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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Red is the New Color: Liverpool 4-1 Chelsea

Liverpool defeated Chelsea in an enticing fixture at Anfield after their devastating loss to the Blues at Wembley on Saturday in the FA Cup final. An own goal from Essien and quality strikes from Henderson, Agger and Shelvy made Ramirez’s lone goal worthless to Chelsea as they battle for a top four finish against Newcastle and Spurs.

Liverpool were off and running, eager to make an impression in front of their home fans to make up for the depressing defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday. The home side were on the attack quickly and held possession for much of the first half. Suarez came close after six minutes of play after he found himself in a surprising amount of space in the Chelsea box but his effort rolled wide of the far post.
Liverpool continued to attack, keeping the Chelsea backline deep in their own half while former Liverpool striker Fernando Torres was the only man up front for the Blues, posting up against his former teammates Carragher and Agger but not seeing much of the ball.
Chelsea had their first real attempt on goal in the 14th minute when they received a free kick just outside of the box but the Liverpool defense was able to handle it nicely. Farreira saw yellow on the counter attack for his late, but arguably tactical, foul on Suarez. Carroll found himself in acres of space yet again after the free kick was taken, but his effort went well over the bar. Chelsea’s backline seemed to have trouble with zonal marking and the Liverpool attacking players were repeatedly left wide open.
In the 16th minute, Ivanovic came close to putting Chelsea on the score line, but his powerful header smacked the post and the follow up effort was cleared. Liverpool were on the counter attack almost immediately and were able to turn Ivanovic’s failed attempt into a goal.
After the ball had been knocked about at the top of Chelsea’s penalty area, Luis Suarez found an opening in their defense. The South American carried the ball down to the line, almost dribbling it out of bounds but managed to beat two of the Chelsea defenders and the stand-in keeper, Turnbull, to chip the ball back in play. Unfortunately for Essien, he was the man who got on the end of Suarez’s ball back into the box and tapped the ball into his own net.
In the 19th minute, Liverpool had the lead in front of their own fans at Anfield. Chelsea tried to counter, but they were dispossessed and John Terry was forced to foul Carroll to avoid another Liverpool attack. The center back and Chelsea captain saw yellow.
Liverpool continued to attack the Chelsea defense. Although there were a few stand in players in the Chelsea backline, John Terry was the main man responsible for many of the opportunities gifted to Liverpool. In the 24th minute, Terry was responsible for the second Liverpool goal, getting caught wrong-footed on the slippery pitch by English youngster Jordan Henderson. Henderson kept his composure after he beat Terry and neatly touched the ball past Turnbull for the second Liverpool goal.
By the 27th minute, the Liverpool fans were in full song in Anfield, their cheers shaking the rafters. Chelsea’s defensive line continued to show weaknesses and they conceded several corner kicks. They managed to clear many of the Liverpool threats on their goal, but in the 28th minute, just four minutes after Henderson’s goal, Liverpool struck again. This time Danny Agger put the ball in the back of the net after Carroll’s header from a corner kick dropped right to the center back. His low header came from just a yard out and Turnbull didn’t have a chance of getting to it. The Danish defender had been left in tons of space by the Chelsea defense and they were punished for it.
By the 30th minute, the Reds already had the 3-0 lead and Chelsea were struggling to defend. The pace of the game began to slow down, but Liverpool were the dominant ones and continued to press. Chelsea had a few good counter attacks, but Torres was ineffective and Ramirez’s efforts were broken up by Carragher and the rest of the Liverpool backline.
In the 34th minute, Torres nearly scored a beautiful goal against his own team, but he was denied by the crossbar. The Spanish striker did a fantastic job touching the ball past the defenders and into space before releasing a lethal shot, but rather that hitting the roof of the net it bounced back into the box where it was cleared by the Liverpool defense.
As the exciting and action-packed first half came to a close, Liverpool continued to push forward. Downing struck the crossbar at the other end in the 41st minute after he caught a clearance on the volley and very nearly scored a contender for goal of the season. Lucky for Turnbull, who was well off his line, the ball dropped too late and pinged off the bar.
It looked like the scoreline was set to be 3-0 at the half until Carroll was obstructed by Ivanovic in the box. The big striker went down and Liverpool were awarded a controversial penalty. Ivanovic saw yellow and Liverpool were gifted with a chance to go 4-0 up right before the half.
Downing stepped up to take the kick. He was successful in beating the keeper as Turnbull chose to go to his right, but Downing was unable to beat the post and Carroll missed the wide open goal on the follow-up, slipping at the last moment and sending the shot wide.
The penalty was the last action of the half. At the end of the first 45 Liverpool had a 3-0 lead and Chelsea were struggling despite fielding a reasonably strong second string squad.
The second half opened much like the first with Liverpool dominating in the attack and Chelsea struggling to hold them off. In the 48th minute Chelsea had the first real chance with a free kick after Shelvy brought down Ramirez. The kick was taken and a corner kick was conceded. Just minutes into the second half, Liverpool conceded a goal. Malouda sent a great ball into the area where Ramirez met it with his thigh. Pepe Reina had already committed and the ball bounced past him and into the back of the net.
Despite conceding, Liverpool maintained their cool passing and possessive play, giving Chelsea very few chances to score. The second half mirrored the second half of the FA Cup final for Liverpool; reasonably slow pace and lots of possession. It wasn’t entertaining football, but it was effective for the home side.
With 60 minutes of the match gone, Liverpool struck again. The goal was bound to come, they had been passing around Chelsea for a majority of the half and had made several good attempts on goal. The shot came from none other than Jonjo Shelvy, the Liverpool academy product who’s performances have come into question in recent weeks. His brilliant strike hit the back of an open net after Turnbull’s poor clearance landed at Shelvy’s feet and the keeper was caught outside of his six-yard box.
Liverpool were now 4-1 up and were able to settle into defensive play for the remainder of the half. They used possession as their defense, working the ball over the line and then passing it back to their defense. Chelsea had more possession in the second half than they did in the first, but they still struggled to get their attempts on target.
The closest chance of the second half for Chelsea came in the 72nd minute of the match when substitute striker Lukaku got on the end of a great cross from the Chelsea midfield. His powerful header was blocked by Reina and the follow-up attempt denied by some desperate defending from Johnson.
Much of the attempts in the closing minutes of the game came from Liverpool. The three minutes of stoppage time were filled with Liverpool attacks, but their efforts were ultimately denied and the match finished with a 4-1 scoreline in favor of the home side, a result that the Liverpool fans will have wished was the result on Saturday.
The match was a big blow to Chelsea’s contention for a fourth place finish. They still sit below their neighborhood rivals Tottenham and Newcastle United by five and six points. Liverpool are also in an unfavorable position. They have secured European football by winning the Carling Cup, but they sit in eighth place below Everton now that they have overtaken Fulham in the standings thanks to the win today. 

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