After The Match 


Chelsea-Liverpool 2-0 (0-0)            4.10.09                        PL
Goals: Anelka (60), Malouda (90)
Team: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Insua, Riera, Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Gerrard, Torres
Subs: Benayoun (Riera 67), Babel (Lucas 76), Aurelio (Insua 84)
Not used: Cavalieri, Agger, Kyrgiakos, Ngog
Yellow: Gerrard (77)            Essien (44)
Red: None
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Attendance: 41,732
Shots on target: 8-3
Shots off target: 6-9
Blocked shots: 3-5
Fouls conceded: 15-17
Corners: 5-8
Offsides: 0-2
Possession: 52.4-47.6
Yellow: 1-1

HEADLINES "We played
a good
game against
a good team..."
Rafael Benitez
0610: Groundhog day as Benitez
           faces same old problems

0510: Carragher promises Reds response
0510: Hansen: If that goes on,
          how long will Benítez stick with him?

0510: Still time for a Reds title charge
0510: Defeat leaves Reds title challenge faltering
0410: Benitez stays defiant after loss
0410: Reds in battle for fourth
0410: French polish puts Blues in top spot

Groundhog day as Benitez
faces same old problems

Comment by Mark Lawrenson - Liverpool Daily Post

I had an uneasy feeling of deja-vu watching Liverpool at Chelsea on Sunday – it was as if we’d gone back in time three or four years.

Like they were happy to turn up at 0-0 and hold on to what they had, without ever looking like trying to open the game up.

It was only when Liverpool went a goal down that I thought they started to look like they could create chances if they really put their minds to it – but it really was all too little too late.

I think it was one of those ‘glass half empty’ days for Rafael Benitez, almost as if he felt his side couldn’t afford to lose this game so he would be delighted with a 0-0 outcome.

Whereas I think he would have been better really going out to try to win it.

In fact, I was interested to hear his reaction after the game to being told that Liverpool have already lost more league games than they did in the whole of last season.

Benitez might be right in his belief that you can probably afford to lose a few more this season and still be in with a shout for the title, rather than drawing games.

But then why not put a bit more onus on going for the three points at Chelsea?

Another big problem for Benitez, however, is did he have any choice?

When he sets his team up he feels he has to play an extra defensive player to allow Steven Gerrard to go roaming forward.

But then where’s the supply line for him and Fernando Torres? For me, games like yesterday highlight the loss of Xabi Alonso, simply because neither Lucas nor Mascherano can play the quick, incisive, instant ball that Gerrard and Torres thrive on.

It’s a waste, because somebody of the brilliance of Torres should be taking the ball in space and destroying defences.

That’s why this time round Liverpool will have no trouble beating the likes of Hull and Stoke, who they struggled against last year.

But when Torres gets isolated in amongst world class defenders then it really is going to be a struggle against the top teams.

Look at how well Sunderland did against Manchester United. They nearly won there because they had two quality strikers up front.

The movement of one created space for the other and their combination almost inspired an unlikely win at Old Trafford.

Benitez simply does not have the resources to send out two centre-forwards because the strength in depth is not there.

Nobody else is troubling defenders high up the field and Torres is getting surrounded. Against the very best, you just can’t expect him to dribble through and walk the ball into the net like he did the week before when he helped himself to a hat-trick against Hull.

He needs to be supplied with the ammunition to do the damage and there was such a worrying lack of it at Stamford Bridge that he was feeding off scraps – and you can’t afford to have your matchwinners in that kind of situation.

One thing I thought Benitez could have done differently to address this problem was to play Yossi Benayoun from the start.

He has become that most rare of species in the Liverpool squad – someone who can make things happen.

It’s something we’ve been crying out for for ages and now Benayoun has moved on from bit-part player to a genuine creative force, he needs to be out there giving defences like Chelsea’s something to think about.

If he takes defenders out of the game or if he gets in a position to plant crosses in, then at least he’s giving Torres and Gerrard the tools to go and win the game.

But the fact that he wasn’t out there only underlined the cautious approach Benitez took and that perhaps exposes the lack of confidence he has in his team to go out and take the game to a top side.

It’s not the end of the world and Liverpool are still capable of mounting a challenge.

