Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0: Torres Magic Provides Roy Key Leeway
Posted by Garstonite on November 7, 2010, 09:26:23 PM
Despite the cloud of doubt that has still lurked wretchedly over the past three wins, one thing is certain. Football on Merseyside is back. We will continue to exercise an element of cautious optimism over John W Henry and NESV, but for the time being, the focus is very much back on matters on the field. And it’s bloody great.
The crowd was well up for this today. Stark contrast to the strange atmosphere that filled Anfield the last time Chelsea visited, where everybody knew a Liverpool win would effectively have knocked us off our own fucking perch. The visitors were back to being the ghastly shower we hated. The only redeeming quality they have is in their manager Carlo Ancelotti, who’s enjoyed more than his fair share of highs and lows against us.
Pre-match predictions were that the key battle of the day was going to be between Greek defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos and our perennial pain in the backside Didier Drogba, but neither started. The former was out with tonsillitis, the latter with a broken nail. Without him, Essien and Lampard, it was an opportunity we had to seize. But the fact their replacements – Anelka, Ramires and Zhirkov - were close to £60m worth of talent showed what we were up against.
Hodgson made seven changes to the side that played Napoli in the week, with Fernando Torres returning in place of N’gog, Lucas back in the starting line-up and Martin Kelly thrust into the deep-end against, what is in my eyes, the best left-hand side in the league.
The Kop was in great voice before the game started. Liverpool attacked the Anfield Rd in the first half and looked to start the game on the ascendancy. Chelsea started the game rather cautiously. Their midfield three of Mikel, Ramires and Zhirkov hardly sent shivers down the spine and if the game was to be won and lost there, I fancied our chances from the off. With Lucas and Gerrard alongside one another, Maxi and Meireles tucking in and Kuyt dropping back, Chelsea were going to find creating space tough.
The personnel Hodgson put out today was positive, but the areas he fielded them puzzled me. On ten minutes, however, Dirk Kuyt picked up the ball in a position between midfield and defence and his deft ball into Torres was converted under pressure from Terry. Liverpool led by one goal to nil and question marks over Kuyt’s ability on the ball in such a key area of the field were answered emphatically. Dennis Bergkuyt. Torres’ excellent record against Chelsea continued with a big v-sign to the critics that have made ridiculous statements that advocate we should cash in on him.
A spark of Torres ingenuity is like a defibrillation to the side. Being a goal up against the Champions gave our players that extra yard. Everyone recognised the need to put a shift in today and serial scapegoat Lucas was magnificent in the centre of the park. His Brazilian composure on the ball and constant harrying of anyone in blue was reminiscent of South American compatriot Javier Mascherano. I’m made up for the lad, because while he has always been twice the player people have given him credit for, he’s always needed to do it against the very best. For his own benefit. He has the tools; he just needs to get to work with them. Thankfully Roy has recognised he is three times the player Poulsen is. It was also nice to see The Kop recognise the progress he's made by singing his name on at least five separate occasions to "Love Is In The Air". It seemed to get louder with every airing.
Down the other end of the field, Chelsea offered absolutely nothing. Liverpool, as is our unfortunate temptation, dared the opponent’s to break us down but every player did his job to perfection and Chelsea didn’t have what it took to create so much as a half chance.
As half-time approached, the chap by me only just realised he lost his phone in the commotion of the first goal. As he was down searching on the ground, amidst the darkness of the standing Kop, Torres picked up the ball, took on Ivanovic and bent the ball spectacularly around the statuesque Cech. A stunning goal and by the time the celebrations had finished, the man had also lost his sense of spatial awareness as he was now in the row in front and about six seats down from where he was when he started his vain attempt to find his lost mobile.
The half-time whistle sounded and the crowd was absolutely buzzing. A nice little touch after each goal was a little attempt to wave one or two banners. Very continental. The yellow Torres number fluttered in the wind at the front of The Kop to the soundtrack of his tune throughout the fifteen minute interval. When it had died down, George threw Ring of Fire on over the tannoy. It was a party atmosphere. Anfield was a happy place to be.
The second half kicked off and Chelsea had decided to risk Drogba. Liverpool sat back and absorbed pressure. We were never going to successfully prevent Chelsea from creating any chances; the key was reducing those chances and making life as hard as possible for them. If that was Hodgson’s plan, then it worked exceptionally. As difficult as it might have been, I think most of us would have preferred us to try and squeeze them up the pitch. In frustration at getting absolutely no space in behind the defence, however, Nicolas Anelka had the ball in all sorts of positions. Left-back, right-back, defensive midfield. Job done.
Chelsea didn’t win a league Championship and score the amount of goals they did last season from giving up on positions like this though and they came forward in search of a goal to get them back in the game. Jose Bosingwa came on in place of Ivanovic and his attacking impetus opened up an opportunity that Florent Malouda fired at Pepe Reina before Anelka saw his effort knocked on to the crossbar. Pinball-like madness. The crowd let out a simultaneous sigh of relief.
The left-hand side that I feared about prior to kick-off had done nothing. A lot down to the effectiveness of our midfield, but mostly due to the excellence of Martin Kelly who had a tremendous game at right-back. We've had many young defenders come through the ranks in recent years. From Jon "the one that got shot in the arse" Otsemebor to David "he's England youth team captain dontcherknow" Raven, with Lee Peltier and Stephen Darby throw in for extra good measure. None of them inspire the confidence Kelly does. As cliched as it sounds, from the moment he stepped out in his full senior debut you thought "he'll make it".
Despite Chelsea dominating the second half, Dirk Kuyt almost added to Liverpool’s two-goal advantage when he saw his effort saved by the foot of Petr Cech. The Chelsea players surrounded the referee in anger, as they had felt Raul Meireles had handled the ball in the build up. Nothing given and John Terry was given a spectacular reminder that his Mother is rather fond of genitalia from the area of Merseyside.
Fernando Torres was replaced with less than ten minutes to go to a rapturous ovation. N’gog came on in his place and got himself in and around the Chelsea backline. Terry left Alex to man the fort on his own and when the ball bounced in front of the Brazilian, N’gog seized the opportunity and get the ball before him. Alex’s momentum took him into N’gog. The crowd called for his dismissal but he got away with a yellow.
Maxi Rodriguez, who had a really solid performance, could have rounded off the evening by adding a third. He rounded Cech and went down but it was doubtful he would have got the ball had he not gone to ground. The late rendition of “Show Them The Way To Go Home” applied the icing on top of the cake. The final whistle went. 2-0.
The last time I had stayed in the ground so late after the final whistle was to protest against George Gillett and Tom Hicks after the Blackpool game. As the Luis Garcia song rang out from the back of Th Kop to rub one final tablespoon full of salt into the wounds of the Chelsea supporters pouring out of the exits, I think it dawned on many of us that, regardless of what personnel is here in a management and playing level, this is a new era. It may not happen instantaneously, but what a win against Chelsea does for us all is remind us that there is a core to work around that any side in world football would give an arm and a leg for.
The Reds are coming up the hill boys
MOTM: Plenty of candidates today. Despite Torres' two goals, I'm going to go, perhaps controversially, for Lucas. I think today might have been a really important game in his Anfield career.
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