On the back of a brilliant display against Real on Tuesday night, Liverpool started brightly, taking the lead thanks to Emre Can’s deflected strike, but Chelsea quickly levelled and the Reds never looked like reclaiming the lead from that point on as Jose Mourinho’s table-topping Blues pinched the points courtesy of Costa’s second half strike.
It was a frustrating afternoon for the hosts, who were also scandalously denied a late penalty when referee Anthony Taylor failed to punish Chelsea centre back Gary Cahill for a blatant handball in the box.
At the end of the day, though, Liverpool could have few complaints, as their underwhelming performance did not merit a share of the spoils; it was a deflating way to enter the international break, quashing any momentum that might have been built up after the Merseysiders put in one of their best performances of the season in Madrid.
Surprisingly, and arguably unfairly considering the meritocracy Rodgers claims to be developing at Liverpool, Can was the only fringe player who retained his place in the starting line-up from the Madrid game. Toure, Lucas, Lallana and Borini, whose performances persuaded many Kopites that they deserved to start against Chelsea, had to settle for a seat on the subs’ bench.
After an impeccably observed minute’s silence for Remembrance Weekend, Liverpool started the game on the front foot, Can’s long-range effort taking a deflection off Terry and looping wide after only 30 seconds had been played.
Playing in a positive manner and with a high tempo, the Reds began the game as brightly as they had done so often last season, and were rewarded with the opening goal after only eight minutes. Can, a £10 million summer signing from Bayer Leverkusen, took full advantage of the freedom Chelsea’s defence granted him to wander forward, firing a speculative effort goalwards which was decisively deflected past Courtois and into his own net by Cahill.
Crucially, rather than consolidating their lead and securing their dominance, Liverpool quickly conceded an equaliser from- you guessed it- a sloppily defended set piece. Fabregas swung in a right wing corner, which Costa glanced on and Terry headed towards goal, forcing Mignolet to make a good stop.
However, the rebound eventually fell to Cahill, who swivelled and fired the ball back at goal and Liverpool’s Belgian keeper tried desperately to stop it crossing the line but, with the help of goal line technology, the goal was given. There was a suspicion of handball from Matic during the goal mouth scramble, but when you defend a corner that poorly, leaving four Chelsea players unmarked yards from goal, you deserve to concede.
|Can opened his Liverpool account early on|
|...but Cahill quickly equalised|
During the second half of the first 45 minutes Liverpool noticeably faded, as they struggled to keep the ball and Chelsea pinned them back in their own half. The Reds’ final chance of note came on 26 minutes when Coutinho, their creative heart once again, embarked on a sensational solo run through the middle before testing Courtois with a low shot. After that, it was all Chelsea.
Hazard saw shots vitally blocked by Johnson and well saved by Mignolet as the visitors grew in confidence and began to dictate the pace of the game. Up front, the Blues’ main man Diego Costa, bizarrely sporting gloves with a short-sleeved shirt before he had to swap it for a long-sleeved one due to a rip in the back, was enjoying himself winding up Martin Skrtel.
|Costa grapples with Skrtel|
Frustratingly, though, Costa did not have to produce a piece of magic to score the winner on 67 minutes. Instead, he was simply in the right place at the right time to exploit some shoddy defending from Liverpool.
The hopelessly out of position Glen Johnson left Coutinho one-on-one with Azpilicueta, who beat the Brazilian easily and then had acres of space to square across the box as Johnson casually sauntered back rather than busting a gut to make up for his positional error. Mignolet managed to beat the ball away but only as far as Costa via a deflection off Moreno, who should have done better and made a clearance.Costa ruthlessly punished this calamitous defending by drilling low into the back of the net.
Rodgers’ response was as baffling as the Reds’ defence was awful. Two minutes after falling behind he brought off Can and Coutinho, Liverpool’s best two performers, introducing Allen and Borini and leaving Lallana, who appeared more likely than Allen to add an extra dimension to the Reds’ attack, languishing on the bench.
It was a confusing substitution from Rodgers and, as a result, Liverpool looked devoid of ideas as to how to level the scoreline during the closing stages, creating only one goalscoring opportunity when Henderson’s volley took a deflection off Azpilicueta and could have gone anywhere but ended up flying over the bar.
To the ire of Kopites, referee Anthony Taylor denied Liverpool one last chance to level from the penalty spot with three minutes remaining when he inexplicably refused to award a penalty after Cahill blatantly handled Gerrard’s shot from the edge of the area. It was almost identical to the first half incident, although this time the ball clearly hit Cahill lower down his arm, rather than close to his shoulder. How Taylor refused to point to the spot, particularly with the Kop roaring in virulent protest, is beyond me.
It was an immensely frustrating way to end a very difficult week in which Liverpool have suffered three defeats, debilitating their confidence heading into the international break. Maybe a fortnight off will do the squad some good and, when they return to action, Liverpool have some winnable looking League matches against the likes of Crystal Palace, Stoke City, Leicester City and Sunderland. 12 points from those four fixtures will make things much rosier for the Reds, but, after defeat by Chelsea, there’s no escaping the blues for Kopites.