Liverpool’s season, and Roy Hodgson’s reign as manager, finally kicked off as they made it four consecutive wins by seeing off league leaders Chelsea 2-0 at Anfield.
Fernando Torres provided the fireworks with two first-half goals, both supremely taken, but there were many more wonderful performances, with Lucas Leiva absolutely superb in midfield.
With defenders Glen Johnson and Soto Kyrgiakos being ruled out late-on through injury and sickness, Hodgson gave a full league debut to Martin Kelly at right, with Jamie Carragher lining up alongside Martin Skrtel in the centre. Paul Konchesky was at left back and enjoyed his best performance since his arrival in the summer.
Hodgson also threw a surprise by playing Steven Gerrard in midfield alongside Lucas Leiva, with Raul Meireles on the right of midfield and Dirk Kuyt as a second-striker behind Fernando Torres. Maxi Rodriguez switched to the left after his late winner at Bolton last week.
Chelsea were missing several key men; midfielders Frank Lampard and Michel Essien, and Didier Drogba started on the bench after suffering a fever. He was called upon at half-time after Torres had given the hosts a two goal advantage.
The Spanish striker opened the scoring early on with a finish of finesse from a superb Kuyt pass. He added his second a minute before the break with a magnificent curling effort past Petr Cech to make it seven goals in eight games against the west Londoners.
The second half saw Liverpool under constant pressure from the visitors but they defended doggedly, blocking shots, keeping their shape and not giving away free-kicks in key areas. Although, Pepe Reina was forced into action on two occasions, one with a superb reaction save from Malouda and another to push Anelka’s shot onto the bar.
Before the game many fans had noted how this game may suit Roy Hodgson’s style, being the underdog at home. But Liverpool didn’t play like the underdog in the first half, taking the game to Chelsea and not allowing them any time on the ball in midfield. There was an element of the old Mascherano-Alonso partnership, with Lucas being the destroyer – harassing and winning tackles – and Gerrard spraying passes out wide beautifully.
Liverpool tired somewhat in the second half as Chelsea enjoyed long spells of possession. Kuyt in particular looked weary on his return from injury, he eventually made way for youngster Jonjo Shelvey to make his league debut for the club.
This was new owner John W. Henry’s first league game at Anfield and the air of uncertainty that previously surrounded the club has now lifted, with the Kop in full voice and bouncing to the sound of the Torres song again.
Next up are Wigan and Stoke away, the types of fixtures we’ve struggled with in the past. But two more wins and the Reds will be higher than the ninth spot they now occupy.
It feels good to be enjoying watching the Redmen play again.
Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Konchesky, Meireles (Spearing), Lucas, Gerrard, Maxi, Kuyt (Shelvey), Torres (Ngog).
Unused subs: 41 Hansen, 22 Wilson, 28 C Poulsen, 14 Jovanovic.
Goals: Torres 11, 44
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic (Bosingwa), Cole, Terry, Alex, Ramires, Mikel, Malouda, Zhirkov (Sturridge 76), Kalou (Drogba), Anelka.
Unused subs: Turnbull, Ferreira, McEachran, Kakuta.
Referee: Howard Webb