Chelsea 1 Liverpool 0: Five things we learnt from Capital One Cup victory for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

Fabregas is no Mikel; nasty Costa; Lucas crucial for Reds

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The Independent Football

Fabregas filling in for Mikel is far from ideal

Cesc Fabregas is obviously a very good player but this was one of those games that suggested Jose Mourinho does not always know the best way to use him. He was trusted to play alongside Nemanja Matic in the 4-2-3-1 which is Mourinho’s default setting at home.

The problem, though, is that Fabregas does not do enough defensive work his justify the place in that system. In the first half he gifted too much space to Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho and Steven Gerrard, with Liverpool finding it too easy to break through the middle.

Mourinho has solved this problem at times this season by pairing Jon Obi Mikel with Matic in the middle, and moving Fabregas further forward. But with Mikel so poor against Bradford on Saturday he was reluctant to do that again, and conceded space as a result. For a permanent solution, he must upgrade on Mikel.

Costa’s nasty reputation is fully justified

Jose Mourinho likes to portray Diego Costa as an unfair victim of his reputation. At his press conference last week Mourinho said that Costa “gets yellow cards he does not deserve, and at other times deserved yellow cards, but as a consequence of aggressive, emotional situations”. Last night, though, Costa was fortunate to remain unpunished from two tangles with the opposition. In the first half, in front of the dug-outs, he stood on Emre Can. As close as it was to the fourth Nothing was given. That led to a bout of handbags, as did a similar situation involving Costa’s studs and Martin Skrtel’s ankle.

Costa stayed on the pitch throughout, and there is something effective about his nastiness. But the idea that his reputation is drawing unwarranted cards his way did not look right last night.

Amid the frenzy, No 10s showed their class

This was a frenetic, physical, intense game, played on the edge of legality by players from both sides. Amid all that, it was impressive to see the two No 10s, Eden Hazard and Philippe Coutinho, playing as bravely as they did. Both players took responsibility throughout, demanding the ball, riding the tackles and trying to win the game single-handedly for their sides. Hazard was electric in the second half, but Coutinho was even better, skipping and wriggling away from opponents at will.

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Philippe Coutinho was superb

Lucas’s importance has been restored at Anfield

Chelsea have blown teams away this season with their power through the middle but yesterday evening Liverpool held them at bay, thanks to the reliable presence of Lucas Leiva in the middle. Lucas might have looked like he was on the way out of Anfield in the summer, but his return to the team has been as important as anyone. His block on Willian was crucial just five minutes in, and he never let either him nor their compatriot Oscar have the time on the ball needed to influence the game.

Ivanovic’s experience shows new generation the way

It was an important night for Chelsea’s development, the first final reached by this new generation of players signed in the aftermath of the 2012 Champions League win. But the decisive goal was delivered by a man who has seen it all before. Branislav Ivanovic is no stranger to crucial big-night goals like this one, a powerful header from a set piece. That was the goal that sent Chelsea towards their first major final since Mourinho’s return, since the 2013 Europa League final which Ivanovic himself settled in the final minute. He has shown the new generation the way.

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