Chelsea FC put on a solid display against a Liverpool FC side which simply did not have enough fuel to salvage points off this clash.
After a win against a limping Liverpool, Chelsea now have ascended the table and are sitting in the third position, four points ahead of Liverpool. The Blues, who had managed to get the three points from their last clash against Micheal Laudrup’s Swansea, perhaps not in the most dominating fashion, put on a solid display against Liverpool and didn’t look threatened once. Mourinho’s side comfortably dominated over Rodgers’ and were never on the back-foot. Chelsea’s Portuguese coach was able to maintain his invincibility at home.
Practical Liverpool fans knew that getting six points off a possible 12 in the festive clashes would remain a target. However, a fantastic performance by the Reds against a hapless Tottenham side tampered with a lot of expectations. Liverpool were suddenly expected to beat every team. And Luis Suarez was expected to score at least a brace in every match. In a matter of five days, Liverpool have dropped from the number one spot to the number fifth spot, a point behind Merseyside rivals Everton. However, the club can take solace from the fact that they faced two of the toughest squad without their full squad and didn’t lose embarrassingly.
Mourinho did not have the services of Ramires, who was suspended after receiving a yellow against Swansea. The Portuguese took a gamble to play David Luiz in the midfield and it worked well as the Brazilian made sure in-form Jordan Henderson did not pressurize the side. Chelsea, who have been tinkering with their attacking midfield options had Willian, Hazard and Oscar behind Samuel Eto’o. Lampard and David Luiz were employed behind the trio of attacking midfielders, with Luiz in a defensive role and Lampard in a deep lying playmaker role.
Chelsea were behind in the third minute when Martin Skrtel gave Liverpool the lead. The remarkable thing is that even though Chelsea were behind so early, they never looked as if they were threatened by the scoreline. The Blues were always confident of getting the three points in this game and it showed. Lampard proved why he is still an attacking menace as a trademark shot of his was met with a Mignolet save in the twelfth minute. The chemistry between Willian, Oscar and Hazard was exceptional and it proved to be a case in the entirety of the match. The three gelled very well together and found each other repeatedly. All three of them had an outstanding game and Hazard scored brilliantly in the seventeenth minute. Samuel Eto’o, who was chosen ahead of ex-Red Fernando Torres, scored what proved to be the winning goal in the 34th minute. The goal was a striker’s goal and would have definitely given him more confidence.
Through the course of the match, Chelsea’s attack looked comfortable and was helped by Liverpool faltering even in defence more often than needed. The Chelsea defence on the other hand was solid. The back four employed were Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill, Joh Terry and Ashley Cole (Branislav Ivanovic limping off after 29 minutes) for most part of the match and were solid in dealing with any, if any, attacking threat the Liverpool players tried to create. Gary Cahill made an outstanding, and well timed tackle on Joe Allen which saved what could have been a point sharing goal. The Chelsea defence was comfortable throughout the match.
There was a case of John Terry tugging on to Suarez’s shirt in an unwanted fashion, but Liverpool can not argue much against it, with their own Martin Skrtel getting away with such incidents time and time again. Several times, Cahill made off-the-ball challenges on Suarez, and eventually he was booked, for one of his crunching tackles. The Blues defenders have to be credited for shutting Suarez through the course of the match. There was nothing the Uruguayan could do for his side.
The Reds only made one change in their starting lineup with vice-captain Daniel Agger replacing Aly Cissokho at left-back. The rest of the side was unchanged from Liverpool’s somewhat sour 2-1 loss at Eithad against Manchester City.
Liverpool started brightly when the club earned a free kick after Eto’o’s reckless challenge on Jordan Henderson. Brendan Rodgers, television pundits all thought Eto’o deserved a red, or at least a yellow, for such a challenge. However, Webb gave Liverpool only a free kick. Coutinho delivered from the set piece, Suarez proved to be too strong for Ivanovic and Skrtel tapped the ball inside the net and Liverpool were a goal up in the third minute.
The Chelsea defence dealt ruthlessly with Suarez, they made sure the talismanic Uruguayan does not get much of the ball, and does not weave his magic at the Bridge. There were two or three moments when Liverpool came close to scoring from open play, but unfortunately, these moments remained moments and were not transformed into even some minutes of Liverpool dominating the game.
