LIVERPOOL — Chelsea went to Anfield and upset the apple cart on Sunday. Big time.
Jose Mourinho’s side used every trick in the book to frustrate Liverpool, as the Reds lost in the league for the first time since December 29, 2013. Their last defeat came against Chelsea too, as the Blues have now beaten both Liverpool and Manchester City home and away.
Demba Ba proved decisive up top, Steven Gerrard made a horrific mistake to give Chelsea the advantage and Liverpool ran out of ideas.
We learned an awful lot about both teams following an absorbing victory for the away team on Sunday, but here are three things that stood out.
Mourinho’s defensive masterclass
He is the king of parking the bus and Jose did it once again against Liverpool. In fact, he parked two. If you ever want to watch a defensive masterclass, then Chelsea’s display was marvelous. With inexperienced central defender Tomas Kalas making his full debut, Mourinho shuffled his backline superbly ahead of the UEFA Champions League semifinal with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. Cesar Azpilicueta and Ashley Cole were faultless at full back and Branislav Ivanovic stopped Luis Suarez with ease. Coupled with the defensive midfield duo of Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel (more on those two later) Chelsea looked impenetrable the entire match.
Stand-in ‘keeper Mark Schwarzer had three decent saves to make from Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard and Suarez but that was after 73 percent possession from the home side. Chelsea allowed Liverpool to have the ball wide and whip it in, as Schwarzer claimed crosses easily and Chelsea’s center backs cleared up the rest. Chelsea clicked into the gameplan they know best as they recorded a league-high 17th clean sheet of the PL campaign.
Liverpool’s lack of pace in midfield
This time last season, Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson was lambasted by most and was hardly a player many thought would be pivotal in any future success for the Reds. Think again. On Sunday Henderson, who is serving a three-match suspension after being sent off against Manchester City late on two weeks ago, was missed in Liverpool’s engine room. The England international is Steve Gerrard’s legs in midfield and with Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva alongside Gerrard, the Reds passed sideways and backwards the entire game to no avail. That played into Chelsea’s hands perfectly, as Liverpool missed Henderson’s speedy runs through the heart of the oppositions defense. Chelsea were never caught on the back foot, as young attackers Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling ran out of ideas. Gerrard tried to break in behind but the demoralizing mistake he made to let in Ba for the first meant the Reds’ skipper had an off day despite his best efforts. None of his teammates stepped up to the plate, especially in the middle.
Matic and Mikel key
Crucial to Chelsea’s success on Sunday was a wall of muscle, grit and sacrifice in front of their back four. Take a bow, Matic and Mikel. Both players won’t play in Chelsea’s UCL semifinal against Atletico on Wednesday (Matic through ineligibility and Mikel through suspension) but they did a perfect job when their team needed them most in the league. Coutinho, Sterling, Gerrard, Lucas and Allen all tried to break through and get at Chelsea’s back four but M&M didn’t let them. David Luiz and Matic combined to beat Man City away earlier this season and this time Mikel stepped in to do a job. Mikel and Matic won’t win the Player of the Year award or be fans favorites but they did a perfect job in match which could claw Chelsea back into the title race. Of course they need Liverpool and Man City to slip up, but we may look back in awe at this incredible display of self-restraint and selflessness when all is said and done.