Chelsea produced a defensive masterclass to end Liverpool’s winning run and blow the title race wide open once again. Liverpool went into the game unchanged and looked to make it 12 wins in a row against a Chelsea side whose focus was seemingly on their upcoming Champions League semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid.
Young center-back Tomas Kalas started for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho’s men made their intentions clear from the word go. Within the first five minutes, goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer was wasting time with free kicks and the rest of the side took their time with throw-ins and made the most of every challenge.
Anfield was furious with Chelsea’s park the bus tactics, and referee Martin Atkinson made it clear that he was taking note of every incident. But as the board went up to show three minutes added time, the general consensus was that it wasn’t enough.
Nobody could predict, though, what would happen in added time. Liverpool legend and captain Steven Gerrard has been the reason that most neutrals are backing Liverpool to win the title. But it was the inspirational skipper that had his head in his hands at half time after he gifted Chelsea a goal.
Gerrard slipped in possession in the middle of the park, and Chelsea frontman Demba Ba took the ball off his feet and raced clear before slotting home underneath the body of Simon Mignolet.
The tone for the second half was set and Chelsea went even more defensive – as impossible as it seemed – and prevented the likes of Luis Suarez and Coutinho from opening them up.
But the Reds contined to toil and try to find an equalising goal. Good saves in the second half from Schwarzer to deny Joe Allen and Suarez were the only moments of attacking encouragement for Liverpool.
And in stoppage time in the second half the Blues wrapped things up on the counter. Nemanja Matic dispossessed former Chelsea man Daniel Sturridge before finding Willian. The Brazilian played a pass beyond Gerrard to Fernando Torres, who was in his own half but through on goal with Liverpool’s outfield players all forward. And the Spaniard unselfishly squared for Willian to make it 2-0.
The reaction from both sets of fans was telling. Liverpool fans aimed to lift the players’ spirits and Chelsea fans were ecstatic as the players celebrated in front of the travelling supporters.
Mourinho also let out a wave of emotion on the touchline thumping his chest and cheering. But the Portuguese refused to say Chelsea are back in the title race. One more defeat for both Liverpool and Manchester City this season would leave Chelsea in pole position to win the title but they are third favorites as it stands.
Man City are now the firm favorites to win the league after their own 2-0 away win at in form Crystal Palace. Goals from Edin Dzeko and Yaya Toure leave City three points behind Liverpool with a game in hand.
Liverpool play Palace and Newcastle in their last two games, whilst City travel to Everton and host Aston Villa and West Ham. Chelsea are still in the title race and play Norwich and Cardiff in the last two. But their win at Anfield may be the most crucial of the season in the title race.
The end of the season is going to be incredibly tense for all three sides. And as it stands, we are heading for a 2012-style ending to the league campaign, with City at home to a side not many will give any chance of winning on that day, and still in with a chance of winning the title on goal difference.
Two years ago, City faced QPR and scored two dramatic late goals to snatch the title from Manchester United on goal difference. This year, some United fans will be cheering rivals City on, as they would hate to see Liverpool take their title. One thing is for sure though. It’s still all to play for.