Chelsea FC
All those lineup changes didn’t prevent Chelsea from coming out strong to begin the game at Anfield. The Kop was silent enough for the traveling Chelsea support to mock them with the old “Is this the library?” song, before we lost control at about the half-hour mark. After that it was all Liverpool, until Hazard (56th minute — a pre-planned substitution) and Kanté (64th minute) were subbed in.
Zola wouldn’t make any apologies about the quality of the team that Chelsea fielded, explaining just ahead of kick-off the thinking behind the eight new men.
“The thinking behind is taking the opportunity to play players that they didn’t have much minutes so far, very good players as you can see, so is an opportunity to put a strong team, at the same time play players that they need to play.”
-Gianfranco Zola; source: Sky
After such an exciting prelude, everyone’s naturally already thinking ahead to Saturday’s Premier League rematch at Stamford Bridge.
Zola, as any good coach would, said he thinks it would be a mistake to believe that the League Cup match would have much of an effect on it.
“I don’t think it’ll have a big impact to be honest. Of course we are very pleased with that and we will go into the game with a good feeling. Saturday is going to be different. Today, to be fair, it was such a close game. They played well and could have won. They had the chances to win it because they are a very good team. In the end we won and we didn’t steal anything. Saturday is going to be similar, two teams that don’t sacrifice their philosophy. They want to win and they’ll try to win. Hopefully it will be the same type of game, a spectacular game to watch.”
-Gianfranco Zola; source: Football.London
Spectacular indeed. Although we must remember what Liverpool did to another possession-based team last season, beating Manchester City three times on the trot in 2018 while scoring nine goals.
But that’s a matter for another day. Today, let us bask in the delight of a wonder goal and a win at Anfield, the eighth time in eight matches that the Blues have come away from there without suffering defeat.