You can't help but be disappointed with a draw given Liverpool's results in the 10 matches that have preceded today's and having beaten Chelsea in the last four league encounters, but that could and probably should have been a whole lot worse. Especially after the first half.
Rodgers kept the same formation used against Anzhi, with wing-backs, three center-backs, Gerrard ahead of Şahin and Allen, and Suarez and Sterling as strikers. Which, in theory, made sense in order to nullify Chelsea's incredibly potent attacking line of three – that's what £80-90m or so will buy you – especially with Skrtel unavailable. But, like against Anzhi, it also did nothing to solve Liverpool's never-ending woes in attack. Liverpool out-passed Chelsea, Liverpool out-possessed Chelsea, but Liverpool had zero cutting edge, with Gerrard and Şahin unable to link defense and attack, leaving Suarez and Sterling incredibly isolated, especially with Chelsea's fullbacks sitting deeper than excepted, wholly willing to thrive on the counter-attack and set plays.
And the formation can't legislate for set plays. Terry eluded Agger on a corner in the 20th, with Liverpool's defender blocked off by Ivanovic and Johnson, allowing Chelsea's captain an unforgivably free header from eight yards out. I think this is where everyone rails against man-to-man marking, although Liverpool usually use a mix of man and zonal. Much like against Anzhi midweek, albeit even earlier, Liverpool's conservative strategy was upset by a relatively cheap goal conceded. Terry had to go off 15 minutes later, most likely damaging knee ligaments when Ramires pushed Suarez into his standing leg.
Soon after the opener, Rodgers tweaked the system. Rather than having Şahin and Allen behind Gerrard, Allen sat deeper than the other two midfielders. At the same time, Sterling started coming into midfielder to receive possession, rather than Suarez, leaving the Uruguayan as Liverpool's furthest-forward striker, hoping to breach the back-line on the back shoulder of the last defender, as against Newcastle. Neither change did much to bridge midfield and attack, to turn possession into tangible shots, if not shots on target. Liverpool remained limited to three speculative efforts from distance – one from Agger, two from Şahin – that came nowhere near troubling Chelsea's goal.
Meanwhile, the change in starting formation did little to cut out the never-ending calamitous errors. Chelsea could have opened the scoring within six minutes, as Oscar pressured Joe Allen into a giveaway deep in Liverpool's half, but the Brazilian's shot rose narrowly over the bar after getting the ball back from Torres. Hazard sprinted away from Allen in the 27th after another Liverpool giveaway – this time, Suarez trying to singlehandedly force his way through three Chelsea defenders – but Jones did well to save Torres' shot on the break. The best chance came in the fourth minute of added time: a long throw saw three Liverpool players (Allen, Agger, and Carragher) collide when trying to clear, allowing Oscar to send Mata clear, but the winger thankfully rushed his wide-open shot from the top of the box over the bar.
Liverpool were lucky that Chelsea never took the opportunities granted to extend the lead. But Liverpool were also vastly improved in the second half, especially after Rodgers changed the formation back to Liverpool's usual 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 on the hour mark. The two sides remained in a holding pattern for the first 15 minutes after the restart, with the lone opportunity again from a set play, as Jones again denied Torres after the striker peeled away from an injured Gerrard (deep breaths; he'd be okay).
But with Suso replacing Şahin in the 60th, Liverpool switched Wisdom to right back, Johnson to left back, and the substitute played ahead of Gerrard and Allen in the midfield three. As against United, WBA (in the league cup), and Anzhi midweek, the young Spaniard proved an impact sub, able to work between the lines in a way that both Gerrard and Şahin were unable to. A quick glance at Liverpool's shots before and after the hour mark says more than enough about the increase in tempo and cohesion.
At the same time, Liverpool was more comfortable in its preferred formation, better able to stifle Chelsea and defend more solidly. Liverpool made none of the terrifying errors which often lead to goals conceded, and once again, Chelsea were limited to chances from set plays, most notably Jones' excellent punch on Mata's dangerous free kick in the 68th.
Still, Liverpool also needed a set play breakdown for its equalizer. No prizes for guessing who the goalscorer was. Suarez and Wisdom linked up well to earn the corner, Suso's dead ball found Carragher at the near post, flicking on for Suarez to head in from point blank range. Maybe Suarez's shoved Ramires in the build-up – he was definitely onside – but Liverpool were due that bit of leeway after so many punishing, incorrect decisions.
From there, Liverpool looked content to ensure they didn't concede another, hoping to find a winner on the counter with Chelsea necessarily pushing more and more men forward. Which they nearly did twice, ending the match as the more threatening side. Cech smartly charged off his line in the 88th, denying Suarez the chance to round the keeper after a first-time throughball from Enrique. We've seen numerous keepers beaten by Suarez's pace and trickery in that position before, but Cech darted out incredibly well. Six minutes later, with nearly in the last kick of the game, Cech denied Enrique his first Liverpool goal with a save at the near post after good work from Suso, Sterling, and Suarez set up the chance.
So, the change in formation may not have worked as hoped, more due to the set play concession rather than defensive weaknesses in open play. But as against Everton, Rodgers demonstrated the ability to change the system to get the minimum needed result. Once again, Jones was excellent, making it harder and harder for Reina to immediately return when fit. Johnson and Enrique also did well, although the latter remains bafflingly able to vary from superb to stupid within seconds. Agger was also crucial to Liverpool's defense while Carragher – Carragher! – notched an assist, his first since the Champions League tie in Debrecen in November 2009. Multiple players looked more comfortable in the 4-3-3: Wisdom, Gerrard, Allen, Enrique, Suarez, and Sterling all improved after the change in shape.
Most importantly, Liverpool didn't lose, which looked eminently possible after the first half. While getting more points on the board remains of the utmost importance, that sort of resilience was both reassuring and necessary.