Premiership review: Liverpool 2 – 0 Chelsea

Match reports

Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “In 100 Premiership matches, Jose Mourinho has been beaten only nine times, but never can he have approached a game with such resignation as yesterday. The defeatism apparent once he lost a third central defender in Ricardo Carvalho to a virus overnight must surely have spread to his players, who gave probably the least coherent performance of the Mourinho era.”

Sunday Times, Joe Lovejoy: “Roman Abramovich didn’t turn up and nor did Chelsea. For the first time the champions’ confidence cracked at Anfield yesterday, when they stumbled their way through easily the worst performance of Jose Mourinho’s two-and-a-half years as manager.”

Sunday Telegraph, Roy Collins: “No matter what the formation, no matter the number of players performing in unfamiliar positions, one thing you never expect to see is Chelsea out-fought and out-muscled, as they were here. Nor was there any hint of the stirring recent fightbacks at Everton and Wigan Athletic.”

The Observer, Paul Wilson: “Whether Anfield will have the final say on Mourinho’s future is debatable, but at this rate it will soon be bye-bye Chelsea. An overnight sickness ruled out Ricardo Carvalho on the morning of the match and brought Mourinho’s worst fears into being. For weeks he has been complaining that he has only three centre-backs to choose from and with John Terry and Khalid Boulahrouz injured, suddenly he had none.”

Official Chelsea FC Website, Neil Barnett: “Liverpool move five points behind Chelsea and Chelsea must hope for an Arsenal victory at home to Manchester United [today].”

The good

  1. Petr Cech. It was great to see him back. Could do nothing about either goal. Spent most of the game shouting at the defence. Pulled off a great save from John Arne Riise at 1-0 down which should have been the spur for the rest of the team to pull their fingers out. None of them did.
  2. Any other good points? We did improve as the game progressed and bossed possession for periods, but what did we do with that possession? Sweet Fanny Adams, that’s what. It would be easy to blame our defensive frailties, but what did the six players in front of the back four do to counteract those weaknesses? Very little. Huffed and puffed and put in one of the worst offensive performances under Jose Mourinho. For once I agree with the Independent newspaper: there was an air of resignation from the moment Liverpool scored.

The bad

  1. It would be easy to list Michael Essien and Paulo Ferreira here, but I’m not going to. Anyone who expected either of them to go 90 minutes up against the human beanpole that is Peter Crouch without coming off second best was misguided. They did improve through the game, but for once Rafael Benitez got his tactics and formation spot on and his players took advantage of Essien and Ferreira’s inexperience from the kick-off and within 20 minutes the game was, to all intents and purposes, over.
  2. John Obi Mikel is no defensive/holding midfielder. While Claude Makelele may not be having his best season in a blue shirt, he was badly missed in this game. The time and space gifted to Crouch et al between our defence and midfield effectively won Liverpool the game. Surely Lassana Diarra, Makelele’s understudy and a bloody good one at that, would have been a better bet, despite his relative inexperience? Has he not been punished enough for his tardy timekeeping? I’m sure Mourinho thought Mikel’s height would help against Benitez’s long ball tactics, but Mikel (and others) stood off Crouch time and again and allowed the lanky forward to link up Liverpool’s forward play unhindered.
  3. The injury to Arjen Robben. I’m not sure what the extent of the injury is, but it couldn’t come at a worse time.
  4. We are not going to see the best of Andriy Shevchenko while Mourinho is Chelsea manager. Of that I am now certain.
  5. Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack’s Keystone Kop-like free kick routine summed up our performance better than any number of words.

Man of the Match

You decide.

Final thoughts

We never looked like recovering from Liverpool’s early blitz. Watching the game in the pub, I quaffed more and more lager as time ticked by in an attempt to ease the pain and embarrassment of watching an insipid, resigned performance surrounded by an increasing number of smug Liverpool fans (where do they all come from?).

If this game substantiates one thing, it is that Mourinho’s first team squad is too small. His experiment with a compact squad has backfired and it may have cost us a third Premiership title. (If I hear one more pundit or opposition player say, “They have a big squad, they can cope”…)

We have two Cup games against lower league opposition to look forward to in the next seven days. Brace yourselves for more of the same.

Here’s hoping the Gunners can do us a massive favour.

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