Anelka 60, Malouda 90
Well there we have it, our first game against one of the so called top four and a marker laid down. This week has been our first real test, two important matches against half decent opposition, and we’ve come up short in both. Rafa won’t like it but that’s the reality of it.
This time we did give a good account of ourselves. It was much better than the performance in Florence. The midfield, thanks to the return of Mascherano, had more bite and at the back we were better. For long periods of the game we were equal to Chelsea however, sometimes that is not enough, said Rafa..
“I was really pleased for 90 per cent of the game but you have to do almost everything perfectly to win here.”
Sadly although we seem to be improving, we still have a fragile, vulnerable edge and with the forward line having an off day, we were eventually undone by Chelsea’s persistence.
We had our chances in the first half. Torres had a header that he will be disappointed not to convert. Riera’s free kick nearly snaked past Hilario, who saw it very late. From the resulting corner we had what looked like a decent claim for a penalty ignored as Drogba held Skrtel down. All in all we looked comfortable but never really threatened the Chelsea goal. Torres was shackled and all too often the vital ball into the danger area was over hit or too high.
Chelsea looked more potent going forward. In the second half they finally made the breakthrough. Mascherano lost the ball to Lampard, Essien picked it up and fed Deco who knocked it on to Drogba whose cross was well taken by an air bourn Anelka. This was a pity as Mascherano had looked like his old self until then however even though he lost the ball we still had time to snuff the move out? Who was picking up Anelka, Carragher was between him and the ball and Insua didn’t track his run. Why wasn’t Drogba closed down quicker by Skrtel?
As often seems to be case the goal galvanised us into moving forward. Torres, after Terry had blocked Gerrard, arrowed one wide via his shin which on another day he would have buried. A goal from us would not have been a surprise nor undeserved. However Chelsea, not without nerves, saw it out. Their second, in injury time, didn’t reflect the overall pattern of play however, it did highlight the improvements we need to make. Drogba outmuscled Carragher along the by line and was allowed to get too far into the area. His cross shouldn’t have found Malouda but it did with Skrtel in two minds and Reina and Johnson tumbling about ineffectively.
I don’t know what it is about Drogba that causes us so much trouble; look at the way he’s performed against us over the years. Yes, he dives and yes, he makes a meal of things but his physicality seems to be something we just can’t tame? Time and time he’s proved it against us over the years. Much was made before the game about this being a match between Torres and Drogba. I believe Torres has more in his armoury and if I was a defender I’d be more scared of him but Drogba simply seems to be inspired when he plays us?
At the end Benayoun, after good faint, to unsettle Hilario drilled one wide when he should have scored. However, it was academic. Will this result be the same? All we can hope is that our form in the future proves this to be the case? In the meantime let those who seek to do so continue to write us off, there will be more twists and turns between now and May.
Liverpool: Reina, Insua, Carragher, Skrtel, Johnson, Riera, Mascherano, Leiva, Kuyt, Gerrard (captain), Torres. Subs – Benayoun, Cavalieri, Ngog, Kyrgiakos, Aurelio, Babel, Agger
Chelsea: Hilario, Cole, Terry (captain), Carvalho, Ivanovic, , Lampard, Essien, Ballack, Drogba, Anelka. Subs – Kalou, Zhirkov, Sturridge, Turnbull, Belletti, Malouda, Cole