Tuesday, 29 April 2014

He Who Laughs Last

Is David Moyes about to have the last laugh in a season where he seems to have been laughed at the most?

You know what they say, he who laughs last, laughs longest.

Manchester City has been beaten by Everton on each of the last four occasions they’ve turned up at Goodison Park.  On Saturday evening they arrive again, knowing victory could go a long way to bringing the title back to The Etihad. 

But in each of those four matches Everton were managed by David Moyes.  So is the irony that now Moyes has left Everton they are unable to beat City and therefore indirectly, Moyes has stopped Liverpool winning the title?

It’s not a pleasant thought for Liverpool supporters everywhere and especially when riding so high on a wave of enthusiasm and belief the good times were back again.  But defeat to Chelsea on Sunday may be more of a blessing than perhaps it felt like that evening.

One of my concerns over Brendan Rodgers was how he was going to fare against the tactical minds of European football if we qualify for the Champions League.  Yet he has proved himself to be adept in this area when coming up against Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton and Manchester City this season.  But on Sunday he was up against one of the best tacticians in Europe, albeit one of the most defensive.

Many Liverpool fans have poured scorn on Mourinho’s tactics, claiming them to be bad for football or killing the game.  There is no doubt he is ‘Killjoy extraordinaire’, but what other choice did he have?  Did we really expect him to open up the game for the entertainment of the watching public and give Liverpool the opportunity to show off their exciting brand of attacking football?

Now we have made certain of Champions League football for next season, we need a bit of a reality check.  There are unlikely to be many teams who come to Anfield playing expansive, flowing football, allowing space for Sterling, Sturridge and Suarez to exploit.  What Chelsea did on Sunday was operate in a way synonymous with a side defending a slender first leg advantage in a European tie.  Liverpool failed to break them down, failed to keep patient and from this they will have plenty to learn.  But if there is one thing I am certain of in just under two years of Rodgers reign at Anfield, is that he is a quick and avid learner.

Sunday’s match may have done us more good than we realise right now.

Of course it hurt.  I told myself on Sunday morning if we didn’t win the title then it would be alright because nobody can ever take away the memories of this season.  Nobody will ever be able to wipe from my mind the games against Arsenal, Everton, Manchester City and Manchester United.  The crowds before home matches, the flags on The Kop, the atmosphere inside the stadium.  The sheer feeling of relief we were finally finding our way back towards some sort of perch.  Sunday has changed nothing in that respect, other than we now need Everton to try and at least get a draw at Goodison against City on Saturday.  Do that, and the title is back in our hands.

But when it came to it after the Chelsea game I was really fed up.  I felt we’d missed our chance and when we only needed one goal we just couldn’t break them down.  Schwarzer made a couple of really good saves and I thought Ivanovic and Azpilicueta were immense at the back for the visitors.  We didn’t really run at them in the box enough, we didn’t utilise our most potent weapon, Suarez, and we were too impatient to try and force a way through when a few cool heads may have waited for the openings.  We didn’t really utilise one attacking option through corners.

But we will learn from this.  It doesn’t hurt to get a knockback and realise you’re not quite as good as you thought you were.  Let’s not forget we have been mixing it with the big boys here, big spenders and players who have won League titles.  Only Glen Johnson in the Liverpool team has won a Premier League title.

When we finished second in 2009 it really did feel like the pinnacle for that team, and so it proved to be the end of an era.  Xabi Alonso decided he was more wanted at Real Madrid once he discovered his manager has considered him worse than Gareth Barry.  Fernando Torres had reached his peak too, and with the in-fighting amongst the owners and also the owners with the manager, it was a club in turmoil.  But this time is a million miles from there.  This team is only going to get better and Rodgers will need to strengthen the squad to cope with midweek Champions League matches as well as League games where everyone will want Liverpool as a scalp.  I’ve said before I feel we’re a year ahead of where we should be and looking back at the table from the beginning of February, we were 4th and 8pts behind Arsenal.  At that point many of us were nervous of whether we could stay in the top four, yet now we’re crying because we may have blown our chance of winning the whole thing.

We should think about what we’ve got, not what we haven’t.

On Saturday evening, Everton kick-off against Manchester City knowing a win puts them 1pt behind Arsenal.  Of course, a win for Arsenal against West Brom a day later guarantees their Champions League entry for next season at the expense of The Toffees.  For Liverpool even a draw for Everton is enough as far as we’re concerned.  There are some Everton fans who would rather sacrifice Champions League football just to stop Liverpool winning the title.  Whilst this mentality is foreign to me, as I don’t understand why your hate for another club would ever be stronger than your love for your own, it is unlikely to be mirrored by the players or their manager.  What a story it would be for Roberto Martinez to get Everton into Europe in his first season.

