Full-Time Thoughts–Liverpool vs. Chelsea
• The second half was a much better 45 minutes of soccer to watch. Both teams went after it, particularly early in the half, and the game was played at a faster tempo.
• Didier Drogba is so ridiculously disinterested in playing for Chelsea that it’s a joke. If I was Avram Grant, I would consider suspending him for the rest of the season and just telling him to stay away from the team. Drogba seems to be a cancer to Chelsea FC right now. He is less than half the player he was under Mourinho.
• Kalou in for Joe Cole seemed to have been a bit of a pointless change. I understand that Cole had had a quiet game up until that point, but he is Chelsea’s most creative attacking player and can provide things that no one else on that team can. One moment of brilliance and Cole could’ve equalized for the Blues, and you can’t say the same about Kalou.
• Frank Lampard didn’t seem to fully be into this game. He was there in body, obviously, but he seemed to be a couple steps off the pace and I don’t think his mind was completely focused on playing Liverpool. After being with his sick mother for a while though, you can’t have expected a wonder game from him either.
• Rafa Benitez clearly outmanaged his counterpart, Avram Grant, tonight. Grant was hesitant to pull the trigger on any attacking moves, and Benitez stood pat and didn’t bring on an extra defender, which in turn likely would’ve brought an immediate countermove from Grant and invited more pressure onto the Reds’ back line. Grant brought Anelka on in the 85th minute, way too late. A guy like Anelka typically needs five minutes or more just to get acquainted with the flow of the game, and Grant was asking too much of him to contribute something in that short a period of time. Grant also took off his best player on the night, Michael Ballack, for some unknown reason.
• Liverpool was harshly done by the officials. Chelsea got the benefit of almost every close call; Drogba went down at every chance he got and usually won a free kick, Chelsea clearly was offside on two or three occasions and it wasn’t spotted, and Liverpool had a great shout for a penalty after Michael Ballack appeared to play the ball with his arm in the box midway through the second half.
• Chelsea really lacked that spark of creativity necessary to steal a true goal at Anfield. Ballack was their best player, as I said, but didn’t seriously ever test Reina. I’m still unsure why he was replaced.
• Just how important were Fernando Torres’ two great chances that weren’t finished? The second was only a minute before Riise’s unfortunate own-goal, and going 2-0 up would’ve finished the game for good.
• In the end, 1-1 obviously is a flattering scoreline to Chelsea. The Blues were outplayed virtually all game and only a lucky own-goal at the death rescued them. Chelsea now has the advantage heading back to the Bridge next week, but Liverpool has to be encouraged by their own performance today. Take nothing away from Chelsea though; they had fate on their side tonight, and that can’t be underestimated.