Liverpool were left shell-shocked as they lost 2-0 to Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday and saw their title hopes receive a major dent. A clinical Chelsea defended the feared Liverpudlian attack of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, which only a day earlier were named the preferred strikers in the PFA team of the season, and then attacked on the break to nip in and score two goals through Demba Ba and Willian.
It will be all too easy to dismiss Jose Mourinho’s tactics as “parking two buses”, as Brendan Rodgers has. Chelsea has certainly been guilty of putting up a fort in front of their goal in other games, a case in point the Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, a game which was arguably the most boring game in the calendar year 2014 and was directly responsible for mass deaths, with its epicenter around the Vicente Calderon, all due to extreme boredom and shock at having to see such a ridiculous game (citation needed). However, in this game, Chelsea was far more attacking and adventurous. In the game, there were flashes of the old Mourinho, the manager of a Real Madrid team that produced scorelines that were so lopsided they were downright silly.
What Mourinho did was simple – he stocked his team against his opponents and played to his strengths. Liverpool might have the strongest attack in the league at present, but Chelsea have the meanest defense. And despite the Portuguese moaning that his striking options are terrible, he does possess decent goal-scorers. Liverpool have a tendency of scoring more goals that the opposition, a plan which has a serious risk-factor because when a team plays with such a philosophy, the defense gets neglected.
And what an irony that it was Steven Gerrard, the captain, leader and (for everyone in the Kop), Arnold Schwarzenegger from The Terminator, who made the mistake that lead to the opening goal! Ever since Liverpool became the front-runners for the Premier League, all and sundry have said that Gerrard’s selfless dedication to the Anfield faithful deserved a Premier League trophy, conveniently ignoring his desperate pleas to join Chelsea from 2006-09. Also, if dedication to a club deserved trophies, then surely Rickie Lambert, Gabi and Tim Howard would make a more compelling case than Gerrard. But that’s straying from a subject that has single-handedly united England (the red half of Liverpool excluded) more effectively than politics, talks of Scotland’s secession and Pippa Middleton – laughing at Gerrard’s expense.
At the stroke of halftime, Gerrard, playing in a deep position where he had no business being, received a back pass, controlled it poorly, allowed the ball to get away from him, and in a desperate scramble to get the ball back at his feet, slipped and could only watch aghast as a gleeful Ba pinched the ball, ran at Simon Mignolet and slipped the ball between the Belgian’s legs. And just like that, apart from a few hundred Chelsea supporters, Anfield went eerily quiet.
After the break, Liverpool hit Chelsea with just about everything, including the kitchen sink, but Chelsea’s defense held firm. Azpelacueta adeptly managed the threat by Sterling, Ivanovic and debutant and man-of-the-match Tomas Kalas shut down Sturridge and Suarez and Ashley Cole managed to check an out-of-position Coutinho.
Chelsea managed to score the second after Liverpool went all out in an attempt to equalize, with Willian tapping the ball into an empty goal. The second goal was just adding insult to injury. The first one was just plain funny.
This result means that Manchester City, thanks to their 2-0 win over Crystal Palace, is back in the title race, and with a superior goal difference, might just sneak the title away from under Liverpool’s noses. The irony is that for Liverpool to win the league, they have to depend upon fierce rivals Everton to beat City.