The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: "Lampard had been sent off by Mike Riley after an hour, despite making contact with the ball before the collision with Xabi Alonso. While the referee might claim that Lampard’s studs were raised, he had done no more than speak to Steven Gerrard when the Liverpool captain had fouled Mikel John Obi shortly before. The Anfield outfit made the most of their luck."
The Times, Oliver Kay: "As the dust settled and the snow began to stick on the streets around Anfield, only one story truly mattered last night. There had been anguish for Frank Lampard, more humiliation for Robbie Keane, the rebirth of Fernando Torres and the slightest encouragement for Rafael BenÍtez in his contract negotiations, but, fairly or otherwise, this was the afternoon when Liverpool shrugged off the self-doubt and established themselves once and for all as the only threat to Manchester United’s hopes of a third successive Premier League title."
The Independent, Sam Wallace: "Torres cut through the traffic on 88 minutes to head in the decisive goal before he added the second in injury-time to unite this unhappy house of Scouse in joy just when they were beginning to wonder if it really was all over. They did so with the benefit of a deeply questionable performance from referee Mike Riley who sent off Frank Lampard having failed to do the same to Steven Gerrard when the latter had committed a foul of greater severity minutes earlier."
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: "Chelsea now look depleted for their FA Cup date with Watford, the side Frank Lampard senior currently helps out. Lampard is banned, unless the FA overturn Riley’s hasty decision, while John Terry’s booking for dissent precludes his involvement. Soho Square may seek to have a quiet word or two with Jose Bosingwa for kicking Yossi Benayoun in the back."
Official Chelsea FC Website: "The result means the Blues have fallen short against a top of the table side once more, although the debate over the causes this time is bound to rage on."
Short and sweet, this one, as the mood is not conducive to too much by way of rational thought and comment. I’ll leave that to you folks, although I forgive you if you are less than flattering in your verdicts about any element of today’s game.
- The first 60 minutes. I think we’ve all just about accepted that we aren’t quite the all-conquering force we were back in 04-05 and 05-06, but despite the lack of ambition we gave a decent account of ourselves until Mike Riley intervened today. Given our current stuttering form and all too evident shortcomings, a point would have been a welcome and eminently attainable result. Alas, it was not to be.
- Phil’s substitutions. Whether made by a man with a desire to win the game (highly unlikely) or just feeling that he needed to be positive in order to play the (rather belated and somewhat disingenuous) “we tried to win the game” card, introducing Deco, Drogba and Stoch at least showed something by way of attacking ambition, even if there was a feel of rearrangement of the deck chairs upon the Titanic about their appearance.
- Our midfield. Until Frank’s dismissal, the boys in the centre did well against Alonso, Mascherano and Gerrard in somewhat claustrophobic circumstances. Mikel deserves a mention in dispatches, despite another silly yellow card.
- First half performance. If we are building from the bottom up as a team under Scolari, the organisation and commitment in the first forty-five was laudable, if a little uninspiring in the final third.
- Alex. He has his critics, but his performance today was exceptional; how many times did he fling himself in front of goal-bound shots? He can count himself unlucky to be ‘at fault’ for Torres’s first goal. Well played that man.
- Complain all we like about the circumstances, but we mustered one shot on target all game and showed little will or ambition to win; possibly understandable in our current fragile position where a point would have been welcome, but teams playing like that neither deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the words “Premiership title winners” or represent their country in the ‘Champions’ League either.
- Mike Riley. Obvious choice, I know, but I’m not even going to go into the finer points of the argument about his influence on the game. Firstly, look at the Lampard red card and watch the ball. Sending off? If you think so, you’re mentally incompetent. Secondly, consider who should have received the card (red or otherwise) – Lampard or Alonso? Then analyse Gerrard’s ‘performance’ and, considering Rory Delap’s endeavours yesterday, a degree of common sense and his other misdemeanours, ask how he remained on the pitch (of course, he doesn’t dive either). If Swansea v. Ipswich doesn’t await Mavis next weekend, there is something deeply wrong with the world.
- Rafa Benitez. Has endeared himself to the football world in recent weeks with his slightly eccentric approach to the business end of the title race and his main competitors, possibly at a sizeable cost to himself and his team, but my criticism is simple; a back four and two holding midfielders against ten men for twenty minutes until finally introducing an attacking player for a defensive one with ten minutes to go? I’m sure many will suggest that the win is justification and evidence of his tactical genius, but for me it is the mark of a coward who deserves to win nothing other than occasional bragging rights over his close rivals.
- Jose Bosingwa. You fool – enjoy your three game ban.
Christ, I really can’t be arsed. Varying between Fellini (Alex) and fellatio (Riley).
Man of the Match
Alex. Or maybe Mikel, at a push.
We didn’t deserve to win, but we certainly didn’t deserve the result we got. An intriguing contest was ruined by poor refereeing; from memory, six opponents red carded against Liverpool (all involving Alonso?) this season? It wasn’t even what you could describe as a dirty game, yet in contained seven yellow cards and one red. Rank bad refereeing, irrespective of the result.
As for us, major summer surgery awaits. A handful of the current crop deserve a place in the 2009-2010 squad and several need to depart. Whether the current manager is the man to oversee the transition is another matter entirely; I’ve seen little in recent weeks to suggest that he is.
To cast the mind back a couple of years, I remember watching a number of Manchester United v. Liverpool games during our title-winning seasons and seeing lacklustre, cautious, average football and either goalless draws or games decided by the odd goal but with little overall substance or character in the performance of either side. If Fergie thought anything different having watched today’s game, I would be very surprised. United should win their game in hand and will probably go on to win the title this season; we will retain a top four spot, but those consoling themselves with the age-old “long way to go”, “they’ll have a blip” type clichés and other such wishful guff are living on the same planet as Mike Riley.