As if you ever needed more evidence that there is no justice in this universe. Once again, it's always the hope that kills you.
Today was Mourinho's Big Book of Crimes Against Football, chapter by chapter. Time-wasting, bus parking, taking the ball to the corner flag in attack, sly kicks at ankles after the play's gone. So much time-wasting. Time-wasting that'd make Tony Pulis blush.
It blunted Liverpool from the opening whistle to the final whistle, denying Liverpool the fast start that'd seen them win an unbelievable 11 consecutive matches. Liverpool had two early chances – one through Sterling and Suarez's brilliance, one from a set play – but Chelsea did incredibly well to take any steam out of Liverpool's early threat. Because that's what Mourinho's Chelsea does. Three of Chelsea's four defenders aren't regulars, one was making his league debut, but they defended as well as any Chelsea side I'd seen this season, aided by both Matic and Mikel camped just in front of them. And every other Chelsea player other than Ba camped in the defensive third as well.
And, of course, that time-wasting indirectly led to Chelsea's goal. In the third minute of first half added time, Gerrard – of all people, because the universe wants to punch Liverpool in the stomach as hard as it can – slips under no pressure. Ba through on goal, and coolly sliding it between Mignolet's legs with both Liverpool center-backs unable to recover. Insert all your "THIS DOES NOT FUCKING SLIP" jokes here. Hilarious. I'm gonna die laughing. Or just die.
45 minutes to get it back. Sturridge, not fit enough to start, and evidently barely fit enough for the bench, brought on in the 58th minute. But despite those 45 minutes of unceasing Liverpool pressure, Chelsea hung on. They're the last side you want to chase a lead against, even with a "weakened" side full of 11 internationals (even if one of those internationals, Kalas, was making his league debut). At times, it felt like Chelsea had 12, 13, 14 defenders. Credit where due and all that. Ugh. Mourinho's gonna Mourinho, and that's why he Mourinhos.
It's fruitless to list all the Liverpool chances against the blue wall in the second half. There were tons of them – 78.2% possession leading to 17 shots in those 45 minutes – but it's also worth noting that 15 of those 17 shots came from outside the box, 21 of Liverpool's 26 shots in total from outside the box. That's 81%. That's more than I've ever seen, at least from Liverpool. And eight of those second half shots, seven from outside the box, came from Steven Gerrard, which seems like more open play shots than he's had all season, furiously trying to make amends for the mistake that lost Liverpool the match, visions of Olympiakos and West Ham dancing through his head. But failing to make amends.
And it ended not with a bang but a whimper, Liverpool almost wholly unable to create anything in the final 10 minutes, except a blast from Suarez following a corner that shouldn't have been, sent too close to Mark Schwarzer. That Chelsea would rub salt, all the salt, in the wounds with a counter-attacking goal – again, in the last minute of time added because of their time-wasting – was inevitable. At least it was Willian, not Torres, with both put through on goal with every Liverpool player forward in search of the goal that just wouldn't come. I guess. Makes it approximately 2% less painful.
It's almost fitting that this is what often doomed Liverpool's title hopes under Benitez: an inability to break down sides that do nothing but pack the defense. This time it happened against Chelsea, rather than the Stoke, West Ham, or Wigans of the world.
But Liverpool's title hopes aren't doomed just yet. Yes, it's not in Liverpool's hands anymore. But it's a setback, not a death knell. Both Liverpool and Manchester City can earn a maximum of 86 points. City are currently +6 on goal difference, prior to kickoff against Crystal Palace, a number that'll be hard to overcome. But Liverpool have the points on the board; City still need to win four in a row. Liverpool *just* two.
How Liverpool respond to its first league loss in 2014 will still going a long way in deciding whether Liverpool can finally break this 24-year title drought.