Sunday, 27 April 2014

MATCH REPORT: LIVERPOOL 0 CHELSEA 2

Liverpool v Chelsea
Summary
Superb defending display by Jose Mourinho's team coupled with goals in added time at the end of each half keeps this season's title contest boiling away.
Demba Ba struck the opener after a Steven Gerrard mistake with half-time approaching, and Willian finished off Brendan Rodgers's side on the break shortly before the end as we became only the second side to win at Anfield in the league this season.
The victory puts Chelsea two points behind the Merseysiders with two games to play, and sends us into our Champions League semi-final second leg with confidence high.
Team News
Twenty-year-old central defender Tomas Kalas was handed his full debut after two previous substitute experiences. He played alongside Branislav Ivanovic in central defence with Cesar Azpilicueta and Ashley Cole the full-backs. Mark Schwarzer was in goal.
Demba Ba led the attack with Mohamed Salah and Andre Schurrle on the flanks, with behind them a three-man midfield of John Mikel Obi, Nemanja Matic and Frank Lampard, who was captain in the absence of John Terry.
Among the subs were Marco van Ginkel and 18-year-old midfielder Lewis Baker who made his first team debut late in the FA Cup win at Derby back in January.
Liverpool were unchanged from their win at Norwich but were able to name Daniel Sturridge on the bench after injury.

First half
Anyone who thought that whatever changes Mourinho chose to make to his side, the Blues wouldn't do their manager justice as the best defence in the league faced the most prolific attack, was very much mistaken.
Liverpool moved the ball around briskly when they were in possession early on, but when Cole cut out one attack spread wide, Schurrle advanced past a challenge to the halfway line where he was felled by Glen Johnson. Treatment was needed but the German continued.
It was Cole who had the first shot of the game, latching on to his own initial loose first touch to find space on the edge of the area. The strike was true but Simon Mignolet dived and pushed it away.
Kalas passed his first test of the game with honours, diving in to take the ball off the flying Raheem Sterling.
Chelsea were winning our share of the 50-50s but when one broke kindly for Liverpool on 10 minutes, the ball was switched to create the home side's best opening yet, but Philippe Coutinho at the far post volleyed wide.
Then Liverpool won a corner, and although no proper contact was made when it dropped into the danger zone, Cole still needed to clear hurriedly off the line. The ball was pinged back in by Suarez but Mamadou Sakho scooped it over the bar from only six yards out.
Liverpool were beginning to exert sustained pressure but there was no lack of focus or aggression from the Blues. Ivanovic was alert to cut out a ball heading dangerously the way of unmarked Sterling.
The main problem for Chelsea at this stage was the ball not staying up when played forward, a facet of the performance that would improve. From one such moment, Sterling was able to counter and took on Salah for pace. The Egyptian fouled and was booked, which probably had Schurrle wondering why the similar offence on him by Johnson early in the game did not result in a card.
Chelsea enjoyed more of the ball in the Liverpool half around the 30-minute mark. Mikel was playing in a more advanced role in midfield with Lampard, Matic doing the holding. Ba was toiling hard and occupying more than one of the Liverpool backline at any one time.
Liverpool v Chelsea
On 38 minutes there was a strong Chelsea shout for a penalty when Ba played the ball wide to Salah who cut inside and fired. The lower arm of Flanagan was sticking out as the defender turned his back and stopped the shot with it, but despite appeals from those in blue, referee Martin Atkinson waved play on.
Five minutes before the break there was an escape when a Cole pass was misplaced and the Liverpool attack ended with Suarez shooting just over the bar.
Soon after, Lampard was booked for a tackle from behind on Sterling on halfway.
Midway through three minutes added time at the end of the half, Ba's industry forced Sakho to give away a corner which Kalas very nearly got the necessary contact on to put the visitors ahead.
We were not to be denied however, and moments later, the home side's skipper slipped when taking control of a pass in midfield. Ba pounced and ran clear, calmly beating Mignolet with a shot close to the keeper's legs for his eighth goal of the season and third in April.
'Steven Gerrard, he's done it again,' sang the Chelsea support - recalling the same player's ill-judged back-pass that allowed Didier Drogba to open the scoring in the same Kop End net in a famous win in 2010, and his own goal in the League Cup final of 2005 against us.
Liverpool v Chelsea
The Liverpool crowd had done their best to influence the game today, but even before that goal the feeling approaching the break was that Chelsea had somewhat drawn the sting from the game. It certainly felt that way now.
Second half
Liverpool, as at the start of the first half, were the team on the front foot early on, but Mourinho's men were remaining calm and Kalas showed he could stick with Sterling for pace and won a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge, optimistic Liverpool appeals for a penalty turned down.
Gerrard had a deflected shot safely caught by Schwarzer but with Liverpool showing no clear signs of finding the equaliser, Brendan Rodgers introduced Sturridge at the expense of Lucas.
It was Joe Allen however who struck the ball well and on target, his effort heading for the bottom corner until Schwarzer saved well.
Willian was the first Chelsea sub deployed, coming on for Salah.
On 62 minutes, it took a diving stop from Mignolet to prevent his side going two behind, Schurrle having run hard into the middle before trying his luck from 20 yards out.
Anfield was becoming edgy, as another cross dropped tamely into the hands of Schwarzer. Gerrard then shot straight at the Australian before Matic at the other end screwed an attempt wide.
Misplaced Liverpool passes in their attacking third coupled with good, concentrated Chelsea defending were continuing to be the order of the day.
However fatigue was growing in the visitors' legs. Schurrle was struggling and Gary Cahill was introduced for the final quarter-of-an-hour, going into a three-man central defence with Cole now playing more as a wing-back but Azpilicueta remaining deep.
Gerrard twice found Schwarzer with efforts and Suarez, stretching, couldn't make contact on a Coutinho ball curled into the box. It was by now a rearguard action by the Blues and when we did break with Liverpool stretched for numbers, Ba and Willian were not on the same wavelength.
Torres replaced Ba for the closing minutes, the Senegalese striker having played probably his best game for Chelsea.
Four minutes extra were added on at the end, and there was more Chelsea defending to do. A corner was half cleared and it fell to Suarez, Schwarzer doing excellently to tip a fierce shot over.
Liverpool v ChelseaLiverpool v Chelsea
Then with less just over a minute remaining, the Blues landed the classic sucker punch. The ball was won inside our half and suddenly it was Torres racing clear with Willian his accomplice.
The Spaniard on his old stomping ground didn't repeat his Barcelona goal. Instead he drew the keeper and squared to Willian, and three points were heading back down south.
Liverpool v Chelsea
As in Spain midweek, Mourinho's men had produced a masterclass in the art of defending, with Suarez often peripheral, and when the crucial chances came, they were gleefully grabbed.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Schwarzer; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Kalas, Cole; Mikel, Matic, Lampard (c); Salah (Willian 60), Ba (Torres 83), Schurrle (Cahill 76).
Unused subs Hilario, Ake, Van Ginkel, Baker.
Scorers Ba 45+3, Willian 90+3.
Booked Salah 20, Lampard 42, Cole 90+2, Torres 90+2.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan (Aspas 80); Lucas (Sturridge 56), Gerrard (c), Allen; Sterling, Suarez, Coutinho.
Unused subs Jones, Toure, Agger, Cissokho, Alberto.
Referee Martin Atkinson.
Crowd 44,726