Two Great Goals
Whilst we may have only had three shots on target at Stamford Bridge, two of those found the back of the net and have to be up there with Liverpool’s goals of the season so far. The first, a superb interchange between Bellamy and Suarez before the Welshman tees up Maxi for a composed finish. Yes he hits his shot into the floor, but I’m sure it was intentional, wasn’t it? As for the second, Glen Johnson – is he the new Javier Zanetti? If he keeps scoring goals like that one he just might be, although he still needs to improve on his frankly woeful defensive skills. But still, a great goal to sealanother victory for The Reds at The Bridge, let’s hope he (and we) can keep it up!
The Team Selection
Whilst the team might have been quite a strong departure from the line-ups Kenny has picked so far this season, for me it’s the closest we’ve come to our strongest side yet. No Downing, a man who has had 15 shots in his last four games and not hit the target once; No Henderson, so we weren’t forced to watch another of his painfully ineffective displays on the right of midfield; and no Carroll, who I doubt would’ve made any impression on the game, seeing as he doesn’t make much of an impression whenever he plays. Instead we had the pace of Bellamy, the reliability of Kuyt, and the intelligence of Maxi. Yes the three players “rested” are all new signings, but who cares as long as the team is playing well and winning? Now if Stevie G can come back to form to replace Adam and either Kelly is restored at right back or Johnson keeps scoring wonder goals, I think we might have arrived at our strongest XI.
The First Half Performance
OK, so during the first quarter hour I was questioning just why I had such high hopes for the game, given the tedious affairs encounters with Chelsea usually turn out to be, but the first half was still an efficient, organised and impressive performance from Liverpool. I was never worried that Chelsea’s front three would cut us open, nor that Drogba would tear the defence apart single-handedly like he has done so often in the past. The first goal was pure class, and was partially created by the pressing and harrying we engaged in so successfully in the first 45 minutes. Going into the break, I was imagining a winning margin or two or maybe even three goals and a continuation of the control we had shown. How wrong I was.
I said that when I saw Liverpool’s line-up I was pleased; when I saw Chelsea’s as well I could barely contain my glee. No Sturridge in the starting line-up; no Torres to come back and haunt us; the utterly ineffective Mikel instead of old boy Mereiles; and the rash David Luiz instead of the imperious Alex. Didier Drogba has a fabulous record against The Reds, but he is not the same player who gave Carragher and co nightmares a couple of years back. Neither is Petr Cech one of Europe’s best keepers anymore, and Chelsea’s defence is extremely vulnerable without Alex to hold things together. On Saturday I said to a friend that I could see one of two outcomes to the game: an impressive, battling win from The Reds; or a comprehensive victory for Chelsea. When I saw the team-sheets, I was almost certain of the first outcome.
Suarez Didn’t Score
Now this may not sound like a positive, but it is nice to know we can score two goals away from home against one of the best teams in The Premier League, and Suarez doesn’t have to score one or both of them. It’s nice to know that we aren’t just a one man team, and that when Suarez has an off day or two, we have others who can shoulder the responsibility.
Most of the Second Half
As impressed as I was as the half time whistle blew, I was just as disappointed half an hour or so later. Chelsea score, and suddenly all our good work in the first half is replaced by sloppiness in possession, lack of inventiveness or initiative going forward, and a general lack of quality. If Liverpool play like that for even 10 minutes next week against Man City, City could score a couple of goals and the match will be over. The thing that infuriates me about when Liverpool play poorly is the tempo – no movement, no speed, no energy. I remember a match against Chelsea at Anfield a couple of years back, where we flew out the blocks, had about five chances in the opening ten minutes, and carved open a far better Chelsea side than the one we played today almost at will. When we play with pace and a high tempo, we can match any team in the country: I just wish we did it more often.
I was a self-confessed Charlie Adam fan last season, and was more pleased with him than I was with any of LFC’s other summer signings. But everything I loved about Adam last season – his fearless will to try things, his passing range, his goals, his corners, his desire to affect the game every time he got the ball – has been replaced by the opposite. He doesn’t try things, preferring instead to keep things simple and play the five yard pass; he floats through games, rarely stamping his authority on a match or even a passage of play; he rarely shoots and is, as a friend recently remarked, slower than he looks; and finally, I think Alex Ferguson must have been playing games when he said Adam’s corners were worth 10 Million. At the moment, they aren’t worth 10p. I realise he played a crucial part in both goals, and I don’t want to rain on the parade after such an important win, but my ranting is born of frustration that Adam isn’t showing the quality that almost kept Blackpool up single-handedly last season, the quality that I and everyone else knows that he has. When Adam was signed, I was excited: when he steps on to the pitch or receives the ball, I want to feel that excitement again.
Stand Out Players
Frankly, there weren’t any. The fact that Sky Sports gave Glen Johnson man of the match when (winning goal aside) I would give his performance 6.5/10 shows just how few stand-out players there were. Yes the team performance is most important, and nobody played poorly, but nobody played that well either. The ball was lost too often; too many players had an inconsistent game, and nobody stood out and stamped their mark on the match. We were just lucky that none of Chelsea players did either.