But Sunday showed why that task is going to be more difficult than ever.

Mark Lawrenson was talking to NICK SMITH

Carragher promises Reds response


Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has vowed the Reds will be ready for the 'massive week' which could reignite their season.

The Reds suffered another dent in their quest for the title as Sunday's 2-0 defeat to rivals Chelsea saw Rafael Benitez's side collect their third loss in eight matches this term, one more than the entire 2008/2009 campaign.

Despite trailing Carlo Ancelotti's Blues by six points going into the latest international round of fixtures, Carragher believes the Reds can kickstart their season with positive results in the Merseysiders' next three games.

Premier League clashes against Sunderland and Manchester United, sandwiching a Champions League contest with Lyon lie in waiting and the 31-year-old defender is fully focused on a crucial run-in.

"It's never nice to lose before an international break, particularly a game as big as this, but we have got to put it behind us," Carragher told the Liverpool Echo.

"It would have been good to send the international lads away with a bit of a buzz but it wasn't to be and now it's a case of putting it behind us.

"When we get back to it, we have got a massive week coming up with those games against Sunderland, United and Lyon.

"But every week you have as a Liverpool player is massive and we know we'll have to be at our best to get going again at Sunderland, as they are in good form."

Hansen: If that goes on,
how long will Benítez stick with him?

By Ben Moss -

Liverpool legend Alan Hansen believes his former club are far too reliant on Fernando Torres and Steve Gerrard. The former Anfield stalwart is also alarmed at the form of Jamie Carragher. Hansen suggests Benitez will stick with the long serving centreback, but admitted his dismal form, which contributed to Chelsea’s second goal during their Premier League defeat on Sunday, is major concern for Liverpool.

Hansen told the Telegraph: “No matter how much criticism is directed at Rafael Benítez at the end of a bad week for Liverpool, it is ultimately the players who must stand up and take responsibility.”

“They are the ones making mistakes on the pitch, not the manager, but the major problem for Liverpool is that they are far too reliant on Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.”

“Gerrard bailed them out at Bolton earlier this season and Torres did the same at West Ham, but the goals and inspiration have to start coming from somewhere else.”

“If it isn't Gerrard or Torres, it is nobody.”

“Glen Johnson has made a difference since arriving from Portsmouth and Yossi Benayoun is the one player who can inject creativity in the final third, but if Benayoun was that good, Benítez would have started him against Chelsea on Sunday.”

“Just a week after beating Hull convincingly at Anfield, it is back to the drawing board for Benítez following the defeats against Fiorentina and Chelsea.”

“There are too many highs and lows and the good and bad performances are chasms apart.”

“One week they are great, the next they are abysmal, but if it continues like, there will be nothing for Liverpool this season.”

“Liverpool have never been a club to panic, so I don't believe that Benítez is under any pressure whatsoever. It is nowhere near that stage.”

“If they fail to qualify for the Champions League then that's when it becomes pressure time, but I still back Liverpool to claim a top-four spot.”

“What will worry them, though, is that they are level on points with Manchester City and Mark Hughes's team have two games in hand.”

“I don't see City as potential champions, but they are going to be a force and Liverpool have already lost three games out of eight.”

“Liverpool could still finish as champions, but they have to get back to keeping clean sheets. Whenever they are lining up to defend a set-piece, you are expecting them to concede a goal and that cannot continue.”

“Torres is terrific in the opposition box, but he is positioned on the near post when Liverpool are defending corners and he keeps on getting beaten there. That is a problem Benítez has to address.”

“Jamie Carragher is a legend at Liverpool, but he has made a bad start to the season and is making too many individual errors. Two errors led to two goals against Chelsea.”

“If that goes on, how long will Benítez stick with him?”

“Carragher has done so well for the club in the past that you have to stick with him and allow him to play through it.”

“He is too good to dismiss just like that.”

“I've seen him take on Didier Drogba in Champions League semi-finals and not give him a kick, but there are too many errors at the moment.”

“Missing out on the Champions League would be catastrophic for Liverpool, but I still see Arsenal as being in greater jeopardy of that, even though they put six past Blackburn on Sunday.”

“Liverpool just need to eradicate the highs and lows and get everything on an even keel.”

