A Gritty and determined performance from Liverpool saw them come away from Stanford Bridge with all three points this afternoon following goals from Maxi Rodriguez and Glen Johnson.
Kenny Dalglish was very much the canny Scott as he gave a surprise start to Rodriguez. The Kop Times pre-match suggestion that Dalglish would play Craig Bellamy was correct as he opted for a fluid but hard working midfield and attack by also including Dirk Kuyt to assist Luis Suarez as the expected loan striker. Lucas Leiva and Charlie Adam are now providing the steel in the heart of the midfield. The defensive pairing of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel was again deployed, leaving Jamie Carragher on the bench. Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson at full back.
The Reds started strongly and set about closing any available space for the home side. At the same time providing a physical element to let the blues know they were in for a tough time if they were expecting to take anything from this encounter. Maxi, Kuyt and Bellamy were certainly making their presence felt as they harried the Chelsea side whenever they had possession but struggled to fashion any firm chances. Lucas was industrious as ever, although at times a little too over-zealous it has to be said
Chelsea began to find some momentum after 20 minutes and Didier Drogba’s free-kick sailed narrowly past Pepe Reina’s left post after Agger and Lucas’s desperate defending in front of the Liverpool penalty area. The latter earning a yellow card in the process. Even the television people got it wrong as they incorrectly chalked up a “1-0” score line! Clear-cut chances were hard to come by but Liverpool made the breakthrough with some quality one-touch passing between Bellamy and Suarez. The former then teeing up Maxi on the left hand edge of the Chelsea box to put the ball across and below the on rushing Petre Cech.
Liverpool spent the rest of the first half maintaining the pressure on the Blues which resulted in some heated exchanges between Bellamy and the “amiable” John Terry amongst others.
The second half began with Andre Villas-Boas throwing on young Daniel Sturridge for Obi Mikel. The substitution proved an inspired one as Sturridge latched onto Florent Malouda’s cross to tap in at the far post past a helpless Pepe Reina.
The Blues boss had obviously felt the best chance Chelsea had of getting anything from the game was to attack the Liverpool right where Johnson had virtually been a bystander for the first 45 minutes. No longer was this the case as Ashley Cole began to forage down the Liverpool right. Moments later Reina came to Liverpool’s rescue with a superb diving save to his left to deny Branislav Ivanovic’s close range header. Chelsea were now in the ascendency. Driving forward in numbers and over running Liverpool in the process.
On 59 minutes, some stout defending from the ever improving Skrtel put Drogba off at the near post. Again Chelsea attacked but again the Reds rearguard held firm.
After 66 minutes, Dalglish replaced the tiring Bellamy with Jordan Henderson to bolster the midfield that was coming under heavy pressure from Chelsea. Liverpool then began to come back at the home side who were now beginning to tire from their relentless attacking play. Downing replaced Maxi 10minutes later to again bolster the midfield and profit from the tiring Blues.
After 84 minutes AVB threw on the ex-Liverpool pair of Raul Mierless and Fernando Torress but neither of them were able to change the game to any great degree and for a time it looked as if a draw would be the end result, especially after the substitutes Stewart Downing and Henderson to put Kuyt through only for him to blaze wide
Three minutes later, a smart Liverpool counter-attacking move came when Adams long pass found Johnson who outmaneuvered Cole and Malouda to slot the ball past Cech to send the travelling faithful into raptures. The late inclusion of Andy Carroll for Suarez merely served to drain the clock as all he really done was fall over himself, the ball and the opposition.
A thoroughly deserved win for the Reds who now sit in amongst Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal all on 22 points.
Follow me on Twitter @Mrbengreen