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27 April 2014
• Anfield, Liverpool
Referee: M. Atkinson
• Attendance: 44726
D. Ba 45'+
FULL-TIME: Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea. This was billed as a momentous day in the title race and it looks as if it will prove to be, but not in the manner Brendan Rodgers and his side imagined at kick-off. Jose Mourinho, castigated for his spiky showing at Friday's press conference and his decision to field a weakened side, got his tactics spot on as his side scored in stoppage time at the end of each half to dent the hosts' title chances. Demba Ba capitalised on a woeful error from skipper Steven Gerrard to run clear and slot home before Willian scored on the counter at the end to leave Liverpool just two points clear at the top.
90' + 4'
Assist Fernando Torres
90' + 4'
GOAL! Willian makes it 2-0 to Chelsea and that will seal it as the Blues steal the crucial second on the counter. Sturridge gifts the ball back to the visitors and the Brazilian feeds Torres, who advances on goal and draws Mignolet before slipping in his team-mate, who makes no mistake from a couple of yards out. Game over.
90' + 3'
Yellow Card Fernando Torres
90' + 3'
Yellow Card Ashley Cole
90' + 2'
GREAT SAVE! Liverpool are awarded a fortuitous corner as Gerrard's cross slices straight out of play, but the Reds skipper is not about to display any sympathy and takes the set piece quick. The ball is worked to Suarez who unleashes a fierce volley, but Schwarzer gets across well to parry the ball away.
A poor pass from Coutinho goes straight out of play as Johnson hurtles forward into space and Liverpool are struggling to build a head of steam for the final few minutes here.
Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher is spotted in the Anfield crowd and he looks as crestfallen as the rest of the supporters. It is important to remember, however, that the Reds will stay top regardless of what happens here today.
Gerrard rifles a low strike wide of the post - and not for the first time - after finding himself in space just outside the Chelsea area. Liverpool are running out of time and ideas here.
Ba wastes another opportunity to free a team-mate as Willian's run through the middle proves futile and when he gives the ball away again in midfield, Mourinho decides enough is enough by bringing on Torres. The irony is, Ba's strike stands to be the winner this afternoon.
Coutinho whips a stunning pass around the Chelsea back four but Ivanovic does just enough to prevent Suarez from getting a toe to the ball at the back post. Rodgers makes his next change by hauling off Flanagan and bringing on Iago Aspas to bolster his forward numbers.
CHANCE! Suarez gets free on the left and clips a cross back to Gerrard, who steers a header towards goal but can only find the gloves of Schwarzer once again.
Chelsea make a defensive tactical reshuffle as Cahill comes on for Schurrle to stock up the numbers at the back and give Liverpool an ever sterner test in attack.
Schurrle and Mikel are both down for Chelsea, seemingly with cramp, and the plans to disrupt and stem the flow of the Liverpool attacks are working perfectly. The duo go off temporarily but Atkinson allows them to come straight back on after receiving treatment.
Liverpool are banging on the door, but Chelsea are refusing to budge and the Blues are close to launching a devastating counter attack, only for Willian to misplace a pass for Schurrle.
Gerrard feeds in a ball to the back post where Sterling had looked to steal in, but Willian did superbly to track his man and stick with him diligently.
Another Liverpool move breaks down and the Kop are growing audibly frustrated by their side's toils. The hosts need their fanbase to stick with them here.
CHANCE! Gerrard lines a shot up from just outside the area having set himself up by skipping past Lampard but can only steer an effort straight into the gloves of a grateful Schwarzer. Chelsea closing in on a crucial win.
Sakho clips Willian to concede a free-kick and Chelsea are happy to carry on time-wasting to unsettle the Liverpool rhythm once more before Allen tests Schwarzer with a stinging strike.
A Flanagan cross from the left is easily dealt with by Schwarzer, who has hardly been troubled this afternoon. Moments later Willian escapes a couple of challenges and Chelsea find themselves with two on two in the Liverpool third, but the Brazilian elects to find Ba, who sees his shot diverted away.
GREAT SAVE! Mignolet may have just kept Liverpool in the contest as he produces a wonderful save to deny Schurrle. The German had shown directness and desire to run at the backtracking Johnson and fire in a low strike, but the Belgian was equal to it.
Mourinho makes a change of his own, as Willian comes on to shore up the midfield and Salah makes way. It may well be that the Chelsea boss considers the Brazilian slightly more defensive-minded.
Liverpool make their first substitution as Rodgers looks to inject some more pace to the attack by introducing Sturridge to the fold. Can the Reds muster a much-needed equaliser?
Ba controls Schwarzer's long clearance downfield with an impeccable first touch but the ball had already gone out of play before he could charge past Martin Skrtel on the left flank.
A right-wing centre causes initial panic in the Chelsea defensive ranks, but Schurrle manages to clear before Gerrard leads the Liverpool fight by driving into a wide-left position but Ivanovic is in his way to block the cross.