Can he do it?  Well he has already got one small club into Europe when he guided Wigan to FA Cup success last season, so who’s to say he cannot do it again?

If he doesn’t then there may be one man somewhere in England or Scotland, chuckling to himself.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Moral Dilemma

On the final day of the 1994/95 season Liverpool faced a real dilemma.  Or to be more correct, the fans faced a moral dilemma.

In 1993 Manchester United had finally ended their generation-long wait for another league title when their barren 25-year run came to an end.  In 1993-94 Blackburn, now managed by Kenny Dalglish, had pushed United close to the title but ultimately came up short.  But on 14th May 1995 Blackburn sat top of the table with the prospect of their first League title since before the First World War.

Their final match of the season would be a trip to Anfield.  Kenny Dalglish would be back to play the club who he’d guided to three League titles as a manager, and where he’d won 6 League titles as a player.  But just two points behind Blackburn sat Manchester United and their final day fixture was at Upton Park against a West Ham side lying in 13th and with absolutely nothing to play for.

The moral dilemma?  Should Liverpool win then this might well hand the title to United, their bitter rivals, and not to their revered ex-player and manager, Kenny Dalglish.  But should Liverpool deliberately lose a game?

Can you really watch your team and want them to lose, ever?

The debate raged for weeks and became all the more real once United beat Southampton the previous Wednesday to set up a dramatic last day.  For SkyTV this was manna from heaven as they attempted to recoup the millions already spent on securing the TV rights.  The Premiership was only in its third season but SkyTV finally had the finish they had dreamed of.  Back then the broadcaster only showed one game on the final day.  This was the first time Sky had everyone kick off at the same time on one day for the end of season.  The previous year they engineered the fixtures to have all but one of the fixtures take place on the Saturday and then United, already crowned Champions, played on the Sunday.  As there was still something to play for, presumably the powers-that-be at Sky saw the profit in a final day shootout.  Sky plumped for the game at Anfield, perhaps sensing the drama of Liverpool denying Dalglish a title.  Of course, they were recording the other game and so the viewers were kept up with developments.

20 minutes into the game, Alan Shearer gave Blackburn the lead at Anfield.  Their supporters had witnessed a trip to Plymouth Argyle three years previously as they ended the 1991-92 League season just grabbing the last play-off place.  Now they were at the ground where the League trophy had been on show for the 18th time, just five years before, and with the real prospect of lifting it themselves.  11 minutes later things got even better for Blackburn as Michael Hughes headed West Ham in front against United.

At half-time, both Blackburn and West Ham still lead 1-0 and Liverpool could go and win their match in complete confidence Blackburn would still win the title, as long as things stood the same.  But 7 minutes into the second half Brian McClair equalised for United.  12 minutes later, John Barnes did the same for Liverpool and it was ‘as you were’ at the start of play.  But another goal at either game would change things.  If Liverpool scored again Blackburn were only ok as long as Man Utd didn’t get another.

The clock moved nervously towards the 90th minute with both games still level.  Then Liverpool got a free-kick about 25 yards from goal in a left of centre of the goal.  Jamie Redknapp stepped up to take it and bent it over the wall and Liverpool were now leading.  Disaster for Rovers, who were still unsure whether United had scored as well, or not.  Had Blackburn dramatically lost the title with possibly the last kick of the season?  Over at Upton Park, Manchester United were throwing everything at The Hammers but keeper, Miklosko, was in sublime form and repelled everything.

Barely seconds after Redknapp’s goal had gone in, news came in from Upton Park that the game had ended level and so despite losing, Blackburn Rovers were League Champions.  Cue great scenes for a club who were in the second tier of English football barely three years before.

For Liverpool they could breathe a sigh of relief as their victory had not handed the title to United.

Why bring this up now?  Well, next weekend we have a near repeat of this dilemma when Everton host Manchester City at Goodison Park.  If Everton beat City then they run the risk of allowing Liverpool to win the title.  Lose, and the title is likely to be City’s.

As a supporter, what do you do?  Surely you cannot want your team to lose ever, can you?  Can you ever take greater delight in seeing another team lose when yours does too?  Everton may still have aspirations on a Champions League place and personally for this Liverpool fan I would love nothing more than seeing both clubs playing in that competition next season.  The prospect of a Champions League match in Liverpool every week of the group stages next season is very exciting.

