That was nice, wasn’t it? Write an article about Mourinho which isn’t too scathing, and he dumps this result in Liverpool fans’ laps. We should be nice to him more often, I reckon.
Before today, Benitez had played Mourinho in the league five times. And lost five times. The most memorable of those losses was back in August 2005, when Chelsea hammered Liverpool 4-1 at Anfield. This seems to have worked in Benitez’s favour – the shock to the system then has resulted in Liverpool racking up wins and choking teams ever since. After all the drama generated by the situation at Chelsea, a lot of it by himself, Mourinho probably wasn’t in the right frame of mind, as far this fixture went. If relationships are indeed strained, you wouldn’t put it past Mourinho to dump Chelsea deep in it before pushing off at the end of the season. Further aspersions shall not be cast on his character. Promise.
To the game. Liverpool started at a high tempo, as they seem to have done quite a bit this season, attacking the Anfield Road End. Paolo Ferreira and Michael Essien looked a little rusty, and Liverpool were getting the ball into the box fairly regularly. Sensing a weakness, Jamie Carragher punted a long ball into the box, aiming for the hard-working Dirk Kuyt. Ferreira looked hopelessly out of position, and compounded his initial (positional) error with a slip, which allowed Kuyt to head the ball around him and volley into the back of the net from around 10 yards out. Cech didn’t have a chance. Four minutes gone, 1-0 to the Reds.
Minutes later, Riise spurned an opportunity from six yards out, after working his way around Ferreira in the box. His right-footed shot was at a good height for Petr Cech to beat away, but it really should have been 2-0. Riise reminds me of a footballing version of Goran Ivanisevic. His left foot is dynamite, as he demonstrated in the second half with a thunderbolt from nearly 40 yards out, which rattled the crossbar under the Kop. Mind, I think a few of the fans in there were praying he would get it on target, because both teams had until then been hitting Row Z shots into the ancient stand with alarming regularity.
Pennant Cechs in with stunning goal
In spite of a few threatening spells of possession, Chelsea never really threatened, and the game was taken almost out of their reach when Jermaine Pennant popped up 20 yards out to score his first goal in Liverpool colours. A long ball into the box was headed down to him just outside the area, and his dipping volley had Cech stretching his 6 foot 7 frame to no real use, as the ball cannoned off the underside of the crossbar into the goal. Barmy stuff, and a wonderful goal!
Arjen Robben was forced to come off not too soon after the goal, having gone down in a heap challenging for the ball in the air. His right leg seemed to twist under his body, and even though he came back on for a while, Jose was forced to being on Shaun Wright-Phillips, initially down the left wing.
The rest of the first half saw Chelsea under the cosh, except for a 15 minute period when Liverpool were temporarily reduced to 10 men. An aerial challenge between Xabi Alonso and Didier Drogba left the Spaniard on the deck with a split lip and blood all over his face. Stitches were a must, obviously, although whether they numbered 5 or 15 is unnecessary speculation, to say the least. The best they had to offer, though, didn’t really trouble Liverpool too much. The hard-working Drogba and expansive Lampard (his passing wasn’t too bad today) did manage to get Chelsea into the area on occasion, but Jamie Carragher was a rock at the back, challenging in the air and on the floor to keep Chelsea’s talent at bay.
The second half:
The second half saw a lot more possession from Chelsea early on, although they were unable to force a significant save out of Pepe Reina, who looked solid today. His distribution wasn’t too bad either, but that may be due to the wind. The one scare Liverpool did have came about as a result of a defensive error from the otherwise excellent Steve Finnan. He failed to clear his lines, and Lampard came charging into the box, only for the ball to rebound off him and into Reina’s arms. Lucky break for Liverpool, and a promise of intent from Chelsea. Indeed, the period was played at a very high tempo Liverpool counter-attacking with genuine intent and Chelsea trying to breach the meanest home defence in the league.
A couple of moments which did have me in tears came within seconds of each other. Chelsea won a free kick just outside the box, in the left channel. Liverpool’s three man wall included Xabi Alonso, for some strange reason, considering his face had already been injured once that day. Up against the likes of Lampard, Drogba and Ballack, he must have been thinking ‘What am I doing?’, as he tried to defend the free kick facing his own goal. His teammates were having none of it though, and he was forced to turn around. I was a little worried myself. Heck. What followed was shambolic.
Drogba Scores – Not in the way you’re thinking though
Drogba was stood over the ball, with Ballack nearby. Clearly, the plan was to roll it over to Ballack, who would then set it up on a plate for Drogba’s dinner. The wind blew the ball off its spot slightly, and Drogba bent over to shape it up again. Ballack, however, seemed a little distracted, and seemed to be telling one his teammates to bugger off. Drogba wasn’t paying too much attention either, and kicked the ball gently to Ballack, who seemed almost surprised to see the ball rolling between his legs. A blooper in the same class as Robert Pires’ ‘air-kick’ against Manchester City a couple of years ago.
Liverpool didn’t look back from there, and defended from the front, with Dirk Kuyt dropping deep to help out what already looks like the best midfield pairing in the Premiership. It could have been three, had he converted a delightful chipped pass from Steven Gerrard. His volley flew inches over the Liverpool crossbar and into the instinctively ducking Kop.
All in all, a good win for Liverpool against a Chelsea team who really ought to have more strength in depth, considering the billions at their disposal. They missed John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho through injury/illness today, and the suspension of Claude Makelele didn’t help things. Petr Cech was back, but still looks understandably tentative, in spite of his special helmet.
Man of the Match: Dirk Kuyt. His energy and running had Chelsea scrambling all day long. Dropping deep to help out the midfield, and linking up well with pretty much everyone on the pitch. Scored the first goal with an instinct not seen from Liverpool’s strikers since Michael Owen left.