Well, well, well life does have a strange way of making things alright. Of slapping pretensions down, putting them in their place and restoring equilibrium?
Sometimes it takes years but less than a week? Sixty six minutes into yesterday’s game Fernando Torres was substituted, he skulked off, head down in manner that we’ve all been used to this season? Three minutes later Raul Meireles reminded him and the Chelsea fans, complete with “El Nino” banner the same in every way to ours apart from the colour very, very original gents, that money can’t buy you well, you tell me…. perhaps Kenny might be able to answer this one as, with delicious irony, all this was achieved without the two players we had used the £50m to buy?
For Liverpool there was a surprise change in the back four – the return of Jamie Carragher for Kyrgiakos. A big ask being pitched in after being out for so long? Na, he was terrific! Na he was more than terrific! Luis Suarez was on the bench again, possibly because we were away from home but we also forget that he hasn’t played since before Christmas because of his “biting ban”. Clearly it is only a matter of time before he starts? Elsewhere Kenny continued with five at the back, Maxi replaced Aurelio and of course Kuyt was up front on his own with Meireles behind.
The first half was a cagey affair. Both sides cautiously sized each other up like two boxers bouncing around the edge of the ring waiting for the first punch. Torres nearly made the perfect start seizing on Maxi’s mistake early on to waft one over the bar and then later had and excellent chance, from Drogba’s throw ball, excellently blocked by “the old warrior” (Ray Wilkins’ words) Jamie Carragher. It was a significant moment in the context of the last week. Here we have Carragher, a loyal red to the end, denying Torres the chance to rub his former club’s nose in it further than his comments have already done. It was the prefect repost although some would have considered Agger’s elbow, or forearm, into the Spaniard’s face earlier in the game more suitable!
Shortly after that we should have gone one up. Gerrard’s cross come shot found its way to Maxi six yards out but, with the goal gaping, he could only find the cross bar. There is no polite way of saying this, it was a shocking miss. Nonetheless we should take encouragement. The ball evaded three Chelsea defenders (plus Cech) before it found Maxi and later Cech and Ivanovic were involved in a spat after a misunderstanding when trying to deal with a Kelly cross.
The second half saw things open up a bit more. Johnson wasn’t far out from distance after dogged, determined spadework from Kuyt. All good stuff and encouraging that we were holding Chelsea. Perhaps they had fallen foul of trying to accommodate Torres, Anelka AND Drogba in the same side? The removal of Torres suggested as much, an admission that things weren’t going well for the home side and that we had the upper hand? However, the introduction of Kalou as his replacement made no difference.
Lucas picked the ball up and fed Kelly who slid a pass down the line to Gerrard in a very wide position. Lampard tracked him but didn’t offer a challenge allowing the cross. The ball might have been considered speculative had it not been for poor Chelsea defending. Cech came off his line but pulled up when faced with the on running Kuyt. Ivanovic (those two again) didn’t read it and the all round lack of authority was decisive as the ball bounced free to Meireles who did really well to thread an excellent shot down a small corridor of opportunity between post and blue shirt.
Noses in front and now to halt the Chelsea onslaught? Not so Aurellio nearly made it two cutting inside and producing a good save Cech. Before that the ball hit Lucas on the hand inside the box however, the referee either missed it or saw it as “to hand”, he did try to get his hand out of the way. Then Johnson, with the ball nowhere, rode our luck even more by stupidly blocking Ivanovic. In was a certain penalty.
However, it was our day and deservedly so, no question. If anyone had any doubts about the effect Kenny Dalglish (and let’s also give a nod to Steve Clarke) has had in turning around this team, surely they were banished by this result? For me this was an outcome that exceeded expectation and leaves me asking, with three months of the season still to go, just how far we can go. We clearly won’t reach the ultimate destination but it could be an entertaining journey, it appears Liverpool FC 2010-11 are for real now?
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, A Cole, Bosingwa (David Luiz 73), Terry, Essien, Lampard, Mikel (Malouda 71), Torres (Kalou 66), Drogba, Anelka Substitutes: Turnbull, David Luiz, Ferreira, Malouda, McEachran, Sala, Kalou
Liverpool: Reina, G Johnson, Agger, Carragher, Kelly, Skrtel, Meireles, Poulsen 83), Gerrard, Maxi (Aurelio 75), Lucas, Kuyt, Substitutes: Gulacsi, Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Poulsen, Suarez, Jovanovic, Ngog