London: Distraught by the death of a former international teammate, Craig Bellamy was too upset to play for Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday. Two days later, however, the Wales striker was back in action and inspiring the team to a 2-0 victory over Chelsea in the League Cup quarter-finals - the first part of a northwest double over London sides in England's second-ranked club competition on Tuesday. Liverpool went through to the semi-finals thanks to goals from Maxi Rodriguez and Martin Kelly at Stamford Bridge.
In the other all-Premier League match-up, Argentina striker Sergio Aguero came off the bench to score an 83rd-minute winner in Manchester City's 1-0 victory over Arsenal at Emirates Stadium. Second-tier Cardiff beat Blackburn 2-0 in the other Carling Cup quarter-final.
All three matches were preceded by a minute's applause in honor of Wales manager Gary Speed, who was found by his wife hanged at his home early on Sunday morning.
Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish had hinted before the game that fans would be wasting their time turning up, and made seven changes from the draw with Manchester City, with Andy Carroll replacing Luis Suarez up front.
Andre Villas-Boas also made significant changes to his team, nine in total. Fernando Torres started against his former club alongside Romelu Lukaku, with only David Luiz was retained from the defensive unit that had shut out Wolves on Saturday.
Bellamy, who played alongside Speed in the national team, was particularly distressed by the news and was omitted from the Liverpool team that drew 1-1 against City hours later.
Bellamy made his return against Chelsea, holding back the tears prior to kick-off before going on to play an instrumental role in Liverpool's dismantling of the hosts, who slipped to a fifth defeat in their last nine matches in all competitions to pile the pressure on manager Villas-Boas.
Bellamy set up Maxi Rodriguez for the opening goal in the 58th minute and whipped in a superb free kick five minutes later that was nodded in by Martin Kelly.
"Speedo was regarded as his mentor," Liverpool manager Dalglish said of Bellamy. "To come back and play like that speaks volumes."
Chelsea were unfortunate to lose 2-1 to Liverpool in the league on November 20 but were outclassed 10 days later, even though Liverpool were playing just 48 hours after a grueling match against City.
"It's a pity for us," Villas-Boas said. "We had a good chance to progress at home but Liverpool were far superior."
Chelsea dominated the early possession as they looked to build pressure on the Reds' defence and threatened as early as the third minute. David Luiz set off on a typically buccaneering run which took him into the Liverpool penalty area, Sebastian Coates stuck out a leg to challenge Luiz and brought the Brazilian down without taking the ball, but referee Phil Dowd booked the Chelsea man for simulation as he seemed to already be on his way to the ground before contact was made.
Liverpool were looking to utilise Carroll's height through long balls and crosses and the former Newcastle man had a chance to give the Reds the lead but snatched an effort wide after Chelsea failed to clear Johan Henderson's corner.
Carroll wasted a glorious chance to put Liverpool ahead, blasting a 22nd-minute penalty straight at Chelsea goalkeeper Ross Turnbull after Alex was penalized for handling the ball in his own box. Phil Dowd's decision was not immediate but was ultimately correct. Liverpool have now missed three out of four penalties this season.
The game then settled again to a familiar pattern of Chelsea methodically looking to play through Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish's men using a higher tempo to counter-attack, Martin Kelly and Jose Enrique were pushing forward well from full-back and the Spaniard's cross shot was inches from finding Carroll.
Josh McEachran had looked tidy on the ball through the first period but was substituted after forty minutes due to an injury.
Chelsea ended the half well, Lukaku glanced a header wide following a good run and cross from Jose Bosingwa, but neither side had been able to strike a decisive blow and the teams went in at half-time with the game scoreless.
Chelsea then came closest to breaking the deadlock, Coates picked up a booking after checking Torres' run and from Frank Lampard's free-kick Malouda touched the ball onto the crossbar and Luiz's follow-up header was nudged away on the goal-line for a corner.
Rodriguez made no mistake from close range just before the hour, though, tapping home at the far post after running onto an inch-perfect cross by Bellamy, who had broken the offside trap on the right wing. It was Rodriguez's second goal at Stamford Bridge in nine days.
England under-21 defender Kelly then wrapped up a deserved win for the Reds, the record seven-time winners of the competition.
Chelsea instantly responded, sending Juan Mata and Nicolas Anelka on for Florent Malouda and Lukaku. Meanwhile, Liverpool brought on Dirk Kuyt for Bellamy with ten minutes of normal time remaining, the Welshman being given a well-earned standing ovation after a dynamic performance with another vocal tribute to Gary Speed being paid on Bellamy's withdrawal.
Carroll's clumsy challenge gave Alex an opportunity with a 30-yard free-kick, but his effort was skewed badly wide as time looked to be running out for Chelsea.
And indeed the Blues failed to create a meaningful effort on goal as Kenny Dalglish extended his unbeaten run against Chelsea as Liverpool manager.
"I don't know if we took Chelsea apart but we were delighted with the way we played," Dalglish said. "We've had a good day and we deserved to go through."
Chelsea's defeat - their third in a 10-day span in three different competitions - will be another tough pill to swallow for Villas-Boas, who had to deal with chants from Liverpool's vocal fans of "You're getting sacked in the morning" in the second half.
With the Blues 10 points off the lead in the Premier League and facing possible elimination from the Champions League, their best chance of silverware may have been the League Cup.
They were poor throughout, with their midfield totally dominated and striker Torres - a 50 million Pounds signing from Liverpool in January - anonymous.
"We need to get our fans behind us and get the emotions right. You can feel Stamford Bridge has become anxious," Villas-Boas said. "We need atmosphere to get us past this period."
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