Liverpool were impressive during their first leg display of the League Cup semi-final against Chelsea. They may not have got what they wished for, but here is what we may have learned about the Reds during their display.
Liverpool fans left Anfield encouraged by what they saw during the 1-1 draw with Chelsea in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final.
Though it may not have been the result those in Red wanted there was certainly cause for encouragement as the tie is left finely balanced going into next week's return leg at Stamford Bridge. Steven Gerrard and Adam Lallana both made returns from injury as the Reds bounced back from going behind to an early Eden Hazard penalty, with Raheem Sterling scoring a tremendous equaliser.
Here are five things we learned in what was arguably Liverpool's biggest game of the season:
1. The decision to give Sterling a mid-season break has been vindicated
Raheem Sterling didn't get into the game much last night, but when he did he made some impact with his wonderful solo goal. The 20-year-old look energised and back in a groove from then on, as he gave the otherwise composed Gary Cahill an awful lot to think about. He looked as if he could go for another 90 minutes at the end of the game.
2. The biggest sign of Liverpool returning to their best
There has been a lot said during this run about how Brendan Rodgers is getting Liverpool back towards their best. This was the first time they had played a top side. They went toe-to-toe with them and where it not for a string of fine saves from Thibaut Courtois, the Reds would be taking a lead to Stamford Bridge in the second leg.
3. We're finally seeing what Rodgers means by 'character'
Rodgers has often used the term character and there have been times this season I have questioned if he really knew what it means. Simply, in the first half of the season, Liverpool would not have produced a stirring second half fightback like they did last night. The difference between earlier on in the season when they had their mental state questioned by ex-defender Jamie Carragher, and last night was like night and day. There was a determination, heart, and willingness just to get back into the game.
4. A big decision to make in the second leg
It will be interesting to see whether Gerrard or Lallana will get the nod for the second game at Stamford Bridge. The Reds' skipper looked - at times - very good in the final third. His long range effort that was stopped by Courtois, plus striking the post showed the threat he has. But Lallana looked lively when he was introduced into the action, and Liverpool's interplay seemed to get sharper in the final third. If Liverpool want to start the game quickly at Stamford Bridge next week, Lallana may get the nod, and Gerrard could be used for the bench.
5. Rodgers isn't prepared to tinker with other areas just to accommodate Gerrard
The only substitution in last night's game for the home side was Lallana taking the place of Gerrard. In weeks gone by, the temptation would have been to replace Lazar Markovic on the right flank and move Henderson into a wider role. This time, not so. The Reds were working as a unit, and there was no sense of upsetting the balance of the side to accommodate Gerrard. Prior to his announcement that he'd be leaving the club to move to LA Galaxy, I would have offered short odds that the Liverpool skipper would have played the full 90 minutes.