Following a dreary 0-0 draw at home to West Ham, Jose Mourinho was quoted as saying “This was one team trying to play football, against another team that didn’t want to! (Play football)” and later in the same interview said “this is not Premier League football. This is like something from the 19th Century”. He repeatedly questioned Sam Allardyce’s (West Ham United’s Manager) tactics, yet in a complete contradiction of his apparent beliefs, he brilliantly put in place the exact tactics that so frustrated him in order to overcome a defiant Liverpool team.
Jose is known for his unique style of man management and getting players to fulfil his instructions to the letter. Which is exactly what happened in this match. He got the best out of seemingly a ‘weakened’ starting eleven and earned an outstanding 2-0 away victory at Anfield.
The game began exactly how Jose would have imagined upon arriving at Anfield. Immediately within the second minute of the game his tactic of time wasting in order to run down any seconds on the clock began. This sparked frustration for the Liverpool players and fans right from the off, even resulting in Steven Gerrard later wrestling the ball from Jose’s grasp on the touchline and precious seconds ticked by to Jose’s delight.
The first half went by as one of few chances. Phillipe Coutinho came closest with a shot come cross firing harmlessly wide, then following a goal line scramble which saw Ashley Cole clear the ball of the line, the ball fell to Mamadou Sakho who rushed his effort and blazed the ball over the bar. Chelsea then had a half-hearted penalty appeal correctly waved away as Jon Flanagan turned to block an effort on goal.
The half seemed to be petering out to a hapless goalless draw when Steven Gerrard suffered possibly the biggest mistake in his illustrious footballing career. Mamadou Sakho rolled the ball towards Gerrard just inside the Liverpool half when Gerrard took his eye of the ball and it rolled away from his control, towards an onrushing Demba Ba to be clear on goal. In trying to recover this fatal mistake Gerrard then slipped to compound his own misery. Despite Gerrard trying to recover, Ba strode confidently towards goal, and looked like a man who thoroughly deserved his chance in the team, as he slid the ball under the legs of the helpless Simon Mignolet.
The second half was equally as frustrating for Liverpool, they found themselves now not only attacking a wall of 10 men, but attacking a defiant wall of 10 men who had a lead to grasp onto, and they found this task impossible to overcome.
Gerrard had two shots on target but neither were really testers for the veteran Mark Schwarzer to worry about, the first deflected right into the Australians hand, whilst the latter was a better effort it barely had the type of venom behind a usual Gerrard strike and merely stung the palms of Schwarzer.
Meanwhile the Chelsea unit or “two buses” as referred to by Brendan Rogers seemed brilliant with their counter attacking and created possibly the best effort of individual skill in the match. Andre Schurrle broke down the left wing to cut inside and whip a dangerously vicious effort towards the bottom corner of the Liverpool goal to force a fine save from Mignolet.
The half continued its slow pattern, of Chelsea sitting deep and putting a stem to any flow of rhythm that Liverpool have so consistently found this season. Despite having 26 shots in the game and Schwarzer requiring a neat tip over the bar from a thunderous Luis Suarez volley towards the end of the match, Liverpool never looked like they had the key to unlock this immaculate defensive performance from Chelsea.
Then to put the metaphoric cherry on Jose’s cake in injury time as Liverpool desperately pushed for an equalizer the ball broke kindly for Willian to tap a pass sharply over a despairing Steven Gerrard lunge to Fernando Torres, which saw the Spaniard and Brazilian come two versus one against a stranded Mignolet. Torres strode freely towards the Liverpool goal with the chance of his first ever goal against his previous employers. However in what could be seen by football romantics as a gesture to his old club, or by cynics as a striker in a lack of form who didn’t have the confidence to complete the chance, one would possibly lean towards the latter. He tapped the ball around the Belgian for Willian to walk the ball over the line and into an empty net.
What could be seen as pivotal game in the title race and seemingly hand the title right into the hands of Manchester City, should not be remembered as such but should be seen as an outstanding and brave performance from a Chelsea side who have put themselves back in the hunt for what could yet be a three way tussle for the precious crown as champions of England.
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