But for many Everton fans they often sacrifice the frustration with their own team for joy in watching Liverpool fail.  I’m just not sure it’s the same in the other direction.  Personally, it’s never really bothered me whether Everton are winning or not, but their emergence in the mid-80’s gave me the advantage of watching one of the finest Liverpool teams ever.

In 1985 Everton ended Liverpool’s run of three successive League titles.  They were a whisker away from doing ‘the double’ too when they narrowly lost in the FA Cup Final to, of all teams, Manchester United.  Liverpool responded with winning ‘the double’ themselves the season after.  Everton then came back again in 1987 with another title.  This prompted Kenny Dalglish to persuade the Liverpool board to make three significant purchases.  John Barnes and Peter Beardsley joined John Aldridge, at Anfield.  This then evolved into one of the best Liverpool sides I have witnessed in over 35 years and for that I have to thank Everton as their challenge forced a reaction from Liverpool when they might have been cruising.

Whether Everton can ‘do Liverpool a favour’ is uncertain but at Goodison Park they have been frustratingly difficult to beat.  They’ve been beaten just 3 times in their last 42 matches at home in the League going back to March 2013.  For Manchester City they have won just twice there in the Premier League with just 1 win in their last 15 visits, suffering defeat in each of their last 4 and only scoring once during that period.  For Manchester City, a win would see them go back to the top of the table from where they’d be difficult to prise again.

Everton have tended to be bitter of the success across the other side of Stanley Park and have a chequered history with qualification for Europe’s major club competition, as far as Liverpool is concerned.  Everton faced the prospect of not being allowed to participate in the Champions League in 2005-06 despite finishing 4th in the League.  Liverpool won the competition the season before, yet finished outside the top four.  They would’ve replaced Everton had UEFA not relented and allowed the Blues their place.  Everton were also denied the reward of European Cup football for their titles in the mid-80’s after hooliganism from Liverpool fans at Heysel in 1985 had English clubs banned for five years.  By then the great team Howard Kendall had assembled had gone and the club spent the early years of the 1990’s either in mid-table, or even flirting with relegation as they did in 1993-94.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Five Favourite Wins Against - Chelsea at Anfield

Continuing the series where I look back at my five favourite wins the Liverpool’s next opponents.  This weekend Liverpool play against Chelsea at Anfield, in a match which could decide the destination of the League title.  Here are my five favourite wins from past encounters, with some of them packed full of goals.

21st April 1990
LIVERPOOL   (2)   4   (Rosenthal 25, Nicol 36, 80, Rush 82)
CHELSEA   (0)   1   (Dixon 90)

LIVERPOOL: Grobbelaar; Hysen, Gillespie (Ablett), Hansen, Burrows; Nicol, Molby, McMahon, Barnes; Rosenthal, Rush

CHELSEA: Beasant; Hall, Nicholas, Johnsen, Dorigo; Monkou, Bumstead (Lee), McAllister, K.Wilson (C.Wilson); Durie, Dixon

Liverpool were closing in on their 18th League title when Chelsea arrived at Anfield towards the end of the 1989-90 season.  They were 2pts clear of Aston Villa with a game in hand.  Chelsea were well positioned in 6th, only 4pts off 3rd place.  Liverpool had lost just once in their last 19 matches in the League going into this game.  Chelsea had recently suffered a defeat at Villa, ending their own 8-game unbeaten run.

This game was another start for Israeli international, Ronnie Rosenthal, who’d scored a hat-trick on his first start a couple of weeks before at Charlton.  He then scored against Nottingham Forest and was bang in form.  Midway through the first half Gary Gillespie took a throw on the right wing and Rosenthal, with his back to goal, controlled the ball on his chest, turned Johnsen and then fired a left foot shot past Dave Beasant.  Rosenthal could’ve scored four in this game but his profligacy wasn’t particularly a problem at this stage of his career, but was something which would come back to haunt him later on.

With ten minutes before the break, John Barnes cross from the left was headed home by Steve Nicol and Liverpool had a comfortable lead at half-time.  When the teams met at Stamford Bridge in December, Liverpool won 5-2.  Liverpool were far from clinical on this occasion but Chelsea seemed just as disorganised at the back.  With ten minutes to go Ian Rush, who’d scored a brace against this opponent in December, put Nicol through on goal and the Scotsman didn’t pass up the chance to increase his goal tally for the season.  Barnes was then involved in the 4th goal as he put Rosenthal through and his cross was headed in by Rush to score his 24th goal of the season.

