Fan Diary #11: Chelsea v. Liverpool

Facing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is never easy. But with Petr Cech suspended and with Liverpool’s knack for playing well against the London giants, I felt optimistic going into yesterday’s match. And with Liverpool dominating the first stretch of play, I felt a goal was inevitable and a win was feasible.

I was stumped by Rafa’s decision to leave Yossi Benayoun out though. Since Chelsea were relying on their back-up keeper it would seem the more cannons we could fit on the pitch the better. My lineup would have been Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher, Insua, Mascherano, Gerrard, Riera, Benayoun, Kuyt, Torres. That’s a firm backbone in midfield (Masch, Gerrard) with four proven goal scorers in attack (Yossi, Riera, Kuyt, Torres). And even with Rafa’s eternal insistence on starting Lucas, I still would have found a place for Yossi (probably over Riera) with his league hat trick still fresh in the memory.

But Yossi was nowhere to be seen when the match began. I will say, however, Lucas had one of his better outings. Like Liverpool, he rises to the challenge of facing a big side (most notably his start against Manchester United last season) and he held his own: digging in, making firm challenges, turning possession around. When Yossi did finally hit the pitch, though, he was the best player in sight. Taking on defenders. Turning. Prodding. Penetrating. His one great chance was off target, but I feel if he’d had more time on the pitch he could have made the difference.

2-0, as my friend Marty said after the match, was a flattering scoreline to Chelsea. For most of the match Liverpool were the better side. One slip-up by Mascherano (our best player before Yossi came on: his defensive work was solid – his distribution was inspiring) gave Anelka the chance he needed to open the scoring and turn the tide. But despite the points dropped, I was encouraged by Liverpool’s play, especially after the shoddy outing against Fiorentina midweek.

Truth is it’s hard to undo Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Yesterday’s loss should remind us what a brilliant win last season’s upset there really was. There’s a reason the Blues go on long unbeaten streaks at home: they are hard to beat at the Bridge.

The biggest concern for me was Didier Drogba going up against our defense which has had its problems this season. But until his¬†devastating assist in the late minutes, Drogba seemed more interested in falling down than creating a viable chance. In August I wrote an article searching for my new football villain after Ronaldo’s departure from the Premier League. Drogba was the best candidate. Yesterday he sealed it for me.

I’ve never seen somebody that big go down that easily and then get up so quickly once play resumes. It seems like even if his dives are convincing, the ref should stop giving him the benefit of the doubt after he’s done it four times. “Drogba was shot four times,” said Marty. “But he never died!”

My friend Niall reiterated his complaint from last season’s Champions League quarter-final second leg: “I’d be embarassed to have him on my side.”

Clearly John Terry felt the same way when he finally strode up to Drogba and scolded him out for his ridiculous simulating.

Overall, I cannot condemn Liverpool’s efforts. Despite the points dropped, this was one of our more convincing displays of the season. The two moments that led to the goals were two of the few moments where we slipped. It stings to have dropped nine points already this season, but if the title becomes out of reach, I won’t look to yesterday’s match as the match to blame. Spurs: yes. Villa: yes. Not yesterday.

The only thing I would have done differently is start Yossi Benayoun. Hopefully his wonderful performance as a substitute yesterday earns him a starting place next time out.

20 thoughts on “Fan Diary #11: Chelsea v. Liverpool”

  1. They’ve played four contenders (Spurs, Villa, Fiorentina, Chelsea).

    And lost to every one.

    The next six matches (@ Sunderland, Lyon (CL), Man. U., @ Arsenal (Carling), @ Fulham, @ Lyon) will shape the season.

    At the end of that stretch, they very well could be out of everything except the FA Cup.

  2. Whilst I appreciate the frustrations of Drogba’s performance, Mascherano’s dive was pathetic and clear attempt to get a player sent off through simulation. That sort of cheating should be a red card offence, it was diabolical. That was far worse than anything Drogba attempted.

    Also, defensively, Liverpool were all over the place at the back, how many free headers did Chelsea win in Liverpool’s box? 10, 12??

    The key issue is that if Gerrard and Torres don’t perform, Liverpool cannot break a big club down and that will ultimately cost them. That and Benitez’s continual use of the zonal marking system that clearly doesn’t work anymore worries me for the rest of the season.

