BY PAUL LAGAN
Billy Gilmour may not have scored in the sensational 2-0 defeat of Premier League leaders Liverpool in the FA Cup 5th round at the Bridge tonight, but he was certainly the star of the enthralling encounter.
The Scotland youngster, still only 18, marshalled the midfield like a veteran, putting the likes of Adam Lallana in the shade, bossing senior players and generally making a nuisance of himself while ensuring the west Londoners are in the hat tomorrow night for the next round.
Goals from Willian and a special solo effort by Ross Barkley gave Frank Lampard’s men a much needed confidence boost after their Champions League humbling last week to Bayern Munich and a luckless 2-2 draw at AFC Bournemouth the weekend.
Gilmour who was recruited to the club’s academy from Rangers has only just moved from the youth team’s dressing room to be with the big boys – he doesn’t look out of place.
But there were casualties as Willian and Mateo Kovacic limed off with injures and are a doubt for Sunday;s vital league encounter with Everton.
Twice in the opening minutes the centre-back pairing of Kurt Zouma and Antonio Rudiger gifted possession to Liverpool attackers, on the second occasion, on three minutes, Kepa was forced to make a smart save from Sadio Mane.
Neco Williams produced a fine interception on the six yard box to clear a Pedro shot after Ross Barkley bisected they Chelsea rearguard. From the resultant corner Marcos Alonso was unluckily to see his glancing header inch wide of Adrian’s far post.
A dipping 35-yard blaster by Barkley on 12 minutes stung the fingers of Adrian, but the goalkeeper managed to snaffle the ball on the second occasion. Adrian was on the spot to thwart Willian who produced a thumper from just inside the Liverpool penalty area. But seconds later after Fabinho lost possession on the edge of the area, Willian tried a speculative effort but the goalkeeper somehow lost the flight of the ball and let it ping off his body and in to the back of the net for the opener to the Londoners.
Kepa up at the other end, then produced a triple save to preserve the slender lead.
Kepa was at it again on 30 minutes parrying away a Mane drive as the visitors ratcheted up the pace in this enthralling see-sawing encounter.
Mateo Kovacic’s night ended with four minutes left on the clock in the first half, Mason Mount replaced the limping midfielder.
There were no changes by either side at half-time, but Willian hobbled off with and injury on 52 minutes, Jorginho replaced him.
Mason ‘punt smashed the crossbar with a cute free-kick on 62 minutes.
But two minutes later the Blues doubled their lead when Barkley raced from 10 yards inside his own half to the edge of the Liverpool penalty area and thumped a venomous right-footer past Adrian .
Pedro should have killed the game off when he raced clear but the Spain wide man shot straight at the goalkeeper, then on 73 minutes, Olivier Giroud got clear from Virgil Van Dijk but Adrian got a touch to the ball, clipping it onto the crossbar where it was then cleared.
Liverpool tried their best to get a foothold in the game, but Chelsea were too clever, too fast and showed enough confidence not to b e intimidated any more.
Teams: Chelsea, Kepa, Rudiger, Alonso, Barkley, Willian, Pedro, Zouma, Kovacic, Giroud, Azpilicueta, Gilmour
Subs: Caballero, Jorginho, Mount, Batshuayi, James, Tomori, Anjorin
Liverpool: Adrian , fa bingo, Van Dijk, mane, Gomez, Minamino, Lallana, Robertson, Origi, Jones, Williams
Subs: Lonergran, Milner, Firmino, Sarah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Matic, Chirivella
Referee: Chris Kavanagh