Chelsea crashed out of the Carling Cup thanks to their second home defeat to Liverpool in 10 days.
The result will have Fleet Street piling the pressure on Andre Villas-Boas, and the Blues boss was a frustrated figure as his side fell to a combination of more bad defending and some atrocious refereeing.
It started early when Phil Dowd inexplicitly booked David Luiz for diving when the Brazilian was hacked down in the area.
It got worse when Liverpool’s players surrounded the referee after an Alex handball that was missed by the official. Incredibly Dowd was swayed by the red mob and awarded the penalty. Andy Carroll stepped up and enhanced his reputation as a waste of space by blasting the kick at Ross Turnbull, who beat the ball away from a delighted Matthew Harding Stand.
In the midst of all the Chelsea were failing to impress however, even the young blood in the like of Romeu, McEachran and Bertrand couldn’t find a way through despite their promise. McEachran had his evening cut short when he had to limp off through injury, being replaced by Ramires.
Chelsea’s only real opportunity of the first half was a glancing header from Romelu Lukaku that flashed just wide of Pepe Reina’s far post.
The second half started off much better for AVB and his team, as they showed more urgency in their attacking play, but frustratingly just as Fernando Torres was becoming lively and chances were growing, the visitors took the lead after taking advantage of that high defensive line. Ryan Bertrand showed his inexperience by stepping up too late to play Craig Bellamy offside, and the Welshman raced into the box before squaring for Maxi Rodriguez to tap in.
Anelka and Mata were readied but before they could get on the pitch Liverpool had killed the tie with Martin Kelly jumping unmarked to head home Bellamy’s whipped in free kick.
Chelsea pushed to get back in to the game and Malouda hit the bar but the hosts never looked like getting back into the tie.
Although this was a heavily changed team, the same frailties were in show in the shape of bad defending and blunt attacking.
When we were chasing the game, Chelsea’s attacking plan was too repetitive and predictable, and far too slow. Even with Mata on the pitch there seemed no flair to open up the Liverpool defence.
While we will all say it’s only the Carling Cup, it doesn’t hide the fact that there are fundamental problems in this Chelsea team. The team lacks an identity and definitive style of play, and this lack of conviction has rubbed off on the fans, who are becoming anxious earlier and earlier when things don’t initially go our way.
December is packed with tough fixtures and will shape the rest of our season. Let’s hope this was the final stage of the learning curve for the manager, and we can start to kick on, starting at St James’ Park on Saturday.