All across England and around the world, journalists and bloggers are writing about how Fernando Torres was the deciding factor in Liverpool’s game against Chelsea on Sunday. The man who scored two world-class goals. The man who is back in top form. And so on. But rather than focus on Torres, who is well-deserving of the praise, I want to focus instead on the other ten players on the pitch and their manager, all of whom did a heroic job at Anfield to help guarantee Liverpool’s biggest win of the season thus far.
My man of the match Sunday was Lucas Leiva, the much criticized defensive midfielder who had a scintillating game. His performance personified what Liverpool was all about against Chelsea. The biggest differences between the two teams were that Liverpool fought for every fifty fifty ball as well as the desperation they showed in defending, even throwing their body at the ball at times. Leiva was a key factor why Chelsea was overpowered in midfield especially during the first half. In the second half, Chelsea pushed forward much more but they still had a difficult time getting past Leiva who seemed to be everywhere.
Picking Leiva as man of the match was no easy feat. Several Liverpool players deserved the honors. Torres was clinical with the two chances he had. And both goals we’ve seen from him plenty of times in the past. He was in the perfect position to score from both and he definitely didn’t disappoint.
Elsewhere, Jamie Carragher had a sterling performance as he constantly was barking out orders and defending heroically against a dangerous Chelsea side. Up front, Dirk Kuyt was crucial in the way he played off Torres. The Dutchman placed a beautiful pass for Torres’s first goal. But throughout the match Kuyt was a key influence, battling for the ball and dropping back into midfield when necessary.
Other highlights for Liverpool include:
- Martin Kelly, who had a wonderful match as right back and did a fantastic job of limiting Ashley Cole’s runs and crosses in the first half. Kelly almost scored in the first half too if it wasn’t for John Terry who blocked his shot.
- Maxi Rodriguez, while he didn’t score, was a constant threat for Chelsea. He had a few shots, all of which were on target, but were saved by Chelsea’s Petr Cech.
- Pepe Reina was quite fortunate with a late second half strike by Nicolas Anelka that hit Reina and then hit the crossbar. But despite a little bit of good fortune, Reina saved well from a point blank shot from Malouda and also saved a Yuri Zhirkov shot that was Chelsea’s best chance of the match to score, up until that point.
- Raul Meireles served up a delightful pass to Torres to lead to his second goal. But Meireles was another player who was so involved in the match against Chelsea.
To be fair, there wasn’t a single Liverpool player Sunday who had a bad match. Even David N’Gog who came on as a substitute in the 87th minute had a chance to contribute. He was fouled in the 90th minute when Alex’s head hit the player instead of the ball. With Alex being the last man back, the referee should have red carded Alex instead of showing him a yellow card. Just as Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny got red carded for bringing down a Newcastle United player Sunday in a similar distance from goal, so too should Alex have been sent off.
As for Chelsea, Carlos Ancelotti made several mistakes at Anfield which cost him the game. Why on earth he didn’t start Drogba and Bosingwa, I have no idea. Both men made a crucial impact for Chelsea when they came on in the second half. Also, during the first half Chelsea continued to play long balls forward. The strategy didn’t work because neither Anelka nor Kalou could do anything with the balls. Liverpool kept on clearing them with ease which limited Chelsea’s chances in the first half to a very small number.
From the 60th to the 70th minute of the match, it was all Chelsea as they began to create chance after chance. All Liverpool could do during this spell of the match was to boot the ball away and hope for a few seconds of relief before Chelsea mounted another attack. Luckily for Liverpool, Chelsea was unable to capitalize on their chances and then Liverpool was able to push forward late in the match to give their defenders a little bit of a relief.
Overall, this was a gutsy and heroic performance by Liverpool and one that should convince some Liverpool supporters to believe more in Roy Hodgson and his team. Liverpool now has the confidence and desire back in the team to pull off famous victories like this one. The hard work is ahead of them, but the challenge for them will be to put in performances like this against lesser opposition. That will be the true rest for the remainder of the season.