Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea
Sunday, 7th November 2010
A stunning Fernando Torres double marked the Spaniards return to form in dramatic fashion and clinched a well deserved and significant victory for Liverpool.
This really was an excellent all round team performance against reigning champions and current league leaders – Chelsea. It must be said that if the Reds could produce something resembling this performance week-in-week-out they would be much higher up the league table than they currently find themselves, even after this hard earned three points.
Torres will obviously – and deservedly – take most of the plaudits. However, the often maligned, Lucas Leiva was outstanding and, in truth, has been throughout the last few weeks. Surprise starter Martin Kelly also deserves great credit for an astute display at full-back, up against the talents of Florent Malouda and Ashley Cole, no less.
Steven Gerrard was at his inspirational best at the fulcrum of much of Liverpool’s attacking and defensive play. Pepe Reina pulled off some of his standard heroics between the posts. Whilst Raul Meireles and the returning Dirk Kuyt also did their reputations no harm.
All deserve credit; both for a first half during which the Reds out-played their decorated opponents, and a second half display characterised by determination and defensive excellence, as the Reds ‘dug in’ to secure victory.
Ultimately though it was Torres who decided the game in Liverpool’s favour. The Kop favourite has been on the receiving end of much criticism this season. But here he provided material evidence that he is beginning to rediscover some of the lethal form of previous seasons which has made him such an idol amongst Reds fans.
Both were classic Torres strikes in their on brand. For the first, on 11 minutes, Torres demonstrated excellent control to receive Kuyt’s well-weighted pass and, were in recent times he may have hesitated and wasted the chance, the striker showed composure and finesse to finish beyond Petr Cech. Giving Roy Hodgson’s men the perfect start.
The second, moments before half time, was the defining moment in the match. Torres drifted out wide to the left of the Chelsea penalty area and Meireles found him. El Nino then demonstrated the type of directness and eye for goal lacking from his play for much of the season. Cutting into the box, Torres curled a wonderful effort into the far corner of the net.
After the opening goal Torres seemed like a man transformed. Brimming with confidence; the Spaniard never gave the visiting defence a moments peace and was a threat right up until being replaced by David N’Gog in the final minutes. Torres picked up the ball ran at the Blues defence and shot wide soon after.
The opening goal turned the sway of the game towards Liverpool and away from Carlo Ancelotti’s men. And Maxi Rodriguez volleyed over from Kelly’s cross. The Reds could well then have been awarded a penalty had Howard Webb picked up on the ball striking Yuri Zhirkov’s hand.
Malouda tested Reina with a header from Cole’s left wing cross. However that was all Chelsea could muster, as Liverpool dominated the early proceedings.
Liverpool played much the better football in the opening half, with Chelsea able to produce very little in the way of chances at the Kop end. Ancelotti responded by introducing Didier Drogba – surprisingly dropped to the substitute’s bench – at the break.
As anticipated the visitors attempted to lay siege to the Liverpool goal mouth in the second period – also introducing Daniel Sturridge, in addition to Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, midway through the half.
Liverpool retreated into defence and somewhat negative football after the break.
But confidence is still in the process of being rebuilt and, all things considered, getting to the final whistle with victory intact was the most important thing.
However the Reds actually continued to match Chelsea in terms of goal scoring chances. And, had Liverpool perhaps shown a little more ambition, they may even have triumphed by a greater margin.
Maxi tested Cech with a low shot soon after half time. Then, on 74 minutes, the Chelsea defence could only clear Gerrard’s corner kick as far as Meireles, lurking on the edge on the area. The Portuguese’s effort was blocked but only into the path of Kuyt. Cech just doing enough to divert the Dutchman’s shot the wrong side of the post.
Ancelotti’s team created chances of their own, of course, as they sought a route back into the contest. Ramieres headed over the bar when he probably should have tested Reina with a free header.
The visitors best opportunities brought the best out of Reina. The goalkeeper producing a world class, point blank save to deny what seemed like a certain goal from Malouda midway through the second half. Then just getting enough on Anelka’s powerful low shot to divert it onto the underside of the bar, before reacting well to scramble and gather the ball.
The atmosphere in the stands was electric. At times reminiscent of some notable past European meetings between the two sides. The vigour and determination in the Reds play and, of course, the two goals lifted the crowd. And, in turn, the fans urged and encouraged Liverpool to see out the victory in the second half.
And Maxi could have put a final gloss on the win in injury time. With Chelsea pushing forward, the Argentine winger was released one-on-one with the goalkeeper. He probably should have taken the shot early and found the net, although Maxi had viable claims for a penalty when hauled down by Cech as the ball ran away from him.
The damage had already been done by Fernando Torres. And an ecstatic Anfield crowd greeted the final whitsle in celebration of what is undoubtedly Hodgson’s best win to date in the Anfield hot seat. As, most importantly, Liverpool continued their rise up the Premier League table.
Man of the Match
There were many candidates and match-winner Fernando Torres would be the obvious choice. Yet the harrying and tenacity of Lucas in midfield was really stood out. The Brazilian passed the ball well and never allowed the Chelsea midfield to rest in possession.