Club Focus – Chelsea – Lead cut to two points after defeat to Liverpool

Chelsea’s lead at the top of the Premier League was cut to two points from Manchester United as the reigning champions were beaten 2-0 by Liverpool in Sunday’s showcase clash. Two moments of brilliance from Fernando Torres in the first half at Anfield continued Liverpool’s apparent rejuvenation at the expense of the London side.

Having seen their rivals take all three points thanks to a late strike from Park Ji-Sung against Wolves on Saturday, Chelsea travelled to Liverpool eager to repeat May’s 2-0 victory that effectively wrapped up the Premier League title for them. On that occasion, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard were on the score sheet for Carlo Ancelotti’s men but both were missing from Sunday’s starting line-ups. Lampard, despite a week of speculation to the contrary, remains sidelined following surgery while Drogba was left on the bench. Michael Essien was also ruled out of the game by a toe injury and that left Chelsea rather ‘light’ in midfield.

Without the influential pair in midfield, the Blues were overrun by Liverpool’s feverish work-rate and they were soon behind. Dirk Kuyt floated a clever pass into Torres’ path and the Spaniard’s excellent first touch allowed him time to finish over Petr Cech. The second goal came also as a result of Liverpool’s work-man like midfield performance. Raul Meireles nicked the ball off Ashley Cole in the centre circle and passed to Torres on the left wing. The World Cup winner stepped inside Branislav Ivanovic and curled a shot around the stranded Cech to send Anfield into raptures.

Chelsea’s biggest failing in the first half was that Jose Reina remained untested for the entire 45 minutes. They struggled to find any attacking rhythm as they fell two goals behind and it was inevitable that Drogba would be introduced at the break. The effect of bringing the Ivorian onto the pitch was immediate and the Premier League champions started to create scoring opportunities. Ramires headed over and Reina saved well at the near post from Yuri Zhirkov before the Liverpool stopper denied Florent Malouda with a crucial save. A final attempt from Nicolas Anelka was turned onto the bar as Liverpool clung on for a vital win.

Despite the second defeat of the season coming already, the Chelsea manager refused to be too disappointed. “We are still top of the table. It’s impossible to win every game,” admitted the Italian as he spoke to Sky Sports after the game. “Sometimes you lose but the team showed the same mentality and strength. To come here and lose can happen. Liverpool are a good team – but we have to be positive, we played a fantastic game in the second half,” he continued, before going on to explain why he left his star striker on the bench for such a big game. “Drogba had a fever last night and was not 100 per cent fit so I decided to play him for just one half of the game.”

Ancelotti finished by saying, “We don’t have to react – we have to win the next game.” That next game will come thick and fast for Chelsea as they host Fulham on Wednesday evening in the Premier League.

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