Kerry Dixon then scored a late consolation goal but the visitors were well beaten.  It wasn’t vintage Liverpool as gaps were starting to appear in their once impenetrable armour, but they won the League by 9pts from Aston Villa.  Chelsea ended the season in 5th place.

21st September 1996
LIVERPOOL   (3)   5   (Fowler 15, Berger 42, 49, Myers og, 45, Barnes 57)
CHELSEA (0)   1   (Leboeuf 85)

LIVERPOOL: James; McAteer, Wright, Babb, Matteo, Bjornebye; McManaman, Thomas, Barnes; Rush, Berger (Redknapp)

CHELSEA: Hitchcock; Petrescu, Clarke, Leboeuf, Myers (Duberry); Burley, Di Matteo, Wise, Morris (Spencer); Vialli, Hughes

Both teams came into this fixture unbeaten after 6 matches of the 1996-97 season.  Roy Evans’ Liverpool had just beaten Leicester 3-0, their 4th clean-sheet so far.  In that match new signing Patrick Berger came off the bench to score twice.  He was rewarded with a starting place in this match.  Ruud Gullit’s Chelsea had only conceded in two matches, a thrilling 3-3 draw at Highbury.  This was 1st v 3rd and promised to be a classic.  For one team, it was.

Fifteen minutes into the game and Stig-Inge Bjornebye whipped in a cross from the left wing and found Robbie Fowler at the far post to head past Hitchcock.  Fowler had gone close a few minutes earlier, yet Chelsea did not heed the warning.  Three minutes before half-time, Dominic Matteo pounced on a loose ball in the centre-circle, burst forward and split the Chelsea defence open as he slipped it to his left where Berger had a free run on goal.  Berger went into the area, rounded the keeper and put Liverpool into a 2-goal lead.  Chelsea had won once in their last 36 visits to Anfield and were now staring at another defeat.  Chelsea were all at sea when Berger fed Bjornebye on the left and another trademark sweeping cross from the Norwegian was headed in perfectly by Andy Myers.  Unfortunately for the visitors, Myers was on their side.

Chelsea had made their best start to a season since 1970 but the wheels were definitely coming off at Anfield after just 45 minutes.  Four minutes after the re-start and Dennis Wise was caught in possession in midfield by McManaman and Patrick Berger was on hand again to power towards the visitors goal.  As Hitchcock came out Berger slipped it left-footed past him and the home side were now 4-0 up.  Just before the hour McAteer’s cross from the right was poorly dealt with by Duberry (who’d come on for Myers) and then ball fell to Barnes on the edge of the area.  John Barnes then rolled back the years as he met it full on the volley and Frank (I don’t care I won a World Cup) Leboeuf stuck his leg out just to make sure it went in.  With over 30 minutes to go Liverpool were 5-0 up.

Liverpool controlled the remainder of the game as Thomas and Barnes ran the midfield and Chelsea were scared of Berger’s pace.  Then with five minutes to go Mark Hughes went down under the challenge of Matteo and made sure he fell into the box enough to convince the referee to give Chelsea a penalty.

Frank Leboeuf managed to stop shaking enough to just get the ball past David James, who was almost on the 6-yard box by the time the Frenchman struck the ball.  The game ended with some unsavoury scenes as Wise tried to get Thomas sent off and Dan Petrescu bravely threw the ball at the Liverpool man, as his side remained well beaten.  5-1 to Liverpool and they strengthened their lead at the top.

Liverpool finished 4th in the table behind Arsenal in 3rd on goal difference.  Chelsea were down in 6th.

5th October 1997
LIVERPOOL   (2)   4   (Berger 20, 35, 57, Fowler 63)
CHELSEA   (1)   2   (Zola 22, Poyet pen 85)

LIVERPOOL: James; Jones (McAteer), Kvarme, Babb, Bjornebye; McManaman, Ince, Carragher, Berger; Riedle, Fowler

CHELSEA: de Goey; Petrescu (Flo), Clarke, Sinclair, Le Saux; Lambourde, Wise, Poyet, Di Matteo; Zola (Gullit), Hughes

Liverpool had made an indifferent start to the 1997-98 season and were lying 11th after 8 games.  They had just lost at West Ham having already suffered defeat at home to Leicester in their first home match.  Chelsea were in 6th and had faced a tough few matches against Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle.  They’d only picked up 4pts and now they travelled to a place where they’d only won once since 1935.

