It was the anti-climax that everyone feared, but probably expected. Kenny Dalglish and his resurgent Liverpool outfit walked out of Stamford Bridge with all three points, but the biggest victory came over former Kop hero, Fernando Torres.
Carlo Ancelotti may face some criticism for throwing his £50m striker straight into a debut clash with his former teammates, but regardless of the Spaniard’s input, Chelsea were lacklustre going forward and equally shaky at the back. A front trio of Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Torres may have left every Blues fan in London foaming at the mouth, but the trio failed to capture any rhythm as they probed an impregnable Liverpool rear guard. After a horrific showing at The Stadium of Light, Drogba in particular was beyond subdued, and failed to stake a claim as to why it he should be he who holds the mantle of Chelsea’s top striker, and not his Spanish counterpart.
With Florent Malouda and midweek goalscorer Salomon Kalou relegated to the bench, the hosts were painfully lopsided right across the park, and when John Obi Mikel picked up a yellow card in the first 30 seconds for a clumsy challenge on Steven Gerrard, Chelsea’s anxiety was evident. Petr Cech has made an unfavourable habit of rushing his goal kicks – seemingly under instructions to inject some pace into his side’s usually conservative build-up – and time after time gifted the opposition possession, allowing them to gather momentum from the back.
Chelsea’s insistence of picking out the perfect pass was what ultimately cost them in the grand scheme of things. Too often in the opening 45 were blue shirts trying to thread impossible balls through Liverpool’s two banks of five and four. Only when chasing the game with a dozen minutes to go where the likes of Michael Essien and the strangely quiet Frank Lampard keen to test Pepe Reina from range, but by this time it was too late. Even when presented with a set piece on the edge of the opposition’s box did Drogba opt to roll a wayward pass square only for Lampard to be dispossessed without firing off an attempt on goal. Ancelotti will no doubt feel the sting of the hierarchy after such lavish spending in the transfer market, but instant results are by no means guaranteed, regardless of player’s talent or reputation.
Roman Abramovich will be far from happy with such a disappointing performance, especially in front of his newest £71m recruits. Torres was tremendously shackled by an inspired Jamie Carragher, and the owner will have to remain patient whilst Chelsea’s new number 9 finds his place in the squad. David Luiz made his bow and despite climbing off the bench into an adverse and hostile fixture, did rather well. Comfortable on the ball and quietly confident in his own ability, the ex-Benfica centre back looks set to partner John Terry at the back. This means that Branislav Ivanovic will probably slot in at right-back; although the Serbian prefers to play in the middle, he has impressed out wide this season, and looks set to continue there after Jose Bosingwa’s slow return to form following a lengthy injury absence.
17 Bosingwa – 2 Ivanovic – 26 Terry – 3 Cole
5 Essien – 8 Lampard – 12 Mikel
9 Torres – 11 Drogba – 39 Anelka
66 – 21 Kalou on for 9 Torres
71 – 15 Malouda on for 12 Mikel
73 – 4 David Luiz on for 17 Bosingwa