Chelsea end Liverpool's perfect season thanks to 'super sub' Eden Hazard
LIVERPOOL -- Three points from Anfield as Eden Hazard's late goal gave Chelsea a 2-1 win over Liverpool in the Carabao Cup third round.
1. Hazard's wonder goal ends Liverpool's winning streak
Eden Hazard struck an early psychological blow for Chelsea ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash with Liverpool by ending Jurgen Klopp's 100 percent start to the season with a wonder goal to seal Carabao Cup victory at Anfield.
Liverpool, the current Premier League leaders, had looked set to book their place in round four after Daniel Sturridge had put them ahead with a 59th minute scissor-kick. But an Emerson strike on 79 minutes hauled Chelsea level before substitute Hazard sealed the win with a sublime strike after beating two defenders and then shooting past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from a narrow angle.
The defeat for Liverpool closes off one route to silverware as the club attempt to better their woeful recent record of just one major trophy in 12 years.
Chelsea, who host Liverpool at Stamford Bridge this weekend, remain unbeaten this season following this win, which was earned despite coach Maurizio Sarri making eight changes to his starting line-up.
Whether the outcome of this game will have any bearing on Saturday's battle for three points remains to be seen. But Hazard's winner underlines how Chelsea possess one of the biggest talents in the Premier League and a player who decide any game with a moment of brilliance.
Although Klopp threw on Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah in the closing stages, an attempt to salvage the tie for Liverpool, Chelsea were able to hold on to claim a big victory.
2. Liverpool still have their same flaws
Liverpool have come a long way since they were dumped out of the Carabao Cup by Leicester City at the same stage last season. On that occasion, Jurgen Klopp rested his key players and discovered that the depth of his squad was a weakness that would stop Liverpool winning trophies.
Twelve months ago, the likes of Jon Flanagan, Ragnar Klavan, Marko Grujic and Dominic Solanke all started for Liverpool but only Solanke remains at Anfield and he is still to kick a ball this season. Against Chelsea, Klopp started without goalkeeper Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson, Salah and Firmino yet his team still fell short against Maurizio Sarri's side.
Liverpool simply have much more quality in reserve this season, with summer signing Fabinho making his first start of the season on Wednesday night, but they still have their flaws and could be exposed at left-back and up front if they suffer injuries to key personnel.
Alberto Moreno once again showed that he is not good enough defensively at left-back, so Klopp will have to hope that Andy Robertson remains fit and available. And although Daniel Sturridge scored a scissor-kick to break the deadlock for Liverpool, the former England forward missed an easier chance prior to his goal. Despite his ability, he's nowhere near sharp enough to fill in for Salah or Firmino on a long-term basis.
Even though two weak links is two too many, Liverpool's squad is in much better shape than a year ago.
3. Chelsea have a squad that's deep enough to compete
Chelsea will have their resources tested this season by the Europa League, but the performance of their fringe players at Anfield suggests that Sarri's team can combine an assault on both domestic and European competitions.
Like his counterpart Klopp, Sarri made eight changes to his team for this Carabao Cup tie but there were no weak links in the Chelsea line-up. Every player was a full international, with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Emerson and Ross Barkley handed opportunities to stake a claim for more Premier League action.
Alvaro Morata, who appears to have his confidence back this season under Sarri, also looked sharp, while Willian and Victor Moses gave their manager selection dilemmas for the weekend and ahead. Chelsea fought back from 1-0 down to win this tie and their Italian coach will have been heartened by the standard of his team's display and their ability to take the game to Liverpool at times.
If he has to shuffle his pack between Europa League and Premier League, Sarri has the quality to do so. And over the course of a full season, he might just have greater depth and experience to sustain a title challenge than Liverpool.