Liverpool 1 (Torres 6)
Chelsea 3 (Ivanovic 39, 62; Drogba 67)
The score line says it all. A 3-1 defeat at the hands of our old foe, Chelsea, means that Liverpool’s participation in this year’s Champions League is almost over. With the 2nd leg still to play at Stamford Bridge, it looks a more daunting task than claiming this year’s Premiership title.
It is this kind of situation that you hoped the second leg would be at Anfield. But last night, the “12th man” was helpless as they saw Chelsea put the Reds to the sword emphatically.
Despite Liverpool’s league double over them this season, a Chelsea under Guus Hiddink seemed a totally different proposition from the ones put up by former boss, Luiz Filipe Scolari.
To their credit, they played with much conviction, ruthlessness and control. A tinge of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea could be detected last night as they controlled the game well despite conceding an early goal.
With Anfield roaring the home side on, Liverpool found themselves on cloud nine after their number nine, Fernando Torres, volleyed home only after 6 minutes. The Spanish hotshot was able to convert after some good work down the right flank from Dirk Kuyt and Alvaro Arbeloa.
But Chelsea settled their nerves and responded immediately after a mistake from an off-coloured Fabio Aurelio. The Brazilian lost possession in his final third and a rampaging Salomon Kalou found Didier Drogba with a through-ball but the Ivorian striker could only blast it straight into Pepe Reina.
The in-form and revived striker caused the Liverpool defence much problem from then on and should’ve gotten himself a hat trick.
With Michael Essien doing a fantastic job patrolling just ahead of the defence led by John Terry, he effectively rendered Steven Gerrard a pedestrian throughout and the Liverpool captain was unable to link up with Fernando Torres. It was to be a very disappointing night for him.
But there won’t be a more disappointing sight than to see Liverpool conceding cheap goals, such as the two headers Branislav Ivanovic scored through two separate corner kicks.
Once again, Rafa Benitez’s zonal marking will be put to question. No doubt that the Liverpool players lost concentration on both occasion and were made to pay.
After the recent good form from the Reds, scoring a heap-load of goals against Real Madrid, Man Utd and Aston Villa, they found it difficult against a well-organised Chelsea.
Javier Mascherano’s absence was a major blow as replacement, Lucas Leiva, was constantly harried off the ball and was found wanting at times.
Liverpool’s left flank was also in a state of paralysis as they were unable to provide the ammunition while also shaky in defence. Albert Riera’s physical presence was always going to pose a problem for the opponent and therefore, Hiddink’s decision to play Ivanovic at right back was justified as Riera found it difficult against Ivanovic.
Meanwhile, Fabio Aurelio had a stinker. The Brazilian left back was caught out a few times by a marauding Kalou and was outpaced and outsmarted by the Ivorian. No surprise that Benitez had to haul him off before the full 90 minutes.
But to be fair to them, nobody who wore red last night deserved any sort of praise. They looked flat and the title race seemed to have drawn their attention away. It’s alarming to see so many slip ups and lost of concentration at vital areas.
The scoreline will be a bitter taste in the mouth for most Reds but must be relived that Chelsea were unable to capitalise on the mistakes. Sad to say, the scoreline flattered the home team.
With a gargantuan of a task ahead at Stamford Bridge, even the most optimistic Liverpool fan would concede that there won’t be a glimmer of hope this time. Chelsea have put the tie beyond the Reds and probably won’t allow Liverpool put to 3 goals into their net without reply, even without the service of suspended skipper, John Terry.
Of course in football, you win some and you lose some. “Hold your head up high” they sing and you know we will bounce back. I’m hoping to see a spirited reply at Stamford Bridge next week even though hopes seemed to have deserted us on the European front.
And there’s still 7 league games to play, one last shot at glory. Maybe being put out of the competition is a blessing in disguise for the Reds as they can now concentrate their firepower on the final assault for the throne that was lost 20 years ago.
Win or lose, football still offers hope and it is why we called it a beautiful game. Enjoy it in victory and in defeat, we cry and we move on.
Walk on, with hope in your heart!
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Liverpool 1 (Torres 6)