By Jonathan Carroll
It was a game that Liverpool needed only a point from. A game that Chelsea really needed to win in order to stay in the title race. Brendan Rodgers didn’t back in down in trying to go straight at Chelsea from the off and take the game by the scruff of the neck. His Liverpool side did face two resilient lines of four as Chelsea camped out twenty yards from goal. Demba Ba and Willian capitalized on two Liverpool mistakes to hand the title initiative back to Manchester City.
It was a so called “weakened” Chelsea team that Jose Mourinho put out at Anfield, but it was far from weak in terms of experience and ability. The time wasting and slow tempo started right from the off. It was going to be a long day for Liverpool. As the game wore on the width provided by those in red decreased and played right into Chelsea’s hands. Errant passes, shots taken from poor angles or no angle and a general lack of patience on the ball made up Liverpool’s afternoon.
There was one moment in the second half when Liverpool trailed 0-1, that has since been glossed over. Raheem Sterling took on Tomas Kalas at the top of the box, the Czech defender missed the ball and body checked Sterling but referee Martin Atkinson waved play on. Replays suggest that it was a legitimate penalty appeal that could and should have been given. By the time Willian tapped in to make it 0-2, the Anfield faithful had accepted the inevitable and a chorus of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” echoed around Anfield.
Mourinho’s tactics were nothing new. To sit in and defend with world class players is hardly the stuff tacticians pride themselves on but it does take discipline. Looking back at Rafa Benitez’s time at Liverpool, the Spaniard made a habit of getting results like this in European games away from home. It may also be short sighted of Rodgers to claim he would never set up his team like Mourinho did on Sunday. Champions League competition may dictate otherwise next season. The huge difference between Liverpool and Chelsea is that the Londoners played in a manner that suited a less gifted and less expensive assembled team. Teams will always play a certain way in which the manager thinks they are best suited to get a result. Its the job of the team looking to win the game to break them down.
Focus now shifts to the last two games of the league season. Liverpool will look to Everton to at least draw against Manchester City at Goodison Park next Saturday before the reds play Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday night. It is difficult to see Manchester City dropping points to any of their remaining opponents but stranger things have happened. Liverpool of course need to win both their remaining games and if it comes to a final day showdown, beat Newcastle by eight goals at the current rate of goal difference. How appropriate it would be for Everton to help out their Merseyside rivals. Seeing as Everton will be missing at least six first team regulars, it may be something that requires a lot of extra prayers during the week. It’s still on, just about.
38 Flanagan (Iago Aspas – 81′ )
21 Lucas (Sturridge – 58′ )
04 Kolo Touré
06 Luis Alberto
09 Iago Aspas
03 Cole (Booked)
08 Lampard (Booked)
19 Ba (Torres – 84′ Booked )
15 Salah (Booked, Willian – 60′ )
14 Schürrle (Cahill – 77′ )
16 Van Ginkel