Liverpool piled more pressure on Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas with a 2-0 victory over the spluttering Blues in the League Cup quarter-finals at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
Villas-Boas has found his position under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks following a poor run that included three defeats in four Premier League matches and Liverpool’s second win against Chelsea in the last nine days will inevitably bring renewed speculation about the young Portuguese coach’s future.
“I thought Liverpool were superior all the way through. They had a strong desire to kill the game off and we couldn’t match it,” Villas-Boas said. “We have to be critical of ourselves and shouldn’t accept this result.”
Elsewhere, Manchester City moved into the semi-finals with a 1-0 win over Arsenal as Sergio Aguero hit a late winner for the Premier League leaders.
“It was a difficult win and Arsenal played very well,” City manager Roberto Mancini said. “It was a great goal and counterattack is the perfect goal.”
“It’s important we won and we want to try and go to the final,” Mancini said.
Chelsea had an early penalty appeal turned down when Sebastian Coates appeared to foul David Luiz, but referee Phil Dowd did point to the spot in the 20th minute when Blues defender Alex handled a Jose Enrique cross.
However, Andy Carroll’s troubled spell with Liverpool took a turn for the worse as his penalty was saved by Ross Turnbull.
Florent Malouda went close for Chelsea when his second half effort hit the bar, but Liverpool took the lead through Maxi Rodriguez in the 58th minute.
Rodriguez also scored in Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League nine days ago and the Argentine midfielder couldn’t miss this time after Craig Bellamy set him up for a simple tap-in.
Chelsea striker Fernando Torres drew a blank against his old club and it was Liverpool who scored again through Martin Kelly, the young defender heading in his first senior goal from Bellamy’s free-kick in the 63rd minute.
At the Emirates Stadium, Mancini made 10 changes after bemoaning the fixture schedule, but it was hardly an under-strength team because it included the likes of former Arsenal stars Samir Nasri and Kolo Toure, as well as Edin Dzeko and Owen Hargreaves.
Inevitably, Nasri was jeered on his first return to the Emirates since his acrimonious move to City in August, but he had the last laugh as City went through.
City’s understudies dominated possession and they looked even more formidable when Mancini sent on Argentine forward Aguero before halftime.
It was Aguero who got the decisive goal in the 83rd minute as his excellent strike completed a sweeping move involving Dzeko and Adam Johnson.
Championship side Cardiff enjoyed a 2-0 win over struggling Blackburn that left under-fire Rovers boss Steve Kean facing a fight to avoid being fired.
With Rovers sitting bottom of the Premier League with just one win this season and Blackburn fans calling for his dismissal, Kean could ill afford an embarrassing exit at the Cardiff City Stadium even though the club’s Indian owners have remained publicly supportive.
So Kean must have been shifting uncomfortably in his seat when Scotland striker Kenny Miller put Cardiff ahead in the 19th minute with a cool finish after Morten Gamst Pedersen squandered possession in midfield.