After the defeats of Aston Villa and Portsmouth, Chelsea travelled to Anfield for the New Years Day clash against Liverpool. Jose Mourinho travelled with a 17-man squad, which didn’t include Alexey Smertin due to him getting tonsillitis after the clash against Pompey. So, instead of Smertin, into the team came Tiago. The only other change to the team was Eidur Gudjohnsen coming in for Didier Drogba who dropped to the subs bench. Last season when we travelled to Anfield we beat Liverpool 1-2, thanks to goals by Juan Sebastian Veron and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. It was our first victory at Anfield since 1992 when we had also won by 1-2, Vinnie Jones and Dennis Wise got the goals that day. Earlier this season when Liverpool travelled to the Bridge they were defeated 1-0, that day Joe Cole got the winner after a Frank Lampard free kick.
With the game kicking off at 12.45pm the victory today would again put us eight points clear, and a morale boosting taste of what we all want for the club in 2005. If the victory were to come then it would have been our first ever double over the team from Merseyside since 1919, that season we won both games 1-0. Was this a taster of things to come today? If so it would go down as a famous victory.
The game started quite brightly, Liverpool had more of the possession in the first 10 minutes, being the home team you’d expect this to happen, they almost had a chance to go into the lead when a cross from the right found Riise who missed an attempted volley and the ball was cleared. With both teams contesting the ball fiercely it was Chelsea who almost broke the deadlock in the 16th minute. A through ball played by Tiago broke the Liverpool offside trap and Arjen Robben with just Dudek to beat hit the ball straight at the keeper, it was our first great chance of the game and probably would have settled some jangling nerves amongst not only the players, but also the travelling away support who were at Anfield on New Years Day.
A few minutes after Robben’s chance, Frank Lampard got booked for a sliding tackle on Xabi Alonso, the resulting tackle broke the Liverpool players ankle. However Alonso hobbled on for a few minutes before being replaced by Antonio Nunez. Lampards fifth booking of the season will see him miss the FA Cup match next Saturday against Scunthorpe, it won’t affect the Premiership game against Middlesbrough, or any other resulting Premiership games. Before half time Tiago had a shot on target but the ball was clutched gratefully by Jerzy Dudek without causing the Liverpool ‘keeper too many problems. Then came controversy, in the 37th minute a high ball played from the Liverpool right almost found Nunez but Tiago rose and the ball hit his hand, referee Mike Riley was just about to give the penalty but luckily decided against it. Jamie Carragher was livid and carried on his protest at half time as the players went down towards the dressing rooms.
Before the half time whistle Chelsea were put under quite a lot of pressure, Petr Cech made a stunning close range save again from Nunez after Tiago had given the ball away. When the half time whistle came it was Chelsea who were more relived and went for their half time cuppa at 0-0. When the players emerged out of the tunnel for the second half neither team had made any substitutions, as play kicked off it was Chelsea shooting towards the Kop end after JT had won the toss at the start of the match, he’d made Liverpool swap ends so they were playing towards the Kop end, something Liverpool never enjoy at the start of a game. In the 48th minute we had a magnificent chance yet again to go 0-1 up. A slip by Jamie Carragher let in Damien Duff on the left, he was alone, as was Eidur Gudjohnsen, Duff crossed the ball but it just evaded Eidur’s out-stretched limbs. If the ball had been played in at slightly less speed, Eidur surely would have buried it. It wasn’t to be however as the rain started to pelt down. As the match became a game of cat and mouse we made a substitution, Eidur came off and on came Didier Drogba in the 60th minute. Ten minutes later Steven “Chelsea bound?” Gerrard had a low angled shot that whistled past Petr Cech but luckily it also whistled past the far post, JT was covering and may have blocked any subsequent follow up shot anyhow. Then just as it looked like the game was going to possibly end 0-0 Jose Mourinho made a significant change in the 75th minute. Off came Damien Duff and on came Joey Cole. As I’d said earlier, Joe Cole had scored in the 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge and would be the only Chelsea player since Harold Brittan in the 1919/20 season to score twice and for Chelsea to do the double over Liverpool. Could this really be achieved?
Four minutes after Cole’s substitution the deadlock was broken and it WAS Joe Cole who scored. A Chelsea corner taken by Arjen Robben found Glen Johnson, he headed the ball back to Cole who struck a sweetly timed shot that took a small deflection off of a Liverpool players heel, it evaded the defender on the line and went into the net. It was time to celebrate! The Chelsea players went mad, as did the travelling support; they were beginning to witness something that nobody from our generation had ever witnessed. A Chelsea double over Liverpool, could it really be true? With 10 minutes left it was time for our defence not to concede a late goal. In past matches at Anfield there had quite often been a goal just before full time or a few minutes before. Arsenal had conceded a very late goal at Anfield this season during injury time, so could a repeat have been on the cards?
Seven minutes before full time Frank Lampard drilled a shot at Dudek but he saved. Then came Liverpool, a free kick on the left taken by Gerrard was swung in, Petr Cech needed all of his height to palm the ball over the bar. Then a couple of minutes before full time Luis Garcia got his head to the ball in space but could only head the ball into Cech’s grateful arms. The game was coming to an end and with three minutes of injury time up it was up to Mike Reily to blow his whistle, which he duly did!
A victory of epic proportions, 85 years since the double over Liverpool and on January 1 2005 it was achieved again! If last seasons victory was sweet then this had to be sweeter. It may not have been achieved with dazzling football but a win at Anfield is difficult to come by and we’d done it. At the end of today we may be back to the five point margin over Arsenal as they are currently 1-3 up at Charlton, however, we managed to do what they couldn’t, they may find some tough games ahead of them in future weeks. The win today went a very long way to us winning our first title since 1955, if it happens then we can look back to today and point to the fact that this is what championship teams do, they don’t always play dazzling football, sometimes results are ground out and today was certainly one of those days.
“WE ARE TOP OF THE LEAGUE….”
Liverpool: Dudek, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Traroe, Luis Garcia, Gerrard, Hamann, Alonso (Nunez 26), Riise (Mellor 85), Sinama Pongolle. Subs Not Used: Harrison, Warnock, Diao.
Chelsea: Cech, Johnson, Terry, Gallas, Ferreira, Makelele, Lampard, Tiago, Duff (Cole 75), Robben (Kezman 83), Gudjohnsen (Drogba 60) Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Geremi.
Referee: Mike Riley.