A game mired with controversy couldn’t produce a win for either side at Anfield today, as Liverpool drew 2-2 with top four hopefuls Chelsea.
Oscar opened the scoring for Chelsea when he headed the ball in from a corner. Daniel Sturridge equalised for Liverpool early in the second half with a cool finish.
Eden Hazard fired Chelsea back into the lead a few minutes later when he scored from the penalty spot. Luis Suarez dramatically levelled proceedings in stoppage time when he headed the ball past Peter Cech.
This was the first time that Rafa Benitez had returned to Anfield as a manager since he left Liverpool in 2010. His Chelsea side were looking for a win that would take them back into the top 4, but the Reds were hoping for their first win after two draws.
Liverpool made the better start to the game with early chances coming from Philippe Coutinho and Glen Johnson; however that was the only entertainment that fans watching the game were to see for the next 20 minutes. Both sides seemed to take a cautious approach to their play, although in Chelsea’s case, this is perhaps indicative of Benitez’ team’s style of play.
As the game started to move on, Chelsea appeared more comfortable in possession of the ball and were able to prevent the home side from making any real foray in to Peter Cech’s box.
Chelsea opened the scoring in the 25th minute when Oscar headed the ball in from a corner kick. Liverpool failed to defend the corner adequately, and when Oscar escaped his marker he was left with a free header at the corner that Lucas was supposed to protect.
Three minutes later there was almost another goal for the visitors from a David Luiz free kick. The Brazilian fired a shot over the wall from 30 yards out, but Pepe Reina was unable to stop the effort and dropped the ball behind him. Luckily for the fans sitting behind the goal in the Kop, the keeper was able to stop the ball from rolling over the line.
The game settled back into a slow pace after the goal and Liverpool didn’t really look like finding an equaliser. They came close five minutes from half time however when Stewart Downing was able to lay the ball off for Suarez in the box, but Cech was able to make a fantastic save to stop him.
The teams went in at half time with Benitez looking the more likely to achieve a positive outcome from his return to Anfield.
2nd Half: Sturridge makes difference
With the introduction of Sturridge at half time, Liverpool played with a new-found urgency at the beginning of the second half. Almost immediately after the whistle went, the former Chelsea striker ran along the front of the box before passing the ball through the middle of the Blues’ defence to find Steven Gerrard. Once again though, Cech was able to make a brilliant save to stop an almost certain goal.
The home side kept pushing and Sturridge was almost rewarded for his efforts just a minute later when he smacked the ball of Cech’s far post from 30 yards. Johnson crossed the rebound back in front of the goalmouth but Jordan Henderson couldn’t get to it.
Sturridge found the net five minutes later after a brilliant piece of team play. The ball was given to Suarez who, with one touch, chipped the ball over the Chelsea defence and into the feet of his strike partner who calmly knocked the ball past Cech.
Suarez: The Bad
The Reds’ lead didn’t last long however. Chelsea won a penalty in the 54th minute when Suarez handled the ball in the air from a corner, escaping with a mere yellow card for the trouble. Hazard placed the ball at Reina’s opposite side to put Chelsea back into the lead.
The atmosphere that had been building inside Anfield was suddenly flattened, and the visitors went back to the job of defending their lead against a side that started dropping back to their performance levels of the first half. Unfortunately, the match was mired in controversy around 10 minutes later.
Suarez: The Ugly – Bite
Branislav Ivanovic appeared to be furious with Suarez after they had an off the ball tussle during a Liverpool attack. Replays showed that after struggling with each other, Suarez bit the defender on the arm. Suarez was lucky as the referee didn’t see the incident, but will surely see a retrospective ban for his shameful action.
As the game wore on towards full-time, Liverpool kept pushing for an equaliser but weren’t able to find the way past the Chelsea defence that they so desperately needed. The visitors appeared happy to sit back and defend, and did a good job of this for the most part – the only real chance they allowed for the Reds being when Henderson was able to set up substitute Jonjo Shelvey in space, before the young midfielder missed an absolute sitter.
Suarez: The Good
Both sides made their final substitutions and six minutes of stoppage time was announced by the assistant referee. Chelsea defended well and looked like they would secure the three points – at least until the last few seconds of the match. With the clock running out, Sturridge brought the ball in from the sideline before crossing it in to Suarez who promptly headed the ball into the back of the net.
After providing the game with its most controversial moments, the Uruguayan was given the last word on what could be a worrying dent in Chelsea’s Champions League hopes.
Chelsea will surely be disappointed with just one point when they really should have put the game away. Liverpool may find the result meaningless in the coming media storm that their star striker is sure to find himself in.
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