Chelsea blew the Premiership title wide open again with its second defensive masterclass in a week. Although the biggest beneficiary’s of today’s result are Man.City as our recent losses to Villa, Palace and Sunderland still make us only an outside bet at best.
Most Blues fans will acknowledge that we prefer watching the likes of Hazard, Oscar, Willian and Schurrle terrorizing opposition back lines as opposed to the “6 across the back” tactic that we have seen in some recent games. But when it comes to winning Silverware at the business end of the season, some negative tactics employed during AWAY games is more than excusable.
Lets also remember that Jose has insisted all season that we do not have the strike force capable of winning the title yet……anyone who thinks that is a mind game hasn’t been watching Torres season-in, season -out! So in order to compensate for this Mourinho has literally had to go on the defensive.
Although I would like to suggest a tweak. This whole time -wasting business is most annoying to the point of being childish. It takes away from the achievement of a successful defensive display. It causes needless bookings and winds up opposition and neutrals alike. It is not good for the branding and Roman should have a little word in Jose’s ear to stamp it out. I found myself supporting Martin Atkinson, when he added a good couple of minutes extra at the end of the first half after we had scored the opener. It would have been very ironic indeed if Liverpool had scored in the added couple of minutes.
The depth of our squad was on full display, Mourinho handed 20-year-old Tomas Kalas a full premiership debut in John Terry’s position. They way the young Czech handled himself will have the pundits calling him the heir apparent.
A number of other second string players also deserve special mention today. Demba Ba had a cracker. His hold up play at the top of tree was world class. His gangly style sometimes hides the level of control he possesses. He won most 50/50 headers from the long ball clearance, and his percentage of receiving and laying off to feet was as high as I’ve witnessed from a centre forward. Obviously he also scored the first goal with his only real chance of the game.
Mark Schwarzer was immense between the posts. His handling was first class and he made 3 or 4 great saves during the 90 minute onslaught from the Liverpool frontline. Cech’s loss was probably the biggest worry, and following Schwarzer’s howler against Sunderland he has bounced back very well having had some match practise. A clean sheet at Anfield this season is no mean feat.
Ashley Cole, who had to be defrosted in a hurry, still shows some rustiness but certainly played his part in stifling the Red wave.
Having said all that, the best player on the pitch today was Nemanja Matic. The Serbian was the conductor of the midfield layer of the defensive line or The upper deck, as it will now be known! Between him and Mikel there can be no better twosome at stealing and then keeping possession of a ball.
Ivanovich and Azpilicueta yet again put in medal worthy performances. They will probably be the only outfield members of today’s starting eleven to reappear on Wednesday night.
If Chelsea are not to be Champions, I truly hope that Liverpool are. This is not due to any hatred of Manchester City , more out of a respect for Steven Gerrard.
It would be very sad if his mistake in the dying embers of the first half cost the Merseysiders their first Premiership Title and Captain Fantastic his last chance at glory. The Slippery Skipper lost his footing allowing Demba Ba a 40 yard run in on goal, The Senegalese forward made no mistake as he nutmegged Mignolet to put the Blues ahead.
I also feel that its good for the competition in general to have ” Never Walk Alone” sung with such fervour as we saw today. In what is the Hillsborough 25th anniversary year it was quite moving.
Although lets not get too sentimental…….The away fans rendition of “In your Liverpool Slums” had a nice ring to it too!
Mssrs. Suarez, Sterling, Courtinho will likely be feeling a little down in the dumps tonight, because in the end they failed to break the spell. Liverpool were limited to long range efforts from outside the box. Rogers also threw our old boy Sturridge into the mix on 58 minutes, but the combo was more “Brownies” than “SAS” today. Thank God for that as we would never have heard the end of it from Daniel had he scored!
Chelsea put the icing on the cake with a break away goal in the last minute. Torres unselfishly set up Willian to pass into an open net with no red shirt in the vicinity. Game over.
As we know most the talk has been of how Mourinho’s negative tactics may be paying off but at some cost to the neutral and the overall product that is “Premier League football”…… True sports fans appreciate both types of game. The Perfect Game in baseball is lauded as one of sports most amazing achievements.
Chelsea’s defensive performances when required should be similarly respected, we only have to go back a couple of years to remember how Gary Neville felt. The Blues can also play expansive football, I have a feeling that assuming Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o are both fit, we will see the other side of Chelsea’s game on Wednesday night. Barcelona have now been labelled predictable and boring due to their tactics, I do not think that Mourinho nor Chelsea should be judged just yet. Lets see what happens next season when we replenish our arsenal for the first time since Drogba left.