Late Liverpool Halt Chelsea’s Faltering Challenge
It’s a cold Sunday afternoon and I’ve parked my backside on the sofa to watch Liverpool vs Chelsea, a clash of the title contenders. Man United’s ominous form coupled with their rivals inability to keep pace means we all know that the team that loses Sunday’s game is well and truly out of the title race…in January.
The game itself is perhaps no thriller, Chelsea apparently toothless in attack registering a meagre 2 attempts on target to Liverpool’s 9. The first half was far from an enthralling affair but from the first whistle a hungrier, more dyanimic Liverpool were the only side who could have saved the game from being labelled a bore-draw.
The London side’s supporters were clearly never going to leave Anfield happy. An indifferent performance by goalkeeper Petr Cech, who was twice nearly caught in possession and Didier Drogba again left on the bench as Chelsea lined up 4-3-3 with Anelka, Malouda and Kalour preferred, no doubt to the Ivorian’s frustration to lead the attack. The Blues created nothing all afternoon, Pepe Reina a spectator in the Reds goalmouth for much of the game.
Just after the hour mark Chelsea’s midfield finally featured in one of the games major talking points but not in the way that manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari would have wanted. Frank Lampard lunging for 50/50 with Xabi Alonso catching his opponent in the follow through was bizarrely adjudged by trigger-happy official Mike Riley to be worthy of a red card, Lampard and Chelsea justifiably furious.
Enter the 88th minute and it’s still Liverpool on top as it had been from the first whistle and Liverpool finally deliver a telling blow in the shape of a Fernando Torres’ late double. First a fantastic glancing header at the near post from Riera’s cross, minutes before Ashley Cole’s poor judgement not to clear first time let the ball fall to Yossi Benayoun to nip in behind and although Cole did well to get a foot in the way the ball fell into the path of the £20 million Spaniard to slot in his second.
Moments later and cue the final whistle, Anfield in raptures and Rafa Benitez delighted with the pressure momentarily eased on their own faltering title challenge. Scolari and Chelsea fans have to wonder why they have only taken one point in any of the games against the so-called ‘big four’ in five games so far this season.
Scolari though in his first season in charge (with glistening C.V in his defence) can be the only man to rationalise why Anelka and Drogba have never been paired together for any significant amount of time as a traditional front two and the lack of starting opportunities for the effervescent Joe Cole. The board at Stamford Bridge have certainly tightened the purse strings after previous years of free-flowing spending and this is no major surprise, no club could ever sustain this (I’m sure Man City fans may not agree for now!) but the budget transfer budget needs to be at least £30-£40 million in the current climate to stay with the pace. The Portuguese duo of Deco signed (free) and Bosingwa (16 Million) the only Major arrivals at the bridge this summer.
My personal opinion of why Chelsea don’t score enough goals, is the absence of Essien in the engine room coupled with a three -prong attack that often resembles a negative looking 4-5-1 leaving Anelka isolated. Kalou and Malouda simply do not look like players who belong in a title winning team.
Should Scolari still be at The Bridge this summer in what is current an uncomfortable climate to be a manager at a top club, then a major rebuilding job is needed to make the Blues currently feeble title ambitions realistic.