    OH, and Spurs should have been 4 nil at half time, penalty claims or not, Liverpool shouldn’t be looking to such things to win games against us. We’re Spurs, not Barcelona. ūüėČ

    1. While Drogba’s diving didn’t rile me as much as it did Mr. Armstrong, Drogba’s takedown of Skrtel in the box on the corner was worse than Mascherano’s antics. That said, the better team on the pitch won yesterday (and in the matches against Spurs, Villa, and Fiorentina).

      The zonal marking is godawful, and Stevie G again came up small in a big match (I miss the 2005-06 vintage Stevie G).

      I’ll chalk Torres’ performance up to a lack of decent service. (Where are you now, Xabi Alonso? Merseyside turns its tear-stained eyes to you. When might we see Aquilani? Without him, this year may be over soon.)

      I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – for want of 1-2 key players that the Yanks wouldn’t (or couldn’t) pay for, Liverpool may become the next Leeds United.

      Once again, I pick me a winner. Sigh.

      1. The line is “where have you gone?”, but I love the musical reference – and Alonso takes te the place of DiMaggio very nicely.

  3. I don’t like the line up with Gerrard up top with Torres, especially without Alonso…we just don’t have the creativity and passing ability to get the ball quickly up the pitch and accurately to the feet of our strikers. Agree we needed Yossi’s spark much earlier. Really, a poor game from the people we really needed to step up…Torres, Gerrard, Riera. Carragher was slow on the first goal and should have been in better position, and Masch made the critical brain-fart error in the middle of the pitch that changed the whole game around. And while Lucas had a “better” game, he is still a poor substitute for Alonso, and Liverpool really show sometimes how much we miss his contribution in the middle.

    And qft on Drogba, he spends more time on his back than a $5 prostitute. Sickening, and if I was a referee, I wouldn’t give him the benefit of ANY calls. Wish he went to Inter, he’s fit in with the over-simulation in Italy. Why the FA doesn’t fine him for each dive and over-reaction I never know, it reflects poorly on the league as a whole. My solution for constant simulation: if your antics need the game to be stopped to tend your “injury”, you not only have to go off the pitch, but have to be off for 5′ minimum or be subbed. I think we’d find many a player able to “shake off” their “injuries” on the pitch, knowing the alternative is leaving their team short for any significant amount of time.

  4. I don’t mean to nitpick, but putting this into something other than a giant wall of text would make it a lot easier to read.

    1. The formatting wasn’t cooperating with me. The paragraph breaks were there when I was editing, but when I published it they disappeared and I couldn’t correct it for the life of me. This has happened once before. Thankfully it was fixed (thanks Gaffer?).

  5. I agree with everything written in the article, it is exactly how I felt. Liverpool’s back line looked great on Sunday and I believe that if they can stay that solid in the back they have a shot at the title.

    I know many people who read this comment are thinking I’m crazy, but there is one thing they probably don’t remember.

    Manchester United had 15 points from their first 8 games last season, and ended up winning the league with 90 points.

    Chelsea deserved the win, but Liverpool could have changed the game if things went their way. The first goal clinched it, but it could have easily been Liverpool’s goal.

    Drogba, the posture child for “Anti-Football” pushed Skrtel down in the box and it wasn’t called. Not only that, but Chelsea got the benefit of the doubt on a lot of calls. Drogba’s diving killed 3-4 Liverpool counter attacks and got them possession when it would have been dangerous to lose it.

    Liverpool didn’t deserve to win because they couldn’t score, but it was an even game. They received nothing but Mascherano’s simulation, which was little compared to what Chelsea received. After all, the play that led to their second goal? It sure looked like a handball to me…

    People are ready to condemn Liverpool, which is absurd in my opinion. I believe they are capable of doing great this season. As for Chelsea, I respect their new manager and many of their players, especially John Terry, but am always disappointed by the their style of play.

    Drogba’s ability as a forward is amazing, he is one of the best. However, diving every five seconds is truly disgraceful to anyone who loves football. It is almost as disgraceful as the number of cheap shots that are taken to stop the counter attack.