PENALTY?! Sterling goes to ground after an altercation with Kalas but the replays show referee Atkinson was correct to wave away the Reds' latest appeals with the Liverpool flyer going down too easily under the slightest contact.
Sterling speeds past Azpilicueta, but the Spaniard recovers well only to clear straight to Joe Allen, who feeds Suarez, with the Uruguayan forcing a corner for his side. It comes to nothing, though, as Chelsea continue to defend resolutely.
Liverpool almost fashion a chance in the opening stages but there is a mix-up between Suarez and Lucas, with the Uruguayan leaving the ball to the offside Brazilian when he could have carried on going following a weaving run.
Liverpool get the ball rolling once more here and we are back underway for this crucial second half.
HALF-TIME: Liverpool 0-1 Chelsea. How many people saw this coming? Rodgers' side have quite simply failed to get going in the face of a resilient Chelsea defensive performance and it has worked wonders for Mourinho's side, who seized one of precious few opportunities when Ba capitalised on Gerrard's awful error to close in on goal and slot past Mignolet. The second half will be a major test of Liverpool's mettle in the title race.
45' + 4'
Goal Demba Ba
GOAL! Absolutely remarkable, Chelsea have the lead right on half-time as Ba atones for his previous errors in this half with a goal which could turn the tide in this amazing title race. Gerrard is the culprit for Liverpool, slipping in possession from Sakho's pass, and it allows the striker to cruise through on goal before slotting home with brilliant composure. It could be a pivotal moment.
45' + 2'
WHAT A CHANCE! Chelsea really should be ahead here. Kalas meets Lampard's corner but fails to get a proper connection on it and his header sails wide of the far post. The Czech has to score there.
Ba's touch lets him down once more as Lampard looks to play a quick one-two in and around the edge of the Liverpool area but it breaks down and Liverpool clear.
Yellow Card Frank Lampard
Lampard enters the book for a rash challenge on Sterling and a fairly unnecessary one at that in a wide position to break up Liverpool's fluency once more.
Liverpool just cannot find a way through this Chelsea rearguard. A corner breaks down when Coutinho's ambitious cross sails out of play before Suarez arrows a shot just over the crossbar from 25 yards.
Chances to break the deadlock at both ends as, first, Salah slams a shot into the arm of Flanagan, but Atkinson refuses their latest appeals. Then Liverpool engineer an opportunity of their own as Coutinho goes for a cross from Suarez, but Azpilicueta extinguishes the danger.
Ba wins another corner for Chelsea but Lampard's corner goes out of play before swinging back in and presents Liverpool with a goal-kick. A slight let-off for the hosts there.
Salah does well to win a corner from Flanagan but Lampard's delivery from the right is headed up in the air by Gerrard and ultimately caught by Mignolet amongst a cluster of bodies.
Another potential Chelsea breakaway comes to nothing as Ba fails to locate Salah's well-timed run on the left flank, and is instead tackled firmly by Sakho, who stuck to his task well against the rangy frontman.
Liverpool want a free-kick on the edge of the area as Ivanovic comes in late on the striker who unceremoniously bit him last season in the corresponding fixture. The Serb was the man doing the metaphoric biting this time, but Atkinson was not interested in the Liverpool protests.
Schurrle is visibly furious with the peripheral Ba as he fails to find the requisite flick-on to play in the German on the left when Chelsea had a three on two in their favour. The ball eventually gets worked back to Schwarzer. Frustrating for Mourinho and his side.
Cole goes up for a header with Suarez only to find the Uruguayan still on the ground and is lucky to get away without being booked as he leads with his arm in the challenge.
Sterling forces a corner after some strong work on the left flank but once again, Chelsea defend in numbers from the set piece and are able to clear their lines without any real difficulty.
Liverpool are dictating possession here but cannot quite find the telling pass at the moment to prise apart the Chelsea defence.
Yellow Card Mohamed Salah
Salah is the first player to enter Martin Atkinson's book after a cynical trip on Sterling, with the Liverpool winger breezing past his opposite number with a turn of pace on the far side.
Liverpool look slightly frustrated by Chelsea's resilient defensive performance and Coutinho's shot from range goes well wide of the target, underlining how the Reds will have to be patient to carve apart the visitors' backline.
Salah wastes a chance to lead a Chelsea breakaway by handing possession straight back to the hosts before Gerrard is brought down by Schurrle. Liverpool's latest move of their own, however, also breaks down and Lucas is penalised for a trip on Frank Lampard.
Steven Gerrard finds himself in space just outside the area but sees his low shot blocked by a brave Kalas challenge. The youngster has started well here.
Cesar Azpilicueta's long throw is nodded on by Mamadou Sakho and almost causes a problem for Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal but he eventually claims the ball down low. Moments later Liverpool fashion a corner which results in a chance for Sakho, but he blazes over the bar.
