07 November 2010

Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea

Reina
Kelly Carragher Skrtel Konchesky
Meireles Gerrard Lucas Maxi
Torres Kuyt

Goals:
Torres 11' 44'

All Torres all the time in the first half – yes, British media, he's back. All hands on deck, and everybody behind the ball, in the second, but Liverpool held on thanks to some terrific team defending and Reina and Carragher's refusal to concede. This is what we've missed. This is what I worried Liverpool weren't capable of under Hodgson. As usual, shows was little I know.

It was simply a different Liverpool from the start. Everyone pressed incessantly, intent on taking the game to the highly-favored opponents. Unlike against City, the 4-4-2 formation won the midfield battle against a 4-3-3, mainly in part to Lucas' revelatory performance. Kuyt's return, supporting Torres up front, also played a key role, and it was the Dutchman who provided an inch-perfect cross over the top to Torres in the 11th minute, allowing the Spaniard to control and chip Cech, that sent Liverpool on its way.

Chelsea didn't know what hit them, and Liverpool kept coming after the opener. The league leaders couldn't string two passes together in attack. Malouda, joint top-scorer in the league, was rendered invisible by the Brazilian, while youngster Martin Kelly kept the dangerous Ashley Cole in his pocket all game long. Meanwhile, Maxi volleyed over from Torres' flick-on and Liverpool could have won a penalty when Zhirkov inadvertently handled in the box.

And on the stroke of half-time, Torres reasserted his dominance and doubled Liverpool's lead. In space on the left from Meireles' quick ball wide, the striker cut inside around Ivanovic and unleashed an unstoppable curler that left Cech flat-footed and shaking his head in wonder. Today should put an end to questions over his commitment and overall brilliance. Once again, when Torres is on his game, he simply has no equal.

You knew Chelsea would respond, bringing the ever-dangerous Drogba off the bench for the start of the second half. And Liverpool spent the next 45 minutes couched in their own half, permanently under threat. But, unlike all too often this season, the back-line never broke. The two lines of four ran themselves into the ground, kept their shape, and kept Chelsea out for long stretches. The Blues nearly made the breakthrough twice, bracketing Cech's kick-save on Kuyt's 74th minute shot, but Reina and Carragher were equal to both. First, in the 66th, Reina somehow kept out Malouda's point-blank effort after Drogba burst down the left and crossed. In the 85th, Anelka found space, with Reina only able to parry his fierce blast onto the crossbar, but Carragher dove in to heroically block Drogba's follow-up effort. All out effort, plus that little but of luck, led to an immense, well-deserved victory.

Torres will get all the plaudits for his two excellent strikes, but today's truly was a team effort. Lucas, Meireles, and Kelly were all excellent; if this match doesn't silence the Lucas doubters, I don't know what will. Kuyt demonstrated just how dearly missed he's been over the last month. It was a total performance reminiscent of the best matches in 2008-09.

Of course, how deep Liverpool sat in the second half made for uncomfortable viewing – easily leading to snipes as to how it looked like Fulham holding onto a 1-0 lead away from home – but Chelsea were always going to make life difficult. That Liverpool prevented a goal which would have gotten the away side back into the game can't be dismissed. And I'm worried as to how the team will respond on Wednesday against Wigan – players were utterly drained by the 75th minute yet still held on for the win and the clean sheet – but that's a problem for tomorrow.

Into the top half of the table, five points behind 4th and level with the likes of Spurs, today's a celebration for the return of the Liverpool – and the Torres – we hadn't seen nearly enough of this season.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Lucas, Meireles, and Kelly were all excellent; if this match doesn't silence the Lucas doubters, I don't know what will".

Oh nate, I love this part.

By the way, you forgot to mention his excellent backheel which lead to Pool counter on the final minute should lead to Pool's third goals. If Maxi could done better, and if it is 3-0, what a more sweet day.

Bella Donna

Marc said...

Taking in all the post-match media, it seems Lucas is getting at least some of the well-deserved plaudits for marauding around Anfield like an angry pirate.

But I wanna stress the bit about Kelly. This was the biggest game of his entire life. He probably didn't know he was starting until this morning. He's been passed over for Carragher every time Roy's been able to do so. And yet he played a BRILLIANT game. He was all over Cole, but it was more than that - he had several crucial headed clearances in the box, and he even fired off a few shots.

Kelly has the makings of a true 1st team RB, and I think he might be the best one on the roster right now. I realize he won't get an extended run with the first team, but today at least, we should all thank him for delivering the most unexpectedly glorious performance in a day full of them.

The Commish said...

Kudos to our boys. I think Roy deserves a ton of credit here. He has us playing with confidence and guile. The way the team stuck together to win at Bolton, the play at home v Napoli and now this. This is not happening in spite of Roy - its happening because of Roy. Time to give the man his due. Great team performance.

nate said...

Hodgson's certainly earned himself a reprieve, but I wouldn't go as far as you, Commish.

I still think the Bolton win was more 'in spite of Roy,' but the first 70 minutes of Blackburn, Napoli, and the first half today have walked me back from the ledge. Hodgson does deserve credit for that. As said above, I wasn't thrilled to see how deep Liverpool sat back in the second half – 4-4-2 became 4-5-1 – and they could have been punished twice; Malouda scores in the 66th, and it's a completely different game. But Reina's Reina, and that's football. It worked in the end.

I thought the 4-4-2 formation with Torres and Kuyt up top did immensely well – far, far better than v Blackpool or at Utrecht... but Poulsen did play in those matches. The key was the middle, Gerrard, Lucas, and Meireles. Meireles on the right worked today with this system. It's definitely something to build on, and I hope Hodgson keeps on with it. It is, after all, supposedly his preferred formation.

But we need to see it continue. I'm most worried that Liverpool won't show this sort of ambition – and this sort of furious pressing – away from Anfield. Away at Bolton was the "worst" (thankfully, a relative term) performance in the last four matches, and it was the one away match during this stretch. Time will tell. And Hodgson has earned himself that time with this run.

drew said...

Deffo wish this match against Chelsea had been my last visit to Anfield rather than last season's meek surrender.

I'll play the cynic and say though that the true test is coming off this match and taking full points at Wigan will be the real test. It's a good time of year to go there (the earlier the better) and they're on woeful form, so I hope to see us attack; a win there and the two worst matches of last season will be turned around in 3 days.

Another little addition to the day's joy: we are back ahead of the Bluenoses.

Asbjørn said...

This win was massive! Though, I fear how much this incredible team performance will take its toll in the next match. I hope they'll be on such a huge high they won't notice how tired they probably are.

I must say that my view on Hodgson hasn't changed that much for after this match, though. I see this as a massive team effort - not a tactically stroke of genius. The 2nd half was simply way too defensive (for me) and we were almost asking for Chelsea to score. 11 men behind the middle line.

But I can't put a finger on the motivation. They really started the game as though shot out of a cannon. Nice to see that Roy had made the pep talk he usually gives during half-time -before- the match :)
Gerrard probably helped fire the team up as well.

Sorry, I'm just not a fan of Hodgson (yet?).