Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool welcomed Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea last night, in what was widely-considered to be a clash of the titans. Liverpool were unbeaten in 11-league games while Chelsea were mounting a comeback to the title race. However, Liverpool’s hot-streak came to a crashing end as the boys in Blue beat the Reds by two goals.
As predicted, Mourinho fielded a second string Chelsea side without star midfielders Eden Hazard and Oscar, and defenders John Terry and David Luiz. Mark Schwarzer replaced injured Pietr Cech in goal, and French Forward Demba Ba was selected to lead the attack.
Mourinho’s tactics were simply to frustrate the Liverpool side by ‘Parking the bus’. In retaliation, Chelsea would look for spaces and mount counter attacks.
PFA Player of the Year Luis Suarez was unable to continue his impressive goal-scoring streak against a heavily guarded Chelsea defense. Even without Chelsea’s stalwart PFA Young Player of the Year, Eden Hazard, they kept the relatively superior Liverpool attack at bay with just 27% possession. Liverpool had eight shots on target as opposed to Chelsea’s four.
The first goal came from a crucial mistake by Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard who slipped and missed a pass from defender Mahmadou Sakho. Chelsea striker Ba was able to capitalize on this by dribbling the ball all the way with only goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to beat, and effortlessly scored an impressive first goal.
Gerrard, Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Joe Allen desperately went after the Chelsea defense, but were continually frustrated unable to get a ball passed Schwarzer. Schwarzer’s performance no doubt proved to Mourinho that the Australian needs to be played more often. He made some crucial saves and was able to keep a clean sheet.
Daniel Sturridge was brought-in to replace Brazilian Lucas Leiva, in an effort to give Liverpool more options to attack. But even he failed to make a difference. Former Liverpool striker Fernando Torres came in for Demba Ba and broke many Liverpool hearts by selflessly assisting Willian to score the second goal for Chelsea.
Manager Brendan Rodgers reportedly stated in a post-match interview that they still have a chance to win the league as Liverpool sits top of the table, in terms of points.
However, Rodgers could be proven wrong as last night’s loss puts the title well-within Manchester City’s grasp. Liverpool’s only chance is to close the gap in goal difference in their last two games against Crystal Palace and Newcastle United.
Chelsea now have an outside chance to win the title should Manchester City fail to perform. The title race is coming down to the wire… But who will lift the trophy, is anybody’s guess.