A heroic first half performance, and the return of Fernando Torres.Fernando Torres silenced his critics with two world-class goals as Liverpool defeated league leaders Chelsea 2-0 in front of a jubilant Anfield crowd on Sunday afternoon.
Although the Blues had plenty of chances, particularly in the second half, the hosts showed defensive tenacity to match the two superb strikes in the first period.
This result sees Liverpool leap from 16th into the top half, while Chelsea's lead at the top of the Premier League has been cut to just two points.
For Torres this was a day to remember: by scoring twice he has now doubled his season tally, and the manner in which he netted reminds fans that while form is temporary, class is permanent.
A tense opening was brought to life after 10 minutes when Torres controlled an inch-perfect Dirk Kuyt pass to slot past Cech, and the game was all but put to bed just before half-time when the striker beat the Chelsea goalkeeper with an unstoppable curling effort.
Many challenges flew in and a couple of free-kicks from promising positions were wasted in a high-tempo yet cagey opening, with Liverpool especially appearing nervous against the current Premier League leaders. But some of the pressure was released after just 10 minutes when their record signing hit the back of the net.
From his own half, Martin Skrtel raked a pass straight up the inside-left channel to Dirk Kuyt, who immediately turned and played a cross-field pass to the sprinting Fernando Torres. The striker controlled the ball with one touch, edged past Alex down the inside-right channel and into the box, and stroked an assured shot past Petr Cech and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net to send Anfield into raptures.
The goal kicked Liverpool into gear and moments later Torres came close again to testing Cech, but the Spaniard’s 25-yard shot flashed wide. Then, Torres hoofed the ball clear inside his own half towards Cech and the Chelsea goalkeeper’s attempted volley to take the ball back into play was misjudged and the 28-year-old completely missed the ball. With Kuyt lurking, Cech eventually cleared at the second attempt.
Chelsea, despite enjoying the majority of possession, were wasting opportunities. Malouda was repeatedly given the ball to drive at the inexperienced Martin Kelly, who was enjoying his first ever Premier League start, but the 20-year-old was coping amicably.
On the other hand, Liverpool, with their inferior possession, were taking full advantage. Mid-way through the first half Lucas, who has been enjoying an excellent season thus far, burst into the Chelsea half and suddenly Liverpool had four players attacking versus Chelsea’s three defenders but the break was abruptly stopped when Yuri Zhirkov bundled into the back of the Brazilian to pick up a yellow card.
Without looking at the Premier League standings pre-match you would have guessed that it was Liverpool who were on top and Chelsea suffering their worst start to a Premier League season and Torres underlined that thought when he bagged his second just before the break.
An Ashley Cole slip started the move when Raul Meireles pounced on the error and raced forward, sliding a pass towards Fernando Torres on the left-hand side of the Chelsea box. The Spaniard dropped a shoulder, moved inside past Branislav Ivanovic, and curled a beautiful shot into the far top-right corner to allow his side to go into the break in the lead for the first time this season.
With Carlo Ancelotti desperate for a way back into the game, he introduced Didier Drogba for the beginning of the second half, in place of the frankly invisible Salomon Kalou, despite the striker reportedly suffering from a virus.
Chelsea immediately had more purpose about them but the home side continued to defend valiantly as Lucas and Meireles continued to be the thorn in the holder’s side. On the hour mark, Chelsea had a decent opening with a freekick at the edge of the area but Drogba, normally effective from that range, put his effort harmlessly wide.
The pressure only mounted for Liverpool as Chelsea ramped up their attacking dial. Cole found space on the left hand side and whipped a dangerous ball into the heart of the Liverpool penalty area but an unmarked Ramires could only head over form eight yards as Sammy Lee was seen looking nervously at his watch.
Next it was Zhirkov’s chance to test the Anfield resolve when the Russian cut inside from the left-hand side and unleashed a powerful effort straight at Pepe Reina, who made an equally impressive save, for the Blues’ first attempt on target.
To say Liverpool were on the ropes in the second half would be an understatement yet they in fact came the closest to scoring next. With their first corner of the game Meireles’ scuffed shot from the edge of the area found Kuyt in space eight yards out. He turned and hammered a low shot towards the bottom-left corner, but Cech deflected the ball round the post with a desperate save to keep any Chelsea hopes alive in a stunning save.
Then business as usual resumed with Chelsea reverting back to swinging in cross after cross into the area in vain, trying to involve Nicolas Anelka, Daniel Sturridge or Drogba. Chelsea starting making minor headway in the final five minutes, however it was mainly thanks to Reina.
First Anelka turned cleverly inside the box and hit a low shot that flicked under the Spanish goalkeeper’s body and hit the underside of the bar with only a last second reflex tackle from Jamie Carragher stopping Drogba from tapping into an empty net to sum up an extraordinarily frustrating day for Chelsea and a very efficient performance from Liverpool.
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