Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool

Xabi Alonso and Robbie Keane
Alonso’s goal ended Chelsea’s 86-game unbeaten home run

Liverpool demonstrated their growing title credentials by ending Chelsea’s 86-game unbeaten run in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge and moving three points clear at the top of the table.

Xabi Alonso’s deflected ninth-minute goal gave Liverpool victory and shattered a Chelsea sequence stretching back to February 2004 on home turf.

It was a deserved triumph for Rafael Benitez’s side – achieved without Fernando Torres – and the first setback for the reign of Luiz Felipe Scolari at Chelsea.

Chelsea enjoyed long periods of possession, but Liverpool never flinched and could have doubled their victory margin had Alonso’s second-half free-kick not hit an upright.

Ashley Cole missed Chelsea’s best chance after the break, allowing Liverpool to record a victory which is of huge significance in terms of their confidence and self-belief.

If this game was a measure of Liverpool’s ability to finally mount a serious title challenge, then they will have left West London in the knowledge that they now appear to have the ability to finally challenge Chelsea and Manchester United in domestic battle.

Chelsea simply ran out of ideas in the face of a red wall of defensive resistance, with Liverpool’s defence – led magnificently by Jamie Carragher – impenetrable.

Scolari’s side opened with a surge of confidence, but took a real knock when Alonso gave Liverpool the lead.

He latched on to a half-clearance, and while his effort carried little power, a deflection off Jose Bosingwa was enough to wrong-foot Petr Cech.

The rest of the opening period was a tale of Chelsea dominating possession – but Liverpool were superbly organised and carried an ever-present threat of a second goal on the break.

Steven Gerrard almost provided it after 23 minutes with a dipping effort from 25 yards that required the fingertips of Cech to turn it to safety.

Javier Mascherano was offering Liverpool’s defence fierce protection, and an atmosphere of frustration was growing around Stamford Bridge. But Deco almost provided the equaliser nine minutes before the interval. Gerrard lost possession, and the Portugal midfielder advanced before sending a left-foot shot inches wide.

Chelsea may have enjoyed territorial superiority in the first 45 minutes, but the resilience Liverpool have demonstrated throughout this season ensured keeper Pepe Reina had not had any serious work to do.

Liverpool’s increasing confidence was demonstrated at the start of the second half, with Gerrard pushed into a more advance role in support of Robbie Keane.

There was a moment of anxiety for Reina after 54 minutes when he brought down Florent Malouda as he raced into the area, but the linesman’s flag had already been raised.

It was Malouda’s final contribution as Scolari made a double change, sending substitutes Franco di Santo and Juliano Belletti, with Salomon Kalou also taken off.

Liverpool sent on Ryan Babel for Robbie Keane – and they came within inches of doubling their advantage after 61 minutes.

Alonso’s low free-kick left Cech motionless, but for Liverpool it agonisingly struck the base of the post and stayed out.

Cole, having already been booked, ran the risk of a red card with a needless foul on Babel, but the foolish intervention of Mascherano in an attempt to ensure he was sent off ended with a yellow card for the Argentine.

Liverpool had applied pressure points to Chelsea all over the pitch, and as the clock ticked down on their formidable home record, some of the calm and order that had characterised their play had disappeared.

But they fashioned their best chance of the game after 72 minutes, only for Cole to slice hopelessly wide when Di Santo knocked Frank Lampard’s cross into his path.

Carragher defended heroically to block Deco, but Babel then showed his threat with a rising drive that was just inches away.

Chelsea pressed in the closing stages, but never in any convincing fashion on another day when Liverpool confirmed their growing stature.

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