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Chelsea’s cup hopes alive despite Raheem Sterling magic

Chelsea, odds-on 2/3 to win the League Cup, were held to 1-1 draw in their Capital One Cup first leg clash with Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool after a superb solo effort from Raheem Sterling, leaving the tie perfectly balanced ahead of the Stamford Bridge battle.

Belgian Eden Hazard opened the scoring in the first half thanks to his fourth successfully converted penalty of the campaign, but a sensational searing burst forward followed by great composure from Sterling rewarded Liverpool’s recent improvements.

Rodgers’ rejuvenated Reds were unable to secure a rare victory over the League Cup favourites, as Jose Mourinho continued his dominant record over the Anfield outfit.

The Portuguese manager is now unbeaten in four games against his Northern Irish counterpart, with Chelsea having lost just once in their last eight meetings with the Reds in all competitions.

Mourinho’s men will hold a slight advantage going into Tuesday’s second leg at Stamford Bridge but have Thibaut Courtois to thank, after the brilliant Belgian made a series of super saves to deny Liverpool who pressed hard for a winning goal in the later stages.

Classy Courtois kept his under-siege side in the cup tie, with the Reds having 20 attempts on goal compared to Chelsea’s two. Skipper Steven Gerrard returned to the Reds starting line-up, after missing his side’s win at Aston Villa, and the former England captain came close to further Kop heroics after striking the post late in the clash.

Despite the result, Liverpool’s performance proved that Rodgers is helping to bring Liverpool back from the verge of Premier League mid-table mediocrity and now pushing for silverware, having now gone nine games unbeaten in all competitions.

Although Rodgers faces a tough task of toppling their opponents in the second leg, having not defeated Chelsea in London since November 2011, when Daniel Sturridge scored for the Blues.

Elsewhere, Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham secured a narrow advantage for their upcoming second leg against Sheffield United, after Andros Townsend’s late penalty gave Spurs a 1-0 victory at White Hart Lane.

The Blades currently play two divisions below the other three teams left in the competition, but Nigel Clough’s men showed some grit to keep a cup final appearance at Wembley still within their grasp.

Clough’s courageous side are seventh in the third tier of English football and have never played in a League Cup final, but they will take faith from previous cup coups, having beaten top-flight teams West Ham United and Southampton in this season’s rampant run.

Spurs have not won a trophy in the last six seasons but have a great chance to overturn that poor record next week by reaching a Wembley showdown with either Chelsea or Liverpool. Pochettino’s men are 9/4 to lift the Capital One Cup this term.