Still time for
a Reds title charge

Comment by Dominic King - Liverpool Echo

He asked his players to give him a headache, to provide him with a set of problems with which he would have to juggle for the remainder of the campaign.

Rafa Benitez used his pre-match press conference as a vehicle to motivate his players into getting a victory that would send expectations soaring.

Unfortunately for the Liverpool manager, the headache he is now trying to soothe is the one that he wanted the least.

Irked by a chastening Champions League experience in Florence five days earlier, Benitez had challenged his players to get the kind of victory against Chelsea that would put the momentum back in their campaign and leave him ‘trying to manage’ expectations.

Today, however, he is faced with the task of raising morale; while there was nothing wrong with Liverpool’s effort or application at Stamford Bridge, they find themselves being written of as title challengers once again after slipping to a 2-0 defeat.

Now that we have reached the first weekend in October with Liverpool having lost more games already than they did in the whole of the most recent campaign, it is inevitable that a wider audience will already be writing them off as also-rans.

True, it is going to be difficult to peg back a Chelsea team that had more nous in one or two areas but to say Liverpool are dead and buried after losing here would be as wide of the mark as it would have been to proclaim them as kings in waiting had they won.

There are, remember, 30 games still to play between now and next May; Chelsea still have to come to Anfield, Arsenal must be played home and away, as must both clubs from Manchester – there is ample time to build up a head of steam.

That said, Benitez will know – as will his players – that the small details in the fixtures that matter must be improved upon, otherwise the dreams of capturing that elusive 19th championship will end up being tossed and blown away.

Chelsea have been lauded since Carlo Ancelotti took over and there is no disputing that they do have some outstanding players but were they honestly streets ahead of Liverpool? Only the most blinkered would say ‘yes’.

As is so often the case in games of this magnitude, the opening exchanges were played out with the kind of deliberation and care that you would associate with a chess match, each side plotted and schemed, trying to find the slightest sign of an opening.

That Chelsea were unable to chisel a way through was down to the fact that the man often referred to as ‘The Little Chief’ was at his scampering, scurrying best, a figure of perpetual motion snuffing out danger at the first possible moment.

Some may rightly have questioned Javier Mascherano’s form in the opening weeks of the campaign, wondering what impact a summer transfer saga with Barcelona and Argentina’s laboured efforts to qualify for the World Cup have had on him.

His presence was sorely missed in Florence last Tuesday evening, however, and restored to his place just in front the back four, Mascherano was terrific, hustling, bustling and pestering anything that came his way clad in Blue.

One lunge on Michael Ballack early on close to the touchline, cleanly spiriting the ball of the German’s toe, proved his wellbeing following a hamstring problem – which made the mistake that led to Chelsea taking the lead all the more unfathomable.

Fatally dithering as he attempted to keep an attack going, Mascherano saw Michael Essien take the ball out of his reach and set Didier Drogba into the space Glen Johnson had vacated. From that point there was a wretched inevitability about what would happen.

Drogba’s ball was precise and once Nicolas Anelka – Gerard Houllier’s biggest mistake in the transfer market back in 2002, when he failed to sign the French striker on a permanent deal – had drifted in to space, he had the simple task of beating Pepe Reina

The way that goal was celebrated by Chelsea’s staff and players, and the way their opposite numbers slumped for a split second afterwards spoke volumes; it was almost as if everyone in the stadium knew at that point that the home side had reached checkmate.

Such a shame. If Mascherano deserved better, so too did Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher, who did their utmost to keep Drogba and Anelka quiet and, for 89 and half minutes, that’s just what they did.

Had it not been for that lapse, the 25th meeting in the five years that Benitez has been in charge at Anfield would, in all probability, have ended in a goal-less draw, as Chelsea’s defenders were the stars of their team.

Goals have been easy to come by for the Reds in most games this calendar year but here they struggled to get even the merest glimpse of Hilario’s goal, with John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho prepared to protect the stand-in keeper by fair means or foul.

Nothing, for example, went Dirk Kuyt’s way, Steven Gerrard – despite his best efforts – failed to find the kind of space from which he so often wreaks havoc, while Fernando Torres became more and more infuriated that a chance never came his way.

The best Liverpool could muster was a free-