Last night’s win will probably hold a special place in Ross Barkley’s heart.
Born in the city of Liverpool and growing up at Everton, Barkley spent most of his footballing life living in the shadow of mighty Liverpool Football Club. With Everton, Barkley had faced the Reds seven times, all in the Premier League. Four losses and three draws is all he has to show for those games, including three very heavy defeats at Anfield by scores of 4-0, 4-0, and 3-1. (Everton haven’t actually beaten Liverpool in any competition since 2010, almost a year before Barkley’s professional debut, and have just 8 wins over the Reds in Barkley’s lifetime.)
But yesterday, that all changed. Barkley started and played the full 90 as Chelsea notched an excellent 2-1, come-from-behind victory in the League Cup. Ross played a key part in the comeback, both in terms of general play (before succumbing to a rash of giveaways like many of his teammates after the first 30 minutes or so) and in terms of getting Chelsea the equalizer. It was his header from an Eden Hazard free kick that Simon Mignolet was only able to parry into the path of Emerson, who poked the ball into the back of the net to get the Blues on the board.
While Barkley had already experienced a win over Liverpool in Chelsea colors with last season’s 1-0 at the Bridge, he was sat on the bench throughout for that one. Last night’s match was the first time he actually got to play for the winning side against the hometown rivals of his boyhood club. And it was at Anfield to make it even sweeter!
The 24-year-old was rather delighted afterwards.
“It is a fantastic feeling to come away from Anfield having won. It is a hard place to come and to come away having qualified for the next round is fantastic, especially with conceding and having come from behind. It showed fantastic character from the team and it was a great win.
“It shows the team spirit and all around the place we have got great characters, we have got a great team bond and that showed in this game, coming from behind which not many teams do at Anfield.”
As a game between two forward-thinking, high-pressing teams, it was certainly not an affair for the faint of heart. That Chelsea were able to impress themselves on proceedings to such a great extent is credit to both Sarri and the players. After all, they’ve been working together for barely a couple months and the new head coach’s drastically different (from Mourinho and Conte) ideas aren’t exactly the simplest in football. There’s still plenty to learn and plenty of room for improvement, but so far it’s all working out quite excellently.
“There is a lot of ball possession and it is fantastic for forward-thinking players. Being organised round the back as well and higher up the pitch expressing ourselves, so it is fantastic to play in. We are still learning game by game, we are improving and that is what we need to be doing.”
“Coming from behind and winning [against Liverpool], that will give us a lot of confidence going into the weekend game. Game by game we keep improving and on Saturday we will be going in with the same target, to win.”
-Ross Barkley; source: Chelsea FC
Barkley may not start again on Saturday — presumably, the Kovacic-Jorginho-Kante trio will be restored — but he’s been one of the most improved players under Sarri and will undoubtedly look to continue his good form every time he’s called upon.