Stamford Bridge. 4.00pm. Remembrance Sunday, 11th November.
An immaculately observed minute’s silence to remember those who gave their lives for others. We shall never forget.
Ah Liverpool. They know what they were. Only they aren’t any more.
Before I write this I have a confession. Don’t panic. I’ve never been employed at the BBC. I’ve never been to North Wales, not even once. I am, shamefully, a big fan of Luis Suarez. I know, I know but the lad is a Chelsea player in the wrong kit.
Racism allegations. Check. Media pariah. Check. Controversial. Yes. Brilliant. Definitely.
Cech. Azpilicueta. Ivanovic. Terry. Bertrand. Ramires. Mikel. Mata. Oscar. Hazard. Torres.
A reshuffled back four was the only major team news. Azpilicueta was handed his full Premier League debut. Terry returned from suspension. Bertrand came in for Cole and Ivanovic moved alongside JT in the centre.
The game began as we might have expected from Rodgers’ Liverpool, with them having plenty of, essentially meaningless, possession and us looking sharp on the counter attack. In truth it was far from an exciting first half. The undoubted highlight being our captain’s bullet header from Juan Mata’s inswinging corner. His delight and celebration towards the fans a recognition of their unstinting support throughout the most turbulent of careers. That joy was to be short-lived however. A tangle with Suarez on the edge of his own 18-yard box ended in an awkward fall and a blood curdling scream that immediately made me think cruciate knee ligament injury. The delay while JT was replaced seemed to help Liverpool somewhat and maybe served to remind them that we are almost completely incapable of keeping a clean-sheet at the moment. Especially without JT, whose organizational abilities were evident in the first half-hour. Mata really should’ve made it two just before half time but a minuscule bobble sent his left-footed shot over the bar.
This was a match that never really caught light, perhaps due to midweek exertions, perhaps due to the style of football now favoured by both teams. Chelsea however were well on top dominating meaningful possession, bossing midfield and creating some decent chances. Unfortunately and annoyingly the second goal never came. Even more annoyingly a Liverpool corner resulted in a Jamie Carragher flick-on and a headed tap-in, if such a thing exists, for Suarez. In the right place at the right time as he so often is he scored his 11th of the season for Liverpool and salvaged another draw for them. He celebrated alone. Much huffing and puffing later but without any significant action it was all over.
In all honesty a decent performance from Chelsea but I never really expected a result. United 2-0 down at Villa were always going to win late on. Spurs 1-0 up at the Etihad were always going to give it away and we were always going to fail to take three points. It’s November after all.
Azpilicueta looked better than he did in his debut against United. Far more solid. A few ill-advised crosses to no-one capable of heading the ball but a decent game. The whole defence managed well considering. Until they all decided to stand around looking at each other for Liverpool’s equalizer. Man-to-man/zonal I don’t really care. Just don’t let them get two free headers in the box from one corner.
Mikel and Ramires look very good together in the pivot. I’d prefer to see Ramires getting forward more and Mikel holding. I really like Jon Obi but he looks a bit clueless when he gets too far forward.
Mata, Hazard and Oscar showed their usual quality without ever really carving Liverpool open on a regular basis. To give Rodgers some credit playing five at the back seemed to help in that respect.
Torres. Is there anything left to say? Unlucky not to score with a header but in truth we knew he wasn’t going to get the chance to not celebrate against his old club. Worked hard. Looked fairly sharp. Decision making was questionable but never going to be someone who wins us games on his own. It wasn’t his fault we didn’t win yesterday but I’ve long since given up expecting anything special from him. I still support him and will continue to until he goes but it’s looking like it’s time to move on. If we’re going to build a truly great team we will need a truly great striker.
Liverpool were very average but Suarez got them a point.
West Brom, Juventus, City and Fulham will determine how things look for us in both the Champions League and Premier League at the end of November. I’d take two wins and two draws right now.
Win or lose. Up the Blues.
The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “The onset of winter is freezing Chelsea’s title pursuit yet again. Points were wastefully shed to Liverpool here, the celebratory mood that had briefly flared when John Terry marked his return from domestic suspension with a first goal of the season doused long before the end. The captain now faces a spell in rehabilitation after sustaining a knee injury. Quite what state this team’s Premier League challenge will be in when he returns remains to be seen.”
The Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Football can be such a fickle creature at times. One moment John Terry was celebrating his return from suspension with a goal, blowing kisses to the Chelsea fans, relishing the homage of those who laud him as “captain, leader, legend”. The next Terry was writhing on the cold unforgiving turf, brought to earth in painful fashion, his season thrown into doubt. The sound of Terry’s piercing scream and the sight of Chelsea’s medical team being scrambled said it all about the seriousness of his knee injury.”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “When Brendan Rodgers says that he would not change Suarez for any other player you can see his point. In fact, this current Chelsea team with Suarez rather than Fernando Torres as their leading striker would be a whole different package. As it is, the European champions have now slipped to third in the Premier League behind the usual suspects from Manchester after the brightest of starts to the season.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “An early header from John Terry, who would later be carried off on a stretcher, was not enough for all three points as Liverpool came from behind thanks to a close-range Luiz Suarez header at Stamford Bridge.”