ANFIELD ANGUISH SEES TITLE HOPES EXTINGUISHED
LIVERPOOL 2-0 CHELSEA
Chelsea’s faint title hopes were most probably dealt with by Liverpool and namely Fernando Torres, who scored twice late on to give his side a 2-0 win at a snowy Anfield. The ludicrous sending off of Frank Lampard on the hour gave Liverpool added impetus and they seized the lead in the 89th minute, breaking down Chelsea’s brave resistance.
Unchanged from the side that defeated Middlesbrough in midweek, Chelsea had one set piece opportunity early on, Lampard failing to pick out Anelka.
With just twelve minutes on the clock, Xabi Alonso forced Petr Cech into the first of a string of top class saves, his long range drive acrobatically tipped over the bar at full stretch by the Chelsea ‘keeper, once more in high visibility orange.
Cech then save from Mascherano, before the Argentine was booked for a challenge on his fellow defensive midfielder, John Obi Mikel. Pepe Reina had yet to be threatened in the Liverpool goal.
Liverpool were in the ascendancy, and Cech was called into action to deny Gerrard, before Terry blocked a fierce strike from Torres. There was brief respite as Alex headed a Lampard corner high and wide, however Reina wasn’t even close to being tested.
With three minute remaining in the half, Cech made a superb low stop to deny Riera, only for Ashley Cole to nearly put the ball into his own net whilst attempting clear. Luckily, the ball rolled just wide of the post.
As the match resumed for the second half, Mikel found himself in the book with Mascherano, for a foul on Arbeloa. He then attempted to break the deadlock from range, only for his long range shot to fly high and wide.
Then, on the hour, came the match’s pivotal moment. Alonso and Lampard flew in for a 50-50, which became a 60-40 in Lampard’s favour. The Chelsea midfielder nipped the ball away, before Alonso came flying in and launched an all out assault on Lampard’s shin. However, referee Mike Riley produced a red card for the Chelsea number eight and dismissed him from the field. Rubbish decision, rubbish referee.
Deco and Drogba replaced Malouda and Anelka as Scolari attempted to swing the match in Chelsea’s favour. Within a minute, Steven Gerrard was booked for diving on the edge of the Chelsea area.
Benayoun replaced Riera as Liverpool continued to monopolise possession. Cech saved from Torres, before Benayoun forced the Chelsea stopper into perhaps his best save of the match, palming away a curling strike from the edge of the area.
Chelsea were hanging on for dear life when Babel replaced Mascherano with seven minutes remaining, and they continued to fight when Stoch replaced Kalou in the 89th. However, it was to no avail, as Fernando Torres popped up to score the opener and break Chelsea hearts.
Liverpool’s left back, Aurelio, delivered the cross, and Torres was able to beat Alex to the near post to head the ball past the helpless Cech. It was cruel on the Czech stopper, as he’d turned in another fine big match performance, one cemented moments later when he arched back and tipped a Gerrard volley over the bar.
Nonetheless, there was nothing Cech could do to prevent Torres sealing victory with a late, late second goal. Ashley Cole gave possession away to Benayoun, and the Liverpool substitute calmly rolled the ball sideways to Torres who confidently finished one on one.
It was a cruel end to Chelsea’s title hopes, which seem to have finally died, despite the loan signing of Ricardo Quaresma in a bid to revive the challenge. It’s a long way back for Scolari’s Chelsea, but if they learnt anything under Mourinho and Grant, they’ll fight on to the very end.
Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina; Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio; Mascherano (Babel 84), Alonso; Kuyt, Gerrard (c), Riera (Benayoun 74); Torres (Ngog 95).
Manager: Rafa Benitez
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa, Alex, Terry (c), A Cole; Ballack, Mikel, Lampard; Kalou (Stoch 85), Anelka (Drogba 69), Malouda (Deco 69).
Manager: Felipe Scolari
Referee Mike Riley