With six minutes of normal time to play on Sunday, the scores level, Andre Villas-Boas brought two former Liverpool players onto the pitch in the hope of snatching a 2-1 victory. Within a few minutes, one former player had scored – unfortunately for us, it was ex-Chelsea right-back Glen Johnson.
The result brings the Reds level on points with Chelsea, Tottenham (who have two games in hand) and Arsenal on 22 points, and compounds the Blues to their third defeat in four Premier League Games.
Although only by a narrow margin, this defeat should go down as the most humiliating of the season purely because Liverpool didn’t have to play well to win it. The Blues’ attack was often blunt, midfield uncreative and defence shambolic. Sadly, you couldn’t say much better about Kenny Dalglish’s team.
Chelsea, unusually attacking towards the Matthew Harding Stand in the first-half, started the better but Didier Drogba, leading the line for the first time since last month’s defeat to QPR, was failing to make his presence felt despite some decent balls to him from Florent Malouda and Juan Mata.
Although largely absent in play, the inclusion of Drogba nearly paid off when, in the 21st minute, after being pulled down, he was able to line-up a 25-yard free-kick. The sweetly struck free-kick had Pepe Reina well beaten and, after going narrowly wide and bouncing back to ripple the back of the net, had most of the crowd in celebration.
This appeared to mark the turning point in the first half. Through little ingenuity on their part, Liverpool began to dominate the game, and Chelsea’s ‘defence’ – the centre-backs in particular – were doing their very best to assist them.
The goal came on 33 minutes in embarrassing fashion. Petr Cech – persistently refusing to utilise the aerial presence of Drogba up-field – threw the ball to John Obi Mikel, who, perhaps understandably, believed himself to be in plenty of space. A sharp Charlie Adam dispossessed him without bother, played the ball to Craig Bellamy who, after exchanging passes with Luiz Suarez, slipped Maxi Rodriguez in for an easy finish.
To their credit, the home side, buoyed by the introduction of Daniel Sturridge in place of Mikel, came back strongly in the second period.
10 minutes after the restart, it was game on. Malouda did well to run through a couple of Liverpool defenders and scuffed a cross to Sturridge who was in the right place at the right to tap the ball past Reina.
Without truly creating any great chances, Chelsea then remained on top for the next half-hour. Many were keen to see Fernando Torres introduced, but AVB obviously believed – with plausible reason – that the largely dormant Drogba might be able to produce a bit of magic.
To add insult to Scouser injury, when Torres was introduced for Drogba, the other former-Liverpool man, Raul Meireles, was also introduced in place of Ramires. Without a draw since the opening-day fixture against Stoke, the team clearly wanted victory.
Unfortunately, the changes acted to expose a poor Chelsea defence. Dirk Kuyt squandered a great opportunity after Jordan Henderson, going past Ashley Cole and nutmegging John Terry, had put him in on goal, but Johnson made no such mistake.
Spotted first by 42,000, then by Liverpool’s Adam, the England right-back found himself in acres of space on Chelsea’s left-side. He skipped past Cole, held off not a Chelsea centre-back, but Malouda, and coolly slotted a left-footed shot past Cech.