When the draw was made for the semi-finals of the League Cup this week, there was one tie that might have looked rather familiar in the eyes of Jose Mourinho.
Liverpool v Chelsea for a place in the League Cup final represents a fixture that dominated Mourinho’s first spell in charge of Chelsea, with the two sides facing each other five times in each of Mourinho’s three seasons in charge of Chelsea, with a further nine meetings in the following two seasons following Mourinho’s departure. While most of those meetings came in the Champions League, the first significant meeting, which came almost ten years ago now, was in the 2005 League Cup final, which provided Mourinho with his first trophy at Chelsea. The Blues boss is now looking to make the League Cup the first trophy of his second Chelsea stint.
That day though, it very nearly didn’t happen for Chelsea, as John Arne Riise gave Liverpool the lead inside the first minute, with a thunderous volley that almost broke the net. It stayed 1-0 for the vast majority of the game, with Petr Cech, who was still in his debut Chelsea season, credited with making a string of saves that kept his side in the game.
Then, after 79 minutes, the game swung. A seemingly harmless Chelsea free-kick that was heading for nowhere found its way into the Liverpool net from a wayward Steven Gerrard header. Gerrard, of course, had almost signed for Chelsea the previous summer, which only added to the drama. Mourinho was then sent to the stands for a ‘ssshh’ gesture directed at the Liverpool fans, although he would later claim it was directed at the press box. Extra-time beckoned and goals from Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman sealed the win for Chelsea, with Antonio Nunez heading in a consolation for Liverpool to make it a tense finale.
The real drama came as the two teams were paired in the semi-finals of the Champions League, guaranteeing an English team a place in the final of Europe’s top competition for only the second time in 20 years (and the start of a regular occurrence that would see English teams dominate the Champions League for the best part of a decade). It was also the start of Mourinho and Rafael Benitez’s fractured relationship, which saw the two become bitter rivals.
Chelsea had got the better of Liverpool once already that season, but this time it was Liverpool who got one over on the Blues. The first leg finished goalless, but the real drama came in the second, thanks to Luis Garcia, whose goal-bound effort was shown to have failed to cross the line by TV replays. Nonetheless, the goal was given and Liverpool progressed to the final (and we all remember what happened there).
The following season followed a similar theme, with Chelsea getting the better of Liverpool in the league and with the two once again getting drawn against each other in the Champions League, only this time in the group stages. By a technicality Liverpool were allowed into the competition as holders, having failed to qualify by finishing in the top four in the Premier League the previous season, which meant they had no ‘country protection’, allowing them to play Chelsea in the group stages.
Both games finished 0-0, with Liverpool winning the group by a single point. They faced each other again in the FA cup that season, with Chelsea chasing a rare double and Liverpool chasing their only real chance of silverware that season. Chelsea’s regular nemesis Riise gave the reds the lead with a free-kick and Luis Garcia doubled the lead at the start of the second-half. With Drogba pulling one back for Chelsea, it set up a tense finale which saw Joe Cole agonizingly miss a sitter in stoppage time that would have forced extra time. Neither manager shook hands at the final whistle, making all the more obvious their hatred of each other.
The following season, Riise was again on hand to send Liverpool on their way to a 2-1 charity shield win over the Blues, having gone on to win the FA Cup the season before), while in the league the two sides traded home wins apiece, before the customary Champions League meeting, again the the semi-finals. Joe Cole handed Chelsea a 1-0 first leg lead, but Daniel Agger’s early second leg goal cancelled that out. The tie went to penalties and ended in heartache for Mourinho and Chelsea once again, as Liverpool went on to yet another final.
Mourinho, of course, departed Chelsea at the beginning of the following season, but the meetings between the two sides continued for the next two years, with Chelsea eventually getting their Champions League revenge.
This time round the man in charge of Liverpool is not Benitez, but Brendan Rodgers, someone that Mourinho calls a ‘friend’, having worked with him at Chelsea’s youth academy during Jose’s first spell. The spice that was there the first time round will have diminished somewhat, and the fact that Liverpool are having such a poor season and aren’t therefore considered to be a ‘rival’ team for the Blues, will certainly dampen any remaining animosity, but who knows – perhaps the upcoming League Cup meeting (which is a huge tie for Liverpool, given their form this season) will ignite the old rivalry once again.
With next year being ten years since the start of Chelsea’s (and Mourinho’s) dominance of English football, and with Mourinho hoping to claim the first piece of silverware of his second Chelsea reign, maybe the clocks will turn back. Liverpool vs Chelsea part two? We will see..