Liverpool 1 – Chelsea 1: Match Report And Analysis

With their plastic flags, terrible fans and snidey players, it’s never that much fun when Chelsea come to town. England’s Brave John Terry, whose mum may or may not enjoy certain Scouse appendages, missed the match through suspension, making the West London club mildly less reprehensible. But only mildly.

We all enjoy a bit of hypocrisy in football, but Chelsea fans singing “where’s your famous atmosphere?” is certainly up there as some of the worst. Forget the fact that their players completely and utterly bottled it in 2005 when the Kop roared and they couldn’t put two passes together; ignore the teeming cesspool of forced fun and xenophobic, St. George’s flag waving, white van drivers that is the Stamford Bridge crowd. Instead remember the atmosphere that Anfield offered recently against Manchester United, Dortmund or Villarreal and chuckle to yourself as you realise Chelsea fans would give anything to be able to witness such a thing in their own ground.

Strong Teams And Fast Starts

We will all have had pretty much the same though process when we saw the team that Jürgen Klopp had picked for this game: That’s the XI that will start against Sevilla in Basel next Wednesday. It was about as strong a team as it was possible for the manager to put out without enrolling the help of a witch doctor to aid in the recovery of Jordan Henderson and Divock Origi, and for a while it looked like it was going to be too good for Chelsea to cope with.

mooinblack / shutterstock.com

mooinblack / shutterstock.com

The Reds came out like a whirling dervish; passing crisply, pushing forward onto Chelsea’s makeshift defence and looking very threatening indeed. Adam Lallana looked bright, Daniel Sturridge put his former team through the wringer and Philippe Coutinho looked more like the player we enjoyed watching earlier in the campaign than the lad who has toiled quite a bit more recently.

The attacking triumvirate of Coutinho, Firmino and Sturridge lined up together and caused Chelsea all sorts of problems, asking the sorts of questions the Reds have been asking teams for weeks now. Klopp’s heavy metal football, displayed with aplomb against Villarreal in the Europa League a little under a week before, looked like it was showing itself against the team that won the league at a canter last season.

Then it all fell apart. Whether it was because we didn’t score early on and so the players began to feel the pressure or Chelsea upped their game, fearing a repeat of the spanking they got at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, it’s difficult to tell. Whatever happened, though, Liverpool’s performance dropped off a cliff and Chelsea took control of the game, with Hazard in particular running the show.

It’s ironic, really, that in a season during which Chelsea have notched up the worst points drop of any Premier League team ever, not just the defending champions, their two best performances have come when they had an opportunity to stop their rivals from winning the league and when most of their players though they were in the shop window. For a club whose success over the past eleven years or so has been built on mercenaries, it’s not surprise that the chance to earn themselves a move elsewhere was some of their players’ biggest motivation.

Doing What Matters

Let’s get things right, last night’s match didn’t matter. Of course we all want Liverpool to win every game that the club plays, with the chance to put one in the eye of that particular bunch of classless money-grabbers always something that should be grabbed hold of with both hands. But in the grand scheme of things it didn’t really matter whether we won, lost or drew that game last night.

It goes without saying that it would have been brilliant to win our final home game of the season. Of course we wanted the team that we’re sending to Basel to get a confidence boosting win under their belts. It’s a no brainer that Liverpool Football Club should be trying to finish as high up the table as possible. Yet the most important thing last night was avoiding injury to any of our key players and in that we succeeded.

If we’d won 6-0 yesterday but seen Emre Can re-injure his ankle, Dejan Lovren get a head wound after jumping to clear a ball or Daniel Sturridge pull a hamstring, would it have been worth it? We all want Liverpool victories at every point in the season, but there can’t be too high a cost that comes with that. What good would three more points have done in a Premier League campaign that is already a massive washout if the price we had to pay for it was losing key players?

Emre Can In The Centre Circle v Rubin Kazan

Emre Can In The Centre Circle v Rubin Kazan

Jürgen Klopp can tell us all that the players were taking the game deadly seriously. He can extol the notion that all of the men in Red are taking our remaining games as seriously as cup finals. But the reality is that in a weeks time they will all be hoping to play in an actual cup final. I’m no Premier League footballer, you’ll be glad to hear, but I’m assuming that no one has a desire to miss out on the final of the Europa League because they went in for a tackle with Cesc Fabregas and the dirty Spanish git stood on their ankle before avoiding a booking anyway.

Liverpool Actually Played Quite Well

We’d all be happier if we woke up this morning and remembered that the Reds tonked
Chelsea 4-0, but actually it’s worth bearing in mind that Liverpool played better than most of us might have realised last night. Failing to score when you’re on top before then being hit by a sucker punch and having to spend most of the game a goal down will never make for a feeling of positivity after all.

Chelsea did what we’ve been used to them doing for years, they parked the bus and kept things tight at the back before hitting us on the counter. We’re more used to seeing such tactics from the man who has spent more money than any other manager in the history of football, but it’s in the Blues’ DNA as much as being boss in Europe is in ours. Yet in spite of this we still managed to notch up 14 shots on goal in the first half alone.

Apart from the Hazard goal the team from West London also failed to threaten as much as they probably should have when you bear in mind how much of the ball they saw and when you consider that Liverpool had very little to play for. The defending Premier League champions arguably at least had pride to defend in their search for revenge after the massacre at the Bridge under Jose last year.

Firmino

Firmino

It wasn’t a shining light of a performance from Liverpool, of course, and it would be folly to suggest otherwise. There were some positives to speak of, though, should you want to search for them. Benteke’s late goal meant that at least five Liverpool players will finish the season on double figures in the ‘goals scored’ column; Lallana created his eighth clear cut chance of the season, with only Coutinho and Firmino creating more; and the sixteen shots on target – nine from Liverpool and seven from Chelsea – is a target only bettered eight times in the last eight years in the Premier League. For more facts like that as well as the one that follows, get on @BassTunedToRed on Twitter, an invaluable resource.

Some may see the fact that Klopp has been able to influence games from the bench so often as a sign that he got his starting XI wrong in the first place. I refuse to be so negative, believing instead that it’s a sign of a manager going with the ebbs and flows of a game and changing things accordingly. Would any of the play at home Football Managers have starting Ojo and Benteke before a ball was kicked?

Benteke

Benteke

It is also a sign that the Reds refuse to believe that they’re beaten. Whether a player on the side or a lad on the pitch, everyone that plays under Klopp for Liverpool now knows that you don’t give up until the final whistle of any match, regardless of opposition or situation. Every team loses a game every now and then but to decide you’ve lost after sixty minutes is not an option under the German.

His words may not always be the most inspirational, but his actions are. Sergio Canos has spoken recently about his desire to play under Klopp, stating that he’s desperate to be on the receiving end of one of the manager’s bear hugs. If he can exert that sort of influence over a player who hasn’t even worked with him yet, what must he be doing for the lads that play week-in, week-out?

Liverpool weren’t great against Chelsea, there’s no pretending otherwise. Everyone will be feeling slightly concerned today that the team that will be heading to Basel performed so poorly against a Chelsea team that a virtually unrecognisable defence and a goalkeeper who makes Simon Mignolet look like Peter Schmeichel. Chances were created, however, and opportunities were missed. Expect them to be put away with aplomb when there’s a trophy on the line.

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