Liverpool 4 Chelsea 1: Lessons from a pride-restoring win
What did we learn from Liverpool's impressive victory over Champions League finalists Chelsea at Anfield on Tuesday?
Luis Suárez continued his recent magical form, submitting Chelsea captain John Terry to a torrid 90 minutes. Before the game, the Uruguayan held an unfavourable record of 47 attempts on target but only 11 goals this season. But the 24-year-old has thrilled with his silky skills despite a poor conversion rate and he outwitted Terry with an audacious nutmeg before pulling his shot wide of Ross Turnbull’s goal in the seventh minute. It was a brilliant run from Suárez, who collected the ball wide on the right, and proceeded to ghost past three Chelsea defenders before delivering a low pass across the face of the goal which Blues midfielder Michael Essien turned into his own net. It was rich reward for another eye-catching performance. His link-up play was also excellent as he created chances for Carroll, Maxi Rodríguez and substitute Raheem Sterling in the second half.
The 31-year-old Blues skipper struggled to cope with Liverpool’s attacking duo Andy Carroll and Suárez. Terry was nutmegged three times in the opening 25 minutes – twice by the former Ajax forward before Carroll matched his strike partner’s audacity. And it got worse for the England defender. His wayward headed clearance was collected by Carroll, who should have netted his fourth strike in six games but failed to beat Turnbull. The Chelsea captain’s first half was capped off by an embarrassing slip which Jordan Henderson capitalised on to score his first goal since a spectacular strike in Liverpool’s 3-1 win against Bolton Wanderers. Terry did improve in the second half as he finally got to grips with the Reds’ front-line, and while his leadership will be missed in the Champions League final, Roy Hodgson has plenty to ponder before selecting his Euro 2012 squad.
Chelsea burned out?
Roberto Di Matteo has worked a minor miracle to transform what looked to be Chelsea’s worst season since Roman Abramovich took over the club in 2003 into a trophy winning campaign. Admittedly, the Blues are set for their lowest finish in the league in almost a decade, but the prospect of finally winning Europe’s top prize will compensate for a sixth-place finish. Di Matteo has already led the Blues to the FA Cup – the fourth time they’ve won the trophy in the last six seasons – and victory in the Champions League final would cap a remarkable turnaround under the Italian. But the effort expended during their recent European and domestic run told on Tuesday as an energetic Liverpool side punished Di Matteo’s flagging players, with the Londoners involved in their 60th fixture of the season.
Henderson and Shelvey sparkle in midfield
Kenny Dalglish handed Jordan Henderson and Jonjo Shelvey a rare start together in centre of the Reds’ midfield, and although the duo struggled in Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat by Fulham last Wednesday, they performed superbly against the Champions League finalists. Henderson, signed from Sunderland in a £20m deal last summer, netted his second league goal of the season after he capitalised on Terry’s slip and placed his shot into the far right corner, showing excellent composure. But, in particular, Shelvey sparkled in midfield and gave Dalglish an exciting preview of his potential for the future. The Charlton Athletic youth graduate, signed by Rafael Benítez for £1.7m in May 2010, was assured in possession and showcased his ability to pick out an incisive pass to dissect the Chelsea defence. From a defensive point of view, his only error in an otherwise flawless performance saw the 20-year-old dispossessed on the edge of the Chelsea’s area – but the midfielder raced back the length of the pitch to halt an opposition counter-attack.