‘El Nino’ strikes but Reds pay the penalty, bad Styles!

Liverpool 1
Torres (16)

Chelsea 1
Lampard (62) pen

Yesterday’s Sunday Times, as part of the build up to this game, said that Rafa Benitez now feels he is competing on level terms with Chelsea when previously, due to their huge spending, he felt this wasn’t the case. Using a Formula One Motor Racing analogy, which is a dam site more entertaining than the actual sport itself, he said previously he felt he was racing against a Ferrari in a Mini. But now?

“We have a good car. In Formula One the cars are all good, so it then depends more on the driver. Of course the car is still important. Sometimes it also depends on the team behind the car.”

Team, yes. The drivers, yes. But what about outside influences that can stop your journey. The officious sado that sticks a ticket on it or clamps you when you parked legally, or a petrol pump attendant fills it with unleaded instead of diesel. Step forward Rob Styles.

It is always sad when the man in black takes the headlines away from the game. Naively I was thinking this sort of thing might be of the past now that self publicists such as Graham Poll have retired. Nonetheless I suspect Rob Styles wasn’t looking for the sort of headlines he will have read over his coco pops this morning!

For those of you who were on another planet yesterday, I refer to Styles’ penalty decision which lead to Chelsea’s equalising goal. Styles incorrectly ruled that Steve Finnan fouled Florent Malouda when it was the Chelsea player who jumped into the our man, perhaps trying to execute a “dummy” so the ball could run to Drogba. The ball was certainly nowhere near either player, Styles was a good position to see the incident and, despite protests from Liverpool players, didn’t consult his linesman.

Some might say that what goes around comes around. What about Luis Garcia’s “goal” a few years back in the Champions League Semi? We were perhaps lucky there? Just go back to last Saturday, was the foul on Steven Gerrard, which lead to him scoring our winner from a free kick, really a foul? When you consider how many football matches are refereed, and how many pass off without incidents such as this, one can’t really complain. The law of averages suggests someone is going to cock it up now and then but it’s still annoying when fate decides it’s your team’s turn and the decision costs you the match.

Rob Styles has made a mistake and hopefully he will be honest and man enough to acknowledge it. However, referees never ever seem to do this. Perhaps it would improve relations between them, players, managers and fans if they did? Styles did what he thought was right at the time, even though it was clearly wrong, not even the deepest dyed in the wool Chelsea fans could disagree with that. However, it’s gone, we can’t do anything about it, so we need to take it on the chin, move forward and hope that, luck wise, things even themselves out at some stage during this campaign.

As for the game, it started off excellently but rapidly deteriorated into a niggling, nasty affair before disappointingly fizzling out. Benitez fielded the same team that started at Villa Park and we began at quite a high tempo not letting Chelsea rest or settle. Riise could have opened the scoring after a couple of minutes but he failed to control Pennant’s cross when in a excellent position. Chelsea seemed to content to weather this storm doubtlessly conscious of last year’s fixture which saw them two goals down after only twenty minutes or so. However, it was not long before their defences were breached.

Gerrard picked the ball up in the centre circle and feed Torres down the left with a slide rule pass with the outside of his right foot. Torres out stripped Ben-Haim, who gave him far too much space, and squeezed the ball in off Cech’s left hand post with his right foot when I suspect the Chelsea keeper was expecting him to thrash it with his left. A sublime finish which showed Torres’ ability to carve out opportunites for himself, he still had a hell of lot of work to do when he received the ball. His directness was great to see, like a hot knife through butter, and what better way to open your account?

So, Chelsea 1-0 behind for the third league game in a row. The goal obviously forced them to be a bit more adventurous and the defence had to work hard to deny Kalou and were nearly found out when Drgoba headed over from Wright Phillips’ cross. Lampard fizzed a free kick through our penalty box which, thankfully for us, didn’t connect with a Chelsea boot. In the second half Obi Mikel and then Pizzarro went close. Then came the penalty incident.

After that the game degenerated into a serious of niggley fouls and stoppages. Chelsea consistently hectored and argued with Styles over the smallest incident which perhaps explained some of his courious decisions? He compounded his bad day by booking Essien twice and then saying he was just emphasising Terry’s earlier caution when it was pointed out to him what he had done. We finished the game the stronger side with Riise, Kuyt and Babel all going close and Chelsea content to hang on and protect the point.

If we can forget about the penalty there was some encouraging stuff to take from this. We were the better side. Torres showed why we paid all that money for him and in terms of the results involving other members of the “top four”, a draw wasn’t a disaster.

However, I’m sure most of this will be lost in many minds by overwhelming thoughts of what might have been had Mr Styles’ powers of observation had not been lazing on a Sunday afternoon!

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Arbeloa, Pennant (Babel 68), Gerrard, Alonso, Riise (Crouch 83), Torres, Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Hyypia, Mascherano.

Chelsea: Cech, Essien, Ben-Haim, Terry, Ashley Cole, Kalou (Pizarro 46), Wright-Phillips (Joe Cole 77), Obi, Lampard, Malouda (Alex 85), Drogba.
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Makelele.

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