Liverpool lost their second game in a row for the first time this season, after slumping to a 2-0 FA Cup fifth-round defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
In an end-to-end contest, Chelsea struck first, Willian's long-range shot forcing a mistake from Adrian, who spilled the ball into his own net. The away side had opportunities to get back into the game, with Sadio Mane missing a handful of decent chances, but it was the Londoners who pounced on the counterattack, with former Everton man Ross Barkley netting a superb individual goal early in the second half.
Jurgen Klopp introduced Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah in the closing stages, but neither could rescue the European champions, who have still yet to taste domestic cup success under during the German's spell at the club.
On a frustrating evening for many of the side's stars, it was once again the younger players who impressed in cup competition -- and not for the first time this season. Neco Williams, in the biggest test of his young career to date, held his own up against a dangerous Chelsea attack, with a series of important defensive contributions. Takumi Minamino also showed glimpses of his true ability, after some fine link-up play with Mane almost yielding a goal. Despite being outplayed for large spells, Liverpool always looked menacing whenever they did manage to launch attacks.
Perhaps understandably so, given the amount of football they have played this season, but the travelling side looked uncharacteristically flat on this night. Chelsea never let the opposition settle on the ball, which was most evident for the game's opening goal. Fabinho was the biggest victim of Chelsea's early pressing, after failing to cope under pressure in his own half. Additionally, Adrian's role in Willian's opener will do little to instill confidence, should first-choice stopper Alisson be struck down by injury again this season.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- With many first-team players in need of a rest, a degree of rotation was inevitable from the manager. He chose to play Curtis Jones and Adam Lallana in central positions, a move that appeared to backfire, with Liverpool lacking energy and drive in midfield at times. In the second half, the inclusion of Firmino and Salah had a notable effect, although Klopp's side were already 2-0 down when the substitutions were made.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Adrian, 5 -- A strange evening for the Liverpool stand-in, who in the first half pulled off a world-class save, only to concede from a comically bad error just moments later. He never truly recovered from the early clanger.
DF Neco Williams, 6 -- The youngster's most difficult game to date, by some distance. With that being said, he did still manage to contribute with a number of fine crosses and crucial interceptions.
DF Joe Gomez, 5 -- Was out-muscled all too often by Olivier Giroud, while his inability to cut out Chelsea's long diagonal balls also become an issue as the game wore on. An evening to forget for the London-born defender.
DF Virgil van Dijk, 6 -- The captain was heavily involved throughout, managing to prevent a number of certain goals with vital last-ditch interceptions. Had it not been for the Dutchman, Liverpool would have gone into half-time in a much worse position.
DF Andrew Robertson, 6 -- Struggled to get into the game for large spells, with his regular left-sided partner Mane playing on the opposite flank. He put in a handful of trademark crosses throughout the tie, to little avail.
MF Fabinho, 5 -- Committed the cardinal sin of giving the ball away on the edge of his own box -- a mistake that Willian duly punished. Despite some intricate final-third passing, the holding midfielder looked off the pace when defending his own goal.
MF Adam Lallana, 6 -- Worked hard defensively, while also making intelligent runs when Liverpool looked to attack. He did struggle with the pace of the game at times, though, especially in the more frenetic moments.
MF Curtis Jones, 7 -- Grew in confidence as the game wore on, managing to find space from deeper positions in the second period. The 19-year-old has excellent positional awareness, and used this to good effect to evade the Chelsea press.
FW Divock Origi, 6 -- Was skillful and evasive on the wing, but at times flattered to deceive when in the final third. Needs to improve his end product to become a regular fixture in Klopp's side.
FW Sadio Mane, 7 -- Always looked the most likely to score, as the most potent attacking Liverpool threat. However, it never quite happened for the African Player of the Year, who squandered a number of big opportunities.
FW Takumi Minamino, 6 -- After a slow start to his Liverpool career, the former FC Salzburg man showed some promise, linking up well with teammates, while also exhibiting some tidy pieces of skill in spells. All that is missing now is end product, something that will surely come with playing time.
FW Roberto Firmino, 6 -- Headed wide from a corner late on, but could do little to turn the tide of the game.
MF James Milner, 5 -- Looked rusty in his first game back from a long-term injury layoff.
FW Mohamed Salah, N/R -- Played out the final 10 minutes but was unable to turn the game around.