Red & waiting: Liverpool's next generation impress as Anfield old guard begin to bow out

Following stellar performances from Shelvey, Henderson and Carroll against Chelsea on Tuesday, the Reds can take heart despite the imminent departure of Rodriguez and Kuyt
By David Lynch

There was a moment of brief reflection following Liverpool's crushing 4-1 win over Chelsea on Tuesday night which did not exactly tally with the resounding nature of the win.

8.0 Set up Agger's goal with a clever header across goal and won the penalty as he was brought down by Ivanovic. Worked hard throughout and the only thing missing was a goal.

This was not borne out of the feeling amongst the Kop that had this performance come four days earlier the Reds would have added the FA Cup to their trophy cabinet this season though. It was in fact the departures from the Anfield turf - seemingly for the last time - of veteran attackers Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez which added a tangible hint of sadness to proceedings.

Reports have suggested that the pair will leave in search of first-team football this summer and, understandably, the club’s hierarchy are far from desperate to retain two wages which outweigh the players’ respective contributions this term. However, as they took the lap of honour, which is customary following the final game of the season, the loss of these two stalwarts hit home.

Kuyt's prominence in several fruitful Champions League runs under Rafael Benitez and admirable work-rate ensure he will remain in the hearts of those who witnessed the best years of his career on Merseyside. And, while Rodriguez's arrival on a free transfer perhaps best indicated the Hicks and Gillett inflicted decline that the club are still attempting to reverse, his goals this term during two impressive cup runs earned him cult hero status.

Yet, despite the reverence in which they are held, the melancholy of the duo's exit could have been far worse had it not been for the 90 minutes which preceded it.

This was a game filled with nothing but optimism, as three of the club’s youngest first-teamers, quite simply, put on a show against Champions League finalists. Jonjo Shelvey, Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson provided all the evidence that they can play a vital role in the club’s future and thus softened the blow of seeing Kuyt and Rodriguez exiting for the last time.


7.0 Played with energy throughout and scored after taking a gamble, bursting forward and slotting the ball calmly into the bottom corner.

Though the makeshift nature of the Chelsea line-up cannot be underestimated, this was a Blues side containing the likes of Fernando Torres, Ramires, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic. Roman Abramovich's millions have ensured that it is difficult for the west London outfit to field a second-string side that does not contain several internationals, and here they were given the run-around.

Carroll in particular was the dominant force of the three, carrying on his form from a goalscoring cameo in the FA Cup final by giving two experienced campaigners at the heart of the Blues’ defence a torrid time.

The 23-year-old was unplayable in the air and assured in his hold-up play - as he has been with increasing regularity in recent months. There were several aspects of his display which, as the opposition fans will know best, were reminiscent of a younger Didier Drogba and, though it may have taken 18 months, Liverpool fans are starting to see why the former Newcastle man could eventually be cheap at £35 million.

Unlike the Geordie forward, his midfield team-mates got the goals their performances deserved. Henderson's was a testament to his boundless energy, as he chased down Terry and then capitalised on his slip ruthlessly with a fine side-footed finish. Meanwhile, Shelvey was equally merciless in smashing Ross Turnbull's poor clearance home on the half volley, almost nonchalantly, from 35 yards.


7.5 Scored Liverpool's fourth with a finish that was far more difficult than he made it look as he smashed the ball in from 30 yards following Turnbull's poor clearance. Took up good positions defensively and never afraid to receive the ball as he played neat, accurate passes.

Both goals displayed the technique and confidence that the duo possess, something which they exhibited on several occasions over the 90 minutes as a central midfield containing Ramires, Essien and Romeu was made to look second best.

Of course, there is no hiding from the poor league form which made this performance the exception rather than the rule at Anfield this season. Even here the Reds were guilty of conceding chances and failing to put several of their own away, habits which can prove costly when the stakes are higher.

Yet, alongside lifting the League Cup, there are undeniably some positives amongst the wreckage of this campaign which were on show on Tuesday night. Carroll is 23, Henderson 22 and Shelvey just 20, and what more they can bring in the future was clear for all to see as Liverpool exorcised the ghost of their FA Cup final heartbreak.

Coaxing consistency from that is Kenny Dalglish's biggest task now, but the right buys this summer can certainly alleviate that pressure and provide a catalyst for improvement. Calls for an entire overhaul on Merseyside this summer were premature it seems, the foundations of something positive are there but, as of yet, they are still just groundwork for something grander.

The rise of midfielder Lucas Leiva from much-maligned scapegoat to this season's most missed player says much about what several players must to do build upon that now. Yet, if patience with this trio of young hopefuls brings similar results, then it may be hard to look upon a season which has tested their resolve to the maximum as a bad one.

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