Defeat at home to Liverpool on Saturday was a bitter pill to swallow, if only because they are one of the teams that we dread losing against. Some of the press reports of this match are so wide of the mark it’s embarrassing. The papers are now using their match reports to back up their own drivel that follows to try to heap the pressure on Mourinho, as they do with everything, they are lighting the fires to try and influence a decision. I would hope that the board of directors at the club would do better than to take cues from the gutter press regarding their decisions.
How some papers can say that Mourinho has lost the dressing room based on our last two matches shows a complete lack of understanding of the game that they are paid to write about. There was clearly a fighting spirit evident against Stoke, and there was nothing on show against Liverpool to say otherwise.
The Chelsea supporters are best placed to give an indication on the manager, the same as with any other club. Once supporters are on the back of the manager then you no he is in trouble. On Saturday, as at Stoke midweek, the Chelsea supporters sung Jose Mourinhos name loud and proud. A great show of support, and a nice way of sticking two fingers up to the press. This is our club, we were vocal, whether some agreed with it or not, when Rafa Benitez was leading us in the wrong direction, and we are vocal now in support of the man who must remain in charge of Chelsea football club.
Chelsea were quick out of the traps on Saturday lunch time, getting into Liverpool everywhere and showing a desire to make an early impact on the match. We pressed and harried them, playing them at their own game if you will, as Klopp has clearly come with this mandate at Liverpool. The early pressure was rewarded with the opener on four minutes. Chelsea winning the ball on the left of midfield, Azpilicueta received it on the overlap, beating his marker he cut back onto his right foot and swung in a cross that Ramires met on the penalty spot, beating Moreno to the ball and heading us in front.
For the next ten minutes we were on top, winning the ball all over the pitch and looking to have too much for the visitors. Liverpool settled down from fifteen minutes in though, and were better in possession for the rest of the half. They now had a foothold in the match, and crucially, we had not got a second killer goal while we were on top.
Klopp has made an impact at Liverpool, and the tactical changes he has implemented haven’t taken long to get used to for his players. Full backs Moreno and Clyne play wide and high, whilst Lucas and Can sit deep and try to find Coutinho who drifted in field from the left to cause trouble between the lines, much as David Silva has done against us for Manchester City. Lallana also occupies the space behind forward Firmino, and these were their main creators.
Ramires and Mikel both played well for us in midfield, and were tactically astute in following Mourinhos instructions. He was clearly aware of how the opposition would try to overload this area of the pitch with players cutting in. Both players took it in turns to martial Lallana and Coutinho, depending on where they were on the pitch, and broke up play excellently. Ramires has been good all season, but credit must go to Mikel. Professional as always he has come into the starting line up and performed well in his two outings against Stoke, and in this fixture. He showed a desire to win the ball, and joint with Oscar, made the most successful tackles in the match.
Our problem was that as the match went on, we were unable to make an impact with our possession, losing it to often in the final third. Completing only 84 of 131 passes in this area of the pitch. Sakho matched up well against Costa, Hazard was ineffectual again, and only Willian provided impetus in wide areas, and again was one of our best players. This is the main problem this season, in most matches we have had too few players that have made an impact, rarely have we had more than one player who has played well in the final; third, we have carried too many this season. Combine this with defensive errors that have been punished, and you can see why we are where we are.
It was another painful individual error, combined with a piece of brilliance from Coutinho that brought Liverpool level in added time at the end of the first half. It was galling, as we had defended well until this point, looking well organised. You feel that if we could have got in at the break ahead, then it could have been a different story, but it wasn’t to be. Liverpool worked the ball wide to the right, Milner played the ball down the line to Firmino on the corner of the box, marked by Azpilicueta, everyone was in position, except for Oscar, he had let Coutinho run of the back of him, he received it inside from Firmino, turned Terry on the edge of the box, then fired an exquisite left footed effort past Begovic. One player not doing his job, followed by a piece of brilliance. It was indicative of our season.
The second half was for the most part a scrappy affair, both teams employing a vigorous pressing tactic when out of possession meant that the ball seemed to change hands in the middle of the pitch for large parts of the half, neither midfield displaying the quality to move it quick enough to retain possession and create chances. When this was executed, it was Liverpool that were doing it. They created nine chances in the second half, of which two were dispatched. We only managed a single shot on target in the half.
Hazard was rightly withdrawn just before the hour, poor in possession and lacking a cutting edge, unfortunately this season when he has been blunt, then so has our attack, and that has been most of the time. It would not be a surprise to see him dropped when Pedro is back to full fitness. Kenedy replaced him, and again showed flashes of brilliance. Our best attacking spell aside from the first fifteen minutes now followed. Azpilicueta, Costa and Kenedy combined brilliantly in a triangle down the left, putting Kenedy in behind but he shot into the side netting. Ramires then had a shot well blocked after the ball was cut back to him on the edge of the area.
Mikel was withdrawn with twenty minutes remaining after getting booked, he was replaced by Fabregas. Someone who was evading a second yellow was Lucas. Somehow avoiding a booking in the first half for a late, high challenge on Zouma, he was booked for persistent infringements on the hour, before cynically blocking off Ramires in midfield. No card was forthcoming.
Oscar nearly scored goal of the season, winning the ball himself just inside the Liverpool half, he touched it out of his feet and attempted to lob Mignolet, who did well to palm away for a corner at full stretch.
Liverpool took the lead on 74, Coutinho again, and again it was a brilliant finish. This time he got away from Ramires before curling in with his right foot this time.
Falcao immediately replaced Azpilicueta as Mourinho change to a 4-2-4 formation, but you got the feeling that the result was out of our grasp. When in possession we ended up going sideways as so often happens in these situations, and Liverpool could now hit us on the break. This nearly happened as Begovic turned a Lallana effort round the post, before they did get a third. Substitute Benteke killed the match in the 83rd minute, and this was poor defending all round from Chelsea. The ball lost in midfield, Terry out of position as he came out to Benteke, as the ball went wide left, Kenedy at left back now, was ghosted past, and no one had covered Terry as Benteke ran behind him, Cahill made a desperate lunge as he shot, but could only deflect past Begovic.
On the whole Liverpool were the better side, but this was not a walk over, nor did it display an n obvious loss of the dressing room, as you may read about in the papers today. The players are clearly still fighting for Mourinho, as are the fans. The reality is the stupid individual errors need to be cut out; they are being punished, as they will continue to be at this level. From an attacking standpoint, we are carrying players. Our main creator from last year is not performing, and we have to find a way around it. More players need to stand up to be counted, there are only so many in the squad who can be replaced.
Chelsea 1 (Ramires, 4)
(4-2-3-1, 4-2-4 after 75)
Begovic; Zouma, Cahill, Terry©, Azpilicueta; (Falcao 76)
Ramires, Mikel, (Fabregas 70),
Willian, Hazard, (Kenedy 59), Oscar;
Liverpool 3 (Coutinho, 45+2, 74), (Benteke, 83)
Mignolet; Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho, Moreno;
Milner, (Benteke 64), Lallana, (Lovren 90), Coutinho;
Firmino, (Ibe 76).