SIDE NETTING! Coutinho volleys into the side of Schwarzer's goal after a stunning piece of play from Suarez sees him skip away from a challenge and whip a ball over to the Brazilian, but his first-time effort fails to test the Chelsea goalkeeper.
Kalas makes a tremendous tackle on Sterling to thwart the Liverpool wideman after he had spun in behind Schurrle but the Reds win two corners in quick succession, with Johnson having a speculative shot blocked away.
Liverpool threaten to turn the screw as Philippe Coutinho and Jon Flanagan team up down the left, but the latter's cross is ultimately cleared away by Matic.
Cole does well this time to intercept a crossfield pass from Gerrard and finds Schurrle, who embarks on a direct run before being upended by Glen Johnson near the halfway line.
Sterling looks to take the game to Chelsea straight away by surging past Schurrle after the Blues had surrendered possession. His run is brought to a halt by Ashley Cole, who cleverly positions himself between the winger and the ball to retrieve possession and win a free-kick.
We are underway at Anfield, with Chelsea kicking us off for the first half.
We are almost ready for kick-off at Anfield, where the atmosphere is electric once again as the fans embark on a chorus of the club's You'll Never Walk Alone anthem.
Manuel Pellegrini, the Manchester City manager, has suggested that Liverpool will have to extend that run to 14 consecutive wins if they are to win it, but you get the feeling a 12th today will see Rodgers and his charges home for a remarkable title triumph.
The Reds' 11-game winning streak has been nothing short of astonishing. There have been some comprehensive wins, with their swashbuckling brand of football, but they have also experienced four high-scoring, yet anxious and taxing, single-goal victories with a plucky Norwich side last time out demonstrating how Liverpool must go on to earn this title.
Three points for Liverpool today would put them firmly on course for the title and would give them some leway for what looks an increasingly testing trip to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace, who have been in fine recent form. The Reds are now facing the pressure of expectancy atop the standings heading into the final throes of the season. Can they handle it?
His comments should not fool Liverpool, though, the Portuguese will want to take all three points at Anfield if he possibly can. If Chelsea do win, and then take the requisite six points from their last two games against Norwich and Cardiff, there is still a glimmer of hope of securing a league and Champions League double in his first season back.
The Chelsea manager's press conference on Friday showed his spiky side as he dodged questions and confronted those challenging his idea to field a weakened side this weekend, but given the plethora of injuries and suspensions his side has picked up recently, his decision to rest players today seems understandable.
The Blues should be going into this game knowing that a win would make them odds-on for the title. But after last week's shock defeat at home to Sunderland, Mourinho knows a win today would merely serve to hand the momentum back to Manchester City.
Mourinho's side has the defensive assurance of John Obi Mikel and Matic and the pace on the flanks of both Salah and Schurrle, but Kalas faces a huge test against the rampant duo of Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez, who will fancy their chances against the relatively untested Czech.
Into the Chelsea team come: Mark Schwarzer, Branislav Ivanovic, Tomas Kalas, Nemanja Matic, Mohamed Salah, Demba Ba and Andre Schurrle, with Cech, Terry, the suspended Ramires and David Luiz dropping out of the squad completely, while Gary Cahill, Willian and Fernando Torres are all on the bench.
Some of Mourinho's changes, meanwhile, are enforced, with Petr Cech and John Terry sustaining injuries during the first leg in Atletico, where the Blues battled to a gutsy 0-0 draw.
Liverpool's title tilt has benefitted from a lack of Champions League football and Brendan Rodgers is content to name an unchanged lineup from the XI that won 3-2 at Norwich City last weekend. Daniel Sturridge does return to the bench but is not risked from the start while Jordan Henderson sits out the second of his three-match suspension.
Chelsea substitutes: Hilario, Ake, Cahill, Van Ginkel, Baker, Willian, Torres.
Chelsea: Schwarzer; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Kalas, Cole; Mikel, Lampard, Matic; Salah, Ba, Schurrle.
Liverpool substitutes: Jones, Toure, Agger, Alberto, Aspas, Sturridge, Cissokho.
Here are the two teams in full, starting with today's hosts Liverpool: Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Sakho, Flanagan; Lucas, Gerrard, Allen; Sterling, Suarez, Coutinho.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had suggested he would make wholesale changes for the trip to Anfield, with today's contest sandwiched between the Blues' two Champions League semi-final clashes with Atletico Madrid. The Portuguese is true to his word, making seven changes, but the team still looks strong on paper.
Good afternoon and welcome to this LIVE commentary of Liverpool v Chelsea from Anfield on a momentous day in the title race. Can Liverpool secure all three points and close in on an inagural Premier League crown? Or will Chelsea prove the party poopers and throw the three-horse race wide open once more. Stick with me, Tom Marshall-Bailey, for all the latest updates.
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