Chelsea’s superb start to the season was always likely to come under serious scrutiny at a stadium where they effectively ended a title rival’s chances of winning the Premier League in April. The infamous 2-0 victory at Anfield will be forever remembered for Steven Gerrard’s costly slip which let in Demba Ba to open the scoring, with Liverpool never recovering from a shock blow as Jose Mourinho came back to haunt them once again. Fast forward five months, and it is Chelsea who appear to be the team to beat in 2014/2015 as they have hit unerring form early doors to blow teams away. Three points at Anfield would not only extend the Blues’ superb start to the season, but also serve yet another hammer blow to Liverpool who have seriously struggled to recapture the same form that they showed throughout their last campaign. Strong rumours persisted during the pre-match build-up that Rodgers would be the subject of a banner flown over the stadium during the game as part of a small protest by fans who want the Northern Irishman to leave Liverpool, but it was up to Chelsea to remain professional and get the job done.
If Chelsea wondered whether what type of game they were in for, they were given an immediate indication through a fast start from Liverpool who looked to press high and take the game to the visitors. Taken the lead through Emre Can’s deflected shot from outside the area after just 9 minutes was no more than Liverpool deserved, but Gary Cahill’s equaliser 5 minutes later proved to be pivotal. Goal-line technology correctly ruled that Cahill’s effort following Nemanja Matic’s saved header from a corner had crossed the line; from that point onwards, Chelsea took complete control of the match. Mourinho had to wait until the 67th minute for the game’s decisive goal, with Cesar Azpilicueta showing superb energy and skill to go past Philippe Coutinho on the left-hand touchline before getting to the byline and squaring it to Diego Costa, via a deflection, who rammed home his 10th goal of the season. Rodgers felt aggrieved that a penalty was not awarded for his team following Cahill’s apparent block with his hand to stop Steven Gerrard’s shot, but it would have been harsh on Chelsea who showed they can do a professional job and manage the game perfectly towards three points.
Where do both teams go from here?
Any talk of going the entire Premier League season unbeaten should be put on the backburner, and remain there, as all the focus should be put upon the rich vein of form Chelsea find themselves in. Mourinho has more than delivered on his promise that the Blues would be a dominant force in his second season, with big money signings Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa making an instant impact. The second international break may have come at the wrong time for Chelsea with confidence flowing throughout the team, but it may also provide an opportunity to take stock at what the team has achieve so far to prevent complacency setting in.
West Brom’s visit to Stamford Bridge after the international break will not be easy, as the Baggies proved against Manchester United that they can compete against the very best in the league. It is down to Chelsea to approach the game in the same manner they have throughout the current campaign, and ensure they get the job done – although a little bit of flair and attacking quality would not go amiss in front of the fans.
In Liverpool’s case, it is difficult to know where the next three points are coming from. Every upcoming fixture will look daunting for a team devoid of any confidence or quality, with Mario Balotelli already proving he is not the answer to replace Luis Suarez. Although Dejan Lovren has looked solid at the back, none of the other summer signings have made any sort of impact, with highly-rated left back Alberto Moreno making a number of costly errors early into his Liverpool career. Rodgers made a point of stating that their defensive problems would be solved this season but, if anything, Liverpool look even worse than before. The manner in which Cahill was left all alone in the area for his equaliser symbolised their inability to defend corners, while they will struggle to win games at the other end while Daniel Sturridge remains on the sidelines and Balotelli remains largely anonymous. Rodgers have proven that he has the credentials and tactical nous to get Liverpool firing, but he may have to turn their fortunes around soon otherwise pressure will begin to grow on his shoulders.