    The main offenders are Ivanovic and Ballack. The fact that they weren’t carded was surprising. Especially after Ivanovic clearly took Gerrard down to stop the counter. He was in no way going for the ball.

    Chelsea deserved this win, but they are in trouble against Arsenal and Manchester United. It is going to be close and I think the May 1st game between Chelsea and Liverpool will decide the title.

  6. as a chelsea fan, i was pleasantly relieved to see benayoun out of the staring eleven. outside of gerrard, he is the most potent member of the liverpool midfield in creating scoring chances. his excellent run/pass to Torres in the CL last year sticks out in my mind. and what’s worse: Drogba rolling around on the ground after a tackle, or Torres raking the shins of Terry and complaining to the ref when things weren’t going his way? Im certainly not embarrassed to have DDA in our XI when he’s in form, hes simply unplayable. However the histrionics can get old, and they usually happen when he’s have the impact he normally has. And he’s obviously not the only chronic diver (*cough* *cough*), and he’s certainly more convincing than one Stevie G. However even yesterday when he wasn’t at his best, he was crucial to both our goals. Chelsea as a whole have a giant target on their backs, so making Drogba your villain du jour doesn’t change much.

    The scoreline was a tad flattering, but I would have to say the better team won. Outside of the first 10-15 minutes and the last 10 minutes, I was never worried that Liverpool would score. Carvalho, Terry and Essien were back to their best.

    1. TBH, I think he was just trying to evade Essien, but to roll around clutching his shin was deplorable.

      I don’t think I can remember the last time Drogba outright dived. He may accentuate any contact but given the amount of little kicks he gets that go unpunished I don’t blame him.

  7. Is it me or is Jamie Carragher aging in dog years?!?!? When Liverpool play well he is passable, but when they struggle he is always at the heart of it. Yet he is still the clear first choice center-half which doesn’t bode well for Rafa’s men.

  8. drogba doesnt dive, he goes down easier then the town slut though. Watch him he usually goes down on contact. If he was benayoun’s size and got tackled the same way no one would be complaining.

    That said it was a home game and chelsea probably only deserved a 1-0 win if anything. liverpool – chelsea are always cagey though

  9. Torres playing up front by himself against the likes of Hull is one thing but expecting him to battle against defences the likes of Fiorentina and Chelsea is another order, especially without a passer like Alonso on the team. NO LINK PLAY until Yossi comes on – Liverpool got what they deserved.

  10. Xabi wanted out, so I don’t blame Liverpool for selling. Had they had a significant say in the matter, I highly doubt he is sold.

    But this team does not look nearly as good without Xabi in midfield. LFC better hope and pray that Aquilani is the man to take them forward.

    To reiterate what has been pointed out by others…Rafa is not as good as people think he is. You take away a sublime 2nd half in Istanbul, and the man is out of a job at Liverpool.

    Totally agree Ethan, Yossi needed to start. Otherwise with Gerrard more withdrawn, there is not enough up front. Torres can’t be expected to do it by himself week in and week out. I guess the only problem with this is that there is no viable option left on the bench.

    And not to beat a dead horse, but this goes back to Rafa’s poor signings. He’s spent quite a bit. And much of the money has been squandered. Liverpool still lack depth. United, Arsenal, Chelsea, even City and Everton can reach for their bench and bring in dynamic players. Liverpool cannot do this without sacrificing quality in the starting 11.

  11. Take off those blinkers son, it does the site no service at all. We come here to read objective analysis, not bleeding heart histrionics about a Liverpool team that are clearly on the way down.

    To complete ignore Mascherano’s dive, is just biased. Your team are not good enough, and to whine about Drogba, whilst ignoring the diving antics of your own players is pathetic.

    Every team that has beaten Liverpool has done so because they were better. Nothing more and nothing less. Get used to it, you’ll be lucky to finish 6th at this rate.

  12. Convincing? Torres in his frock was no where to be found, Gerrard was mostly non-existent, Kuyt is wasted on the right, and you must have been watching a different Lucas than any of us because he was outmatched and outgunned for 90 minutes.

    Chelsea were the better side, more threatening, and played better overall in a usual, non-spectacular, albeit normal clash between the two clubs. We’ll take the deserved 2-0 and the three points we also were entitled to as well.

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