Young Brad Smith replaced Joe Allen near the hour mark. Smith plays as a left back and with his arrival, Daniel Agger started playing a little up front. But the fact that a young academy player makes his debut in unwanted circumstances speaks volumes of Liverpool’s squad strength, which at present, is 16. The substitution was baffling as Rodgers could have brought on 7 million summer signing Luis Alberto, but instead chose a defensive rookie.
There were incidents where Liverpool might feel like they could have got a penalty. The Terry incident is already been mentioned. There was another one where Samuel Eto’o clearly fouled Suarez inside the box and it looked like a penalty by all means, but that too went against the Reds.
However, Liverpool’s midfield looked jaded from the word go, the attack was pretty non-existent through the course of the match, and the defence was stumbling. Two tough back to back away fixtures was just too tough for Liverpool. What’s worse is that Sakho picked up an injury for which he may be out for two months. Henderson and Allen too picked up injuries, and while Allen’s looked more serious, Henderson remains a doubt for Liverpool’s next clash.
Liverpool simply didn’t play their hearts out. In the City game, despite the Reds lost, one could see how hard they tried, and how much they deserved the points. Against Chelsea, even with some decisions going against them, Liverpool did not deserve anything from the game. Philippe Coutinho’s finishing seriously needs to be worked on, Mignolet could have saved the second goal by holding on to the ball and Suarez needs assistance, even if he can sometimes make goals out of nothing. Chelsea need to be praised for silencing Jordan Henderson, as much as Luis Suarez, throughout the match, as they removed a lot of attacking menace with that.
While Rodgers commented that Webb had a good day, most football watchers would suggest otherwise. There were four, if not more incidents that just should not have escaped his eye.
The reckless tackle on Henderson was a definite yellow for Eto’o, if the referee was being generous given it was very early in the match. Rodgers rightly pointed this out. Mourinho did not say anything as he was not sure what was being referred to. However, he did point out that Eto’o needs to adapt to the Premier League and has still not done that.
The second incident was that of Lucas tackling Hazard in the penalty box. The Liverpool defensive midfielder made no contact with the ball, and should have punished for it. This was a definite penalty. Mourinho said that that should have been a “double penalty” and that Hazard is being fouled in every game but nothing is happening in his favor.
The third incident was Eto’o fouling Suarez in the box and going unpunished for it. Again, it was a reckless thing for Eto’o to do given that Azpilicueta had control the situation. The Cameroonian should not have made that challenge. Suarez went to the ground in what maybe called an exaggerated fashion, but that didn’t make that challenge legitimate from any angle. Liverpool and Suarez both had a valid case there. Rodgers, not wanting more heat from the FA, was diplomatic when he said that that may have been a penalty but Webb had a good view, and hence Liverpool would go along with that. Mourinho called for Suarez to be booked for his “acrobatic swimming pool jump”. He felt that Suarez dove to get a penalty and while he respects the Liverpool player’s desire to win and do well for his team, Mourinho feels that sometimes the 26 year old tries a little too much. Probably everyone can agree on this being a clear penalty for Liverpool.
The fourth incident was minutes before the final whistle. Oscar and Lucas, get involved in an ugly scene. Both Brazilians try to reach the ball, with Lucas emerging first and passing it to a teammate. However, in a mix up of feet, Oscar is on the ground and makes a high two footed challenge on Lucas. It was, what is called a “scissored challenge” and should have been a clear red for the Chelsea man. However, Lucas was lucky too for emerging without a booking in the incident as he raised his hand on Oscar after his two footed challenge.
There were more things that Webb didn’t get right. But these are the four incidents which caught everyone’s eye. Overall, Howard Webb had a poor outing, and Chelsea were lucky to not suffer because of some of the reckless things they did in the match. But Liverpool too, maybe less, were saved because of Webb’s poor day.
In conclusion, Chelsea had a solid, if not spectacular day and Liverpool have run out of fuel. Fans who are suggesting that Liverpool was robbed of at least a draw have got it wrong. Liverpool put in a bad, lackluster footballing display and were rightfully not awarded with anything. Liverpool badly need reinforcements in the winter and for their star players to quickly recover from injuries, if they want to be in the Champions League next season.