Twenty minutes in and Ince played a ball from the back and found Berger, who’d made a good run forward.  Graeme Le Saux miss-judged the bounce and Berger lobbed the ball over de Goey and gave Liverpool the lead.  Gianfranco Zola then grabbed an equaliser within minutes and the game had come alive.  Chelsea then made things harder for themselves as Lambourde was sent-off after just 26 minutes.  It prompted Ruud Gullit to bring himself on for his first appearance for seven months.  Then with ten minutes of the first half remaining, Bjornebye exchanged passes with McManaman down the left and his low cross into the area found Berger unmarked and the Czech international fired it into the net to put Liverpool back in front.

When Chelsea lost here the previous season they were scared rigid by Berger’s pace when breaking from midfield.  He scored two that day and then twelve minutes after the break, Ince clipped the ball over the defence and Berger was away again.  He rounded de Goey and slipped the ball into the empty net to complete his hat-trick, his first in English football.

Barely six minutes later, Berger turned provider as he laid on a goal for Robbie Fowler.  Liverpool were rampant once again and the home crowd took great delight in asking the visiting manager to let them know the score.  Fair play to Gullit who merely pointed to the number 4 on his back.  Gus Poyet then converted a penalty after McAteer had brought down Chelsea’s walking beanpole, Flo.  It was more than they deserved but they were a well beaten team, again.

Liverpool finished 3rd in the League finishing 2pts ahead of Chelsea, who won the FA Cup that year.

7th November 2010
LIVERPOOL   (2)   2   (Torres 11, 44)
CHELSEA   (0)   0

LIVERPOOL: Reina; Kelly, Skrtel, Carragher, Konchesky; Gerrard, Lucas, Meireles (Spearing), Maxi; Kuyt (Shelvey), Torres (N’Gog)

CHELSEA: Cech; Ivanovic (Bosingwa), Alex, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Mikel, Zhirkov (Sturridge); Malouda, Anelka, Kalou (Drogba)

For the 4th match in this series I was torn between this one and the one from March 2002 when a last minute Smicer goal won the game for Liverpool.  Then, they were chasing the title and the win took them top.  But in the end I plumped for this match in 2010.  Mainly because it was a rare highlight in the short era of Roy Hodgson at Anfield, and it was such a breath of fresh air from a side who were a shadow of their former selves.

At the start of play Liverpool were lying down in 16th, having already lost 4 league games and suffered the ignominy of being dumped out of the League Cup by League Two side Northampton.  Roy Hodgson had been appointed to replace Rafa Benitez by two owners who by now weren’t even talking to each other, let alone anyone else in the club.  The club was a mess as new owners were hovering to take control and Hodgson’s style of play was far removed from the fare usually served up at Anfield.  When Chelsea arrived in November they were defending Champions and also top of the table, having dropped just 5pts from their opening 10 matches.  Managed by Carlo Ancelotti they’d only conceded 3 goals so far and won their opening two matches 6-0.

Liverpool had gained some confidence from a midweek win at home to Napoli in the Europa League but needed Steven Gerrard to come off the bench and score a hat-trick to overturn a 0-1 deficit going into the last 15 minutes.  To make matters worse for Liverpool, their star striker, Fernando Torres, was off form and had been all season.  Looking increasingly as if he’d rather be somewhere else, the Spaniard, who had burst onto English football scene with 33 goals in his first season.  He’d only been on the scoresheet twice so far this season, but tonight he changed all that.

Liverpool flew out of the blocks and in an atmosphere more reminiscent of Benitez days, the crowd seemed to be noisy out of relief than anything else.  Lucas and Gerrard dominated the midfield and Torres was a menace in attack.  Eleven minutes in and ever industrious, Dirk Kuyt, picked up a ball from Skrtel as he found some space midway into the Chelsea half.  He dinked it over John Terry for Torres to run onto and the Liverpool No.9 had the measure of him.  Torres was in on goal and finished with real confidence.  Something which had been sorely lacking in recent months.

It was all Liverpool as they harried and pressed their opponents who seemed genuinely stunned by how well the home side was playing.  Just before half-time, Meireles stole the ball in midfield and surged towards the Chelsea defence.  He chose Torres to his left who then turned in on his right foot and curled a beautiful shot into the far corner.

Liverpool were in seventh heaven and it was such a relief to finally see them play like that again.  Cech had been well beaten on both goals and Liverpool looked as if they had their striker back.  Many will never forgive Torres for the way he engineered a move from Anfield, but for me that first season of his was one of the best from a foreign player in English football.  I had come into the game fearing we’d get stuffed and in the end we played as well as we ever had done against Chelsea.

