League Cup: Liverpool 1 Chelsea 1
An excellent solo strike from Raheem Sterling gave Liverpool a deserved 1-1 draw with Chelsea in Tuesday's first leg of the League Cup semi-final at Anfield.
The home side dominated possession throughout much of a high-intensity affair, but struggled to break down a stubborn and well-organised Chelsea outfit who were well backed up by the fine goalkeeping of Thibaut Courtois.
Having started brightly, Liverpool fell behind in the 18th minute when Emre Can fouled Eden Hazard inside the penalty area, and the Belgian picked himself up to calmly tuck away the resulting spot-kick.
Liverpool pressed hard for an equaliser thereafter, and it duly came just before the hour through Sterling, who turned and sped away from Nemanja Matic and Gary Cahill before finishing smartly.
Steven Gerrard went close to a winner midway through the second period, but the Liverpool captain's measured left-footed shot struck the outside of the post.
With Chelsea seemingly content to head into the return leg with a draw, the hosts continued to go in search of an advantage to take to west London but one was not forthcoming, meaning both sides have work to do at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea showed two changes from their 5-0 demolition of Swansea City in the Premier League at the weekend, as Courtois replaced Petr Cech in goal and Oscar's attacking threat was sacrificed for the added defensive steel of John Obi Mikel.
Liverpool had the better of a high-tempo opening and captain Gerrard, recalled to the side in place of Fabio Borini, stung the palms of Courtois with a drive from 30 yards in the 16th minute.
But the home side fell behind two minutes later when Can felled Hazard inside the area, and the forward sent compatriot Simon Mignolet the wrong way from the spot.
After pushing fervently for a leveller, Liverpool made the breakthrough 14 minutes after the interval.
Sterling picked up the ball midway inside the Chelsea half and, after an adroit turn, escaped the attentions of Matic and outpaced Cahill before beating Courtois with a low left-footed shot that crept just inside the right-hand post.
Gerrard hit the opposite upright soon afterwards, and Philippe Coutinho brought a smart stop out of Courtois with a stinging drive as the game opened up.
Martin Skrtel headed Jordan Henderson's wicked free-kick off target with 17 minutes to go as the home side pressed to find a winner.
Courtois produced a fine double stop to deny Henderson and Sterling in the 75th minute, and the Belgian came up with an even better save to deny substitute Adam Lallana four minutes later, stretching full length to his right to tip the midfielder's effort behind.
Despite piling on the pressure in the final stages, Brendan Rodgers' side could not find the winner they so craved, meaning the tie is finely balanced ahead of the second leg.