Chelsea 0 – 1 Liverpool
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at Stamford Bridge
Fernando Torres‘ Chelsea debut ended in the disappointment of defeat and a failure to last 90 minutes against his former club as Liverpool’s revival under Kenny Dalglish continued with victory at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s £50m British record buy from Liverpool cut a subdued figure and was well shackled before being replaced by Salomon Kalou after 66 minutes.
If that was not enough to delight the Liverpool fans who taunted their former idol mercilessly and brandished banners to demonstrate their displeasure at the manner of his departure, their joy was complete three minutes after Torres’ exit when Raul Meireles pounced to give Dalglish his fourth successive win.
Chelsea’s loss represented a missed opportunity after Manchester United slipped to their first league defeat of the season at Wolves, Ancelotti’s side remaining 10 points behind the leaders. Liverpool, in contrast, move into the top six for the first time this season.
The win was no more than the rejuvenated Reds deserved – and it will have come as a relief to Maxi Rodriguez, who hit the bar when almost on the goalline in the first half.
Liverpool’s resilience and organisation ensured it did not prove costly, but it was a forgettable start to Torres’ Chelsea career and provided early evidence that coach Carlo Ancelotti has work to do to integrate the Spaniard into his attacking system, after also including Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka in a lop-sided starting line-up.
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The style in which Liverpool achieved this triumph only furthers Dalglish’s claims to be given the manager’s job on a permanent basis, and it is now surely only a matter of time before this formality is confirmed.
And it was done without the need for £23m striker Luis Suarez, who remained an unused substitute as Liverpool controlled affairs for a large portion of the game.
Chelsea looked unbalanced, lacked width and were eventually reduced to playing into Liverpool’s hands with a succession of aimless long balls that were mopped up with the minimum of fuss, to the home fans’ increasing frustration.
Anelka was utilised in a deeper role but it was an uncomfortable fit and Liverpool, boosted by an outstanding performance from Jamie Carragher on his first appearance since November after shoulder surgery, neutralised Chelsea comfortably.
The centre-back snuffed out Torres’ best chance with a trademark tackle in the first half and he also fired over early on after being inadvertently found by Maxi.
Torres, loved by Liverpool’s fans not so long ago, was greeted with hostility and one banner read: “He Who Betrays Will Always Walk Alone.”
And he walked alone as he was taken off midway through the second half, although there will be much more to come from this gifted striker once he finds his feet at Stamford Bridge and Ancelotti uncovers a system that suits his talents.
While Dalglish kept Suarez on the bench, Chelsea had no hesitation in handing Torres an instant start against his former team-mates. The reception from the visiting supporters was predictably angry, but there were warm exchanges between Torres and Liverpool’s players during the pre-match handshake.
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Maxi almost extended the hand of friendship too far when he directed a wayward pass straight to Torres in the opening minute, but the striker squandered the opportunity of making a dream start when his rising drive flew off target.
There was soon another hint of his threat and it took a timely intervention from Carragher to divert his goalbound shot after he was played in by Drogba.
Liverpool were more than holding their own and ended the half in the ascendancy. They should have taken the lead just after the half-hour when Gerrard’s cross evaded Chelsea’s defenders and reached Maxi in front of an open goal less than six yards out. To general amazement, and the very obvious anguish of Dalglish in the technical area, he managed to hit the bar and hand Chelsea a reprieve.
The hosts were struggling to make an impact but Anelka raised a subdued Stamford Bridge’s spirits with a low shot that flew inches wide before Torres’ game came to a conclusion after 66 minutes when he was replaced by Kalou.
Torres’ exit – a decision by Ancelotti that came as no surprise – was met with delight by Liverpool’s fans and they had even more cause to celebrate when they went ahead soon after.
Chelsea keeper Cech and Ivanovic had already suffered one communication breakdown that led to angry words between the pair and the second proved more costly as Liverpool took full advantage.
Dirk Kuyt’s presence in the vicinity of Gerrard’s cross created uncertainty and Meireles was perfectly placed to score and continue his rich vein of form.
As Chelsea pressed Liverpool almost struck again with 10 minutes left, substitute Fabio Aurelio cutting inside from the left and forcing a fine save from Cech at his near post.
Chelsea’s fruitless day was summed up in the closing stages when Liverpool defender Glen Johnson clearly, and needlessly, barged Ivanovic in the area, but referee Andre Marriner chose to ignore their appeals.
That apart, Chelsea provided Liverpool with no real alarms and a beaming Dalglish punched the air in triumph and embraced his backroom staff at the final whistle.