Chelsea were better in the second half but the game was gone.  They’d been outdone tactically although it’s uncertain whether Hodgson just let the players do their thing or whether he had finally understood how to get this team playing.  In the end, Liverpool would win just twice more before the end of the year and Hodgson was replaced by the new owners with Kenny Dalglish given the task of resurrecting the club.  From 12th at New Year to a final place of 6th showed there was something to build on.  Chelsea finished 2nd to Manchester United.

8th May 2012
LIVERPOOL   (3)   4   (Essien og 19, Henderson 25, Agger 28, Shelvey 61)
CHELSEA   (0)   1   (Ramires 50)

LIVERPOOL: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher, Agger; Downing (Sterling), Henderson, Shelvey, Maxi (Kuyt); Carroll, Suarez

CHELSEA: Turnbull; Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry, Bertrand; Ramires, Essien, Romeu; Malouda, Sturridge (Lukaku), Torres

The second half of the 2011-12 season had been a frustrating one.  Lying 6th at Christmas, they’d fallen to 9th by the beginning of May.  However, they’d also reached two Cup Finals, beating Cardiff in the League Cup and losing to Chelsea in the FA Cup.  This fixture came just three days after that defeat at Wembley.  Chelsea too were having a disappointing season in the League as they were 6th and needing to win their final two matches to stand an outside chance of getting into the Champions League.  If they couldn’t reach 4th then their only hope was to beat Bayern Munich in the Final to come.

Both teams came into this game on the back of defeats in their previous League matches and Liverpool were looking for a repeat of their 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge back in November.  After his performance against Chelsea at this venue the season before, Torres, now a Chelsea player, was back at Anfield for the first time.  The difference in the two performances could not have been more stark.

Ivanovic nearly opened the scoring when his header hit the post in the 17th minute, but this seemed to galvanise the home side.  The partnership of Suarez and Carroll continued to show promise and it was the former who set the crowd alight with his run down the right touchline to hold off Romeu, and then the obligatory nutmeg on John Terry.  As he reached the bye-line by the near post, Suarez cut the ball back and Michael Essien, as if to appreciate the quality of the run, finished off the move by tucking the ball into his own net. 

Six minutes the home crowd finally had a glimpse of the talent of Jordan Henderson.  The player had been subbed in the Cup Final, and was a frustrated figure, but tonight he seemed rejuvenated.  Henderson began the move midway in his own half as Shelvey collected the ball ahead of him.  He laid it to his left where Maxi, hugging the touchline, saw Henderson’s run and played a well-timed pass to Terry’s left.  The Chelsea captain clearly expected the ball to be played to his right as he slipped trying to switch his balance.  This allowed Henderson the opportunity to get in on goal and his finish was full of confidence.  This season you wouldn’t be surprised to see this from ‘Hendo’ but back in 2012 he was less assured. 

Within minutes it got worse for the visitors as Ross Turnbull in the Chelsea goal, was left floundering at a corner and Agger had a simple header to put Liverpool 3-0 up.  Stewart Downing, without a league goal for Liverpool, hit the bar with a volley but soon had his chance to break his duck.  Carroll was elbowed by Ivanovic and the ref awarded a penalty.  Downing took it, and promptly missed, hitting the base of the post.  Chelsea were relieved to hear the halftime whistle as they could’ve been trailing by at least 5.

In the second half, Chelsea looked more determined but soon the reality of the fact they were not going to achieve a top four finish seemed to hit them.  Five minutes into the half and Ramires grabbed a goal back as he scored from a corner when he misjudged his jump and the ball hit his waist and bobbled in past Reina.  But there was no heroic comeback as Liverpool soon restored their 3-goal lead.  Turnbull played a goal-kick out to Bertrand in the left back position, and the young full-back was immediately under pressure.  He hurriedly passed it straight to his keeper who was just as flustered with his subsequent clearance.  The ball straight to Shelvey who was bang in the centre of Chelsea’s half.  He controlled the ball and then met it on the half-volley showing great technique to fire the ball like a missile into the empty net.

A 4-1 win was cold comfort for the disappointment of a Cup Final lost but the team had once again outplayed their opponents and were certainly not in the end of season mood.

HEAD TO HEAD at Anfield

Matches: 74
Liverpool win: 46
Chelsea win: 18
Draws: 10

Liverpool goals: 148
Chelsea goals: 71