Chelsea beat Liverpool by 2-0 to progress to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, courtesy of goals from Willian and Ross Barkley in either half.
Liverpool probed with patience, controlled almost 70% of possession after the first goal but couldn’t prevent regular Chelsea attacks. Frank Lampard’s side, safe to say, outplayed their opponents through quicker build-up play, incisive passing and impeccable work rate.
For all of the brilliant teamwork exhibited by the Liverpool squad throughout the season, it has taken just four days for everything to threaten a collapse.
They were uncharacteristically poor in their defeat to Watford and given how long they had gone without defeat in the Premier League, that single loss was bound to have an impact on their psyche.
Dejan Lovren admitted as much when he said the players felt like they had been ‘slapped in the face’ and while Jurgen Klopp gave a typical philosophical response to the defeat, the performance of his players suggested otherwise.
They were totally underwhelmed in the clash and were made to look ordinary by Chelsea, who have not exactly been turning heads with their results this season.
There was not one Liverpool player who ended this game with his head held high and it was a disjointed performance from every department of the team.
Fabinho was guilty of giving away too many passes and looked out of sync with his midfield comrades, while Divock Origi tried to do too much and ended up achieving little more than his attacking partners Sadio Mane and especially Takumi Minamino who was on the periphery of the game for 90 minutes.
In total, Liverpool had just five shots on target and of these, three came in the space of four seconds when half chances and snapshots forced Kepa into making three straightforward saves.
The clash with Chelsea gave Liverpool the opportunity to show the world that they are still united and that one loss to a relegation-threatened side cannot erase all that they have achieved but they failed to take it and questions would undoubtedly be asked of their mental fortitude in the coming days.
Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga responded to being dropped by Chelsea boss Frank Lampard by making a string of excellent saves to keep Liverpool’s frontline at bay.
The Spaniard made an incredible triple save to deny Sadio Mane and then Divock Origi before finally blocking Curtis Jones’ strike as Liverpool looked certain to equalise.
Arrizabalaga has been reportedly worried about losing his place in the national side ahead of Europe 2020 this summer, as Lampard has opted with Argentine Willy Cabellero in the six games prior to Tuesday night, but will now have given the Chelsea boss a selection headache ahead of Sunday’s game against Everton.
Not too long ago- on February 15 Liverpool had just won their 26th Premier League match of the season against Norwich and was showing no signs of letting up.
Pundits were convinced they’d go the entire season undefeated – like Arsenal’s 2004 Invincibles – and likely win a Treble to boot.
But along came Atletico Madrid in the Champions League… and Liverpool lost.
The Reds quickly returned to winning ways in the Premier League against West Ham but were far from convincing against the east London club.
Liverpool then experienced their first league defeat of the season against Watford; with the relegation-threatened side running out 3-0 winners.
And, finally, to compound Liverpool’s sudden lull, Chelsea dumped them out of the FA Cup with victory on Tuesday night.
Until now Jurgen Klopp has been able to send his boys out with the instruction to ‘pick up where you left out last time’, but it’s a little more complicated now.
Liverpool are vulnerable. They’re lacking confidence, seemingly out of ideas, and defensively shaky.
The title may well be wrapped up this season, but if this Liverpool team are going to dominate for years to come, in the way pundits have been suggesting they will, Klopp needs to find a tonic – and soon. .