Liverpool were denied three points over title rivals Chelsea this afternoon at Anfield thanks to a shocking decision by referee Rob Styles, awarding the visitors a second half penalty to gift Jose Mourinho’s men a point in a 1-1 draw.
In the first home game of the season in which Steven Gerrard started despite a fractured toe, Liverpool impressed with good passing movements and positive attacking football.
From kick-off Rafa Benitez’s side had the advantage and took the lead in the 16th minute when Gerrard fed through summer signing Fernando Torres who coolly slotted home past Petr Cech at the Anfield Road End for his first goal for the club.
Torres continued to impress throughout the game, aggravating the Chelsea defence and in particular captain John Terry who seemed incapable of coping with the Spaniard’s pace and athletic movement on and off the ball.
Alvaro Arbeloa and John Arne Riise also made problems for the Blues down the left channel with much of Liverpool’s attacking play coming from that left side. Riise was always looking lively and came close himself with a well drilled shot in the 20th minute.
Throughout the game Liverpool controlled and should have extended their lead. Second half substitute Ryan Babel came close with a powerful shot from just outside the area and Dirk Kuyt saw his strong header flash closely over Cech’s crossbar.
But Liverpool will feel robbed by a second half penalty decision awarded in favour of Chelsea.
With the ball coming across the face of the penalty area, Chelsea‘s French summer signing Florent Malouda appeared to jump over Daniel Agger and fall to ground. Styles was in a dead certain mind that it was a blatant penalty, which Frank Lampard efficiently converted past Pepe Reina.
But television replays show the full extent of Malouda’s fall, having already left the floor looking for a penalty before any contact with Agger. Along with 40,000 Kopites in the stadium, Jamie Carragher was incensed and was duly booked by Styles ‘“ one of eight bookings throughout the match.
More controversy followed when Styles appeared to book Michael Essien for the second time in the game, but did not produce a red card. Later Styles claimed only Terry got booked in the incident.
Despite being denied the three points, Benitez can take positives from a good controlled game by his team and an impressive performance by Torres on his home debut.
“It’s difficult to explain such a decision – maybe the referee was under a bit of pressure,” said Benitez. “I think he will watch the video of the match and admit that his penalty decision was a mistake.
“It was important for Torres to score at Anfield – it will prove beneficial for him in the future.”
Next up in international friendlies midweek with England taking on Germany at Wembley Stadium. Gerrard is expected to sit out as he recovers from his fractured toe, but second half substitute Peter Crouch could feature for Steve McClaren’s team.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Arbeloa, Pennant (Babel 68), Gerrard, Alonso, Riise (Crouch 83), Torres, Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Hyypia, Mascherano.
Booked: Kuyt, Pennant, Gerrard, Carragher.
Goals: Torres 16.
Chelsea: Cech, Essien, Ben-Haim, Terry, Ashley Cole, Kalou (Pizarro 46), Wright-Phillips (Joe Cole 77), Obi, Lampard, Malouda (Alex 85), Drogba.
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Makelele.
Booked: Essien, Ashley Cole, Ben-Haim, Lampard, Terry.
Goals: Lampard 62 pen.
Referee: Robert Styles (Hampshire)