Arbeloa Skrtel Carragher Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Riera
Ivanovic 39' 62'
Well, admittedly, I'm prone to exaggeration after a bad result, but I'm pretty sure that's the Champions League done and dusted. Liverpool got what they deserved, as did Chelsea. A dream start, and the team threw it away.
So much for a cagey match – we got the high tempo from the whistle and an early goal. And that was about it. High tempo for six minutes doesn’t beat high tempo for 86. Guus Hiddink 1, Rafa Benitez 0.
It looked like it would be Liverpool’s day after the aforementioned six minutes. A good start was quickly followed up by a Torres goal – Kuyt delightfully took the ball down and backheeled to Arbeloa, who centered to Torres in acres of space. Sidefoot, 1-0.
Unfortunately, the goal didn’t send Liverpool on their way. For once, the opposite happened, and Chelsea were catalyzed. They could have equalized through Drogba almost immediately, thanks to a giveaway by Aurelio, but the striker shot straight at Reina. Liverpool’s defense, so often the strong suit, was the downfall today, at six and sevens for long stretches.
It’s too painful to give a blow-by-blow. Long story short, two Lampard corners, two Ivanovic headers, two goals. Yes, Liverpool's defense was surprisingly shocking for most of the game, and Chelsea strikes always looked like coming, but set piece goals are especially infuriating. I can’t wait to hear the pundits fall all over themselves to blame zonal marking – which didn't seem to be much of a problem over the last four games. That both goals came from Ivanovic, who’s rarely played and only started because Boswinga was ruled out, twists the knife.
Complete shell shock after the second goal led to a quick third, from Drogba, to twist the knife even more, and Liverpool pretty much played out the final 25 minutes. It could have been more than 3-1. It could easily have been. One shot on target in the entire second half, at Anfield, in Europe. You have to be kidding me.
I’m struggling to sum up this result. What sticks out most in my mind is how seriously Mascherano was missed. Ballack and Essien bossed the midfield – Essien had Gerrard in his pocket all game long.
Almost to a man, Liverpool disappointed – Reina’s probably the only one truly exempt. Torres looked dangerous early on, but faded fairly quickly. Kuyt was decent in the first half. And that's the sum of Liverpool's positive performances. As said, Essien owned Gerrard, while Riera and Aurelio were utter shadows of themselves. It's unfair to single one player out, but this was probably Aurelio's worst game in a red shirt.
Liverpool’s come back from greater halftime deficits in the Champions League before. But they’ll have to deliver one of their best performances ever under Benitez. In the meantime, Saturday cannot come soon enough.