Not a game for the neutrals, not a game for the TV, not a game for Chelsea but for Liverpool it will do us for now thank you very much.
This was by no means an outstanding performance but one that could possibly see us turn the corner? Both teams looked tense. Us, because defeat would see us further off forth place as Man City, in addition to the other teams contesting the issue, had won. Chelsea, because the result at Old Trafford gave them a golden chance to gain on The Mancs.
The pressure showed as both sides opted for caution for most of the game which as a result lacked quality or that moment of individual inspiration required to break the deadlock. Nonetheless we controlled for long periods and, although Chelsea weren’t that adventurous, we looked comfortable and assured in defence and could have easily have won the game creating a fair amount of chances. In short, we were the better side.
As expected Rafa chose Crouch up front with Kuyt just behind. In midfield Babel and Gerrard’s midfield attacking instincts were tempered by Lucas and Mascherano. Skrtel kept his place in the back four and Finnan and Riise returned. Lampard made a surprise return for Chelsea.
Before the game Rafa chose to deny the latest bit of stirring from The News Of The World that claimed he is blaming the owners for our recent slump in form. He openly branded the reports as “lies” and referred to the history of distrust The News of the World has on Merseyside. Will this mean the end of the issue? We shall see?
We began brightly but it was fifteen minutes of so before the first real chance. Crouch headed on Riise’s long cross field ball to Babel who drew in the defence and returned the pass. Crouch’s shot was just wide. Crouch was also on the end of another decent chance from Gerrard’s cross. This looked like a free header but closer inspection revealed him to be moving backwards hence the lack of power behind his effort.
Chelsea were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when Joe Cole appeared to be tripped by Maschernao. However, the replay showed that Mas had slipped or skidded in Cole who made a meal of the “challenge”. Perhaps this, and the fact that Mascherano couldn’t control himself, prompted Mike Riley to give us the benefit of the doubt? Who am I kidding? It was a penalty!
To the second half and like the corresponding fixture at Anfield earlier in the season, the game fizzled out. Ballack went close for Chelsea who were, for a home side, surprisingly subdued. What is it with Frank Lampard? Although he has just returned from injury, he looked very much at odds with Ballack in midfield just as he does with Gerrard for England.
Stubbornness and spoiling continued to prevail. Creativity in the final third of the field was stifled as the game had the life squeezed out of it via too much cautious play, a rash of niggling fouls and plain poor football. Right at the death Riise caused a few heart flutters with his diving header of a “pass back” to Reina from Malouda’s cross. Kuyt had a half a chance to steal it right at the end but he should have known that, as a blonde playing away from home, Ashley Cole would be paying him close attention!
Given our current form I guess we have to see this as a point gained. However, it could have been more. Babel looked lively and made a series of decent runs that kept Chelsea’s defence on their toes. Without Torres we lacked in pace up front so this was refreshing to see. Skrtel looked more at easy with JC alongside him although Chelsea didn’t really test him. Crouch laboured manfully and Mascherano, considering his travel weariness, was immense.
Although it was not a great footballing spectacle I think we can gain confidence from this and that, considering the cup games to come, is not a bad thing.
Chelsea: Cech, Belletti, Carvalho, Alex, Ashley Cole, Ballack, Makelele, Lampard (Obi 71), Wright-Phillips (Malouda 64), Anelka, Joe Cole (Pizarro 86).
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Ben-Haim.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Skrtel, Riise, Gerrard, Mascherano, Lucas, Babel (Pennant 71), Crouch, Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Kewell, Benayoun, San Jose Dominguez.