Chelsea Pose A Hazard Whilst Key Decisions Cost Reds
Liverpool were once again unfortunate to not get anything from a game against one of their rivals away from home. A performance that lacked a bit compared to their City display still left the Reds in a great position when they scored via Martin Skrtel just three minutes into the game but some poor refereeing decisions right from the off and a difficulty dealing with the likes of Hazard and Willian left Brendan Rodgers' side having to accept defeat.
Liverpool began the game knowing they had a weakened back four with Agger out of position having to deal with Eden Hazard who had switched wings. It wasn't an impossible feat but Agger was clearly going to need a lot of support if Liverpool were going to cancel out any attacks down this side.
The first moment of the game worth noting from a Reds perspective was the very early poor challenge on Jordan Henderson from Eto'o. His studs scraped down the front of Henderson's shin, Howard Webb saw it and yet, nothing happened. Part of me agrees that it may have warranted a red but one thing I know for sure, Eto'o was extremely lucky to walk away with just a quiet word!
The resulting free kick thankfully gave Liverpool some justice though as the Reds took full advantage. A cross from Philippe Coutinho found its way to Luis Suarez who between himself and the Chelsea defence managed to splay the ball into space, Martin Skrtel was first to reach it and he couldn't believe his luck when faced with an open goal. The defender turned his effort easily into goal and ran off celebrating as Liverpool took the lead.
It's a cliche and a cringey one at that but I definitely think in this instance there was such thing as "scoring too early." Chelsea had obviously set up to go out all guns blazing, just like Liverpool and the early conceded goal did nothing but add fire to their bellies. Liverpool tried their best but the pressure and impact the goal had on Chelsea pushing forward became too much to deal with and it wasn't long before Chelsea found an equaliser.
At 17 minutes some more fortune after a break from Chelsea allowed the home side to level things up. A slightly clumsy decision by Sakho sent the ball straight into the path of Eden Hazard who had made a run all the way from the right wing to the left of goal. His finish was brilliant to be fair and Simon Mignolet had no chance. Chelsea had equalised and there was still 70 minutes of the game left.
It didn't look as smooth as the City game but Liverpool despite the pressure from Chelsea were still creating chances of their own. Some of the link up play between the likes of Suarez, Coutinho and Henderson regularly caught the Chelsea defence off guard but the Reds couldn't quite find a goal as of yet.
Just after the half hour mark Chelsea found themselves a second goal and this time Liverpool could have dealt better with the situation especially when considering how close Mignolet got to containing the shot. Eto'o finished from close range for this one and it was frustrating for Liverpool who had been holding out the attacks including a sublime save from Mignolet earlier on to deny Frank Lampard.
At half time Liverpool still had hope, it would have been nice if Suarez could get himself free a bit more but Chelsea in fairness were doing well to keep him quiet. Another thing for Liverpool that was indicated in this match for me was the lack of good delivery. Pushing the Coutniho free kick that led to the goal aside (obviously) the Reds appear to be lacking from set pieces and it is usually down the the delivery. Some people criticise Gerrard as he's getting older but there's one thing nobody can deny him and that's consistency when delivering the ball and I personally feel we missed that on Sunday.
With no goals in the second half Liverpool also had to contend with the sheer lack in depth of their squad. Already dealing with an out of position defender, the Reds were forced just before the hour mark to make a substitution after Joe Allen was injured. The youngster Brad Smith was sent on to make his debut and whilst it was no fault of his own, this was too big a game a too wrong a time for him but Liverpool had to make the most of their situation.
Shortly before the introduction of Smith, Liverpool went agonisingly close after a free kick from Jordan Henderson left Sakho sending a header that smacked off the bar. Later, Chelsea created another chance via Samuel Eto'o but Mignolet stood tall and kept out the danger.
It was difficult but Liverpool knew they were still in this game, a correct ball to Suarez means danger for any team and so when he was involved with play in the Chelsea box later on there was bound to be problems. I must first mention the Lucas tackle early on in the game that for some reason I completely missed until seeing the highlights and Mourinho moaning but to be fair, he had a point in that situation and perhaps Chelsea too deserved a spot kick but that was at a totally different point in the game which would have led to perhaps a different 90 minutes all together, also, all Liverpool are asking for from Howard Webb here is some consistency, he made some poor decisions throughout the game and this was yet another one of them.
Howard Webb was standing directly in front of the incident, Suarez no longer had the ball but was attempting to reach it when Samuel Eto'o clattered into him sending him to the ground. Admittedly, Suarez always makes things look a lot worse than they are but Eto'o knew full well what he was doing there and Howard Webb cannot deny not seeing it so I would love to hear what his reasons were for not giving the spot kick which could have changed Liverpool's fortunes completely.
I hate hanging on refereeing decisions I really do but that's twice now in massive games for us that we've been shunned by the ref and it's not acceptable.
The game of course ended 2-1 and I think Chelsea just about desered it after putting on by far their best display of the season which I feel was partly brought out by Liverpool's attacking nous and bravery to attack from the whistle at the Bridge.
The positive for Liverpool of course is that they can once again take heart from their performance and whilst it's points you want, the Reds are also fortunate to still be in a decent league position having played all the big sides away from home already bar Manchester United. It's a marathon, not a sprint after all and there's no point getting down about anything yet.
I asked you for your thoughts on the game and here are a few of the tweets I received, thank you to everybody that replied.
Next up for Liverpool is Hull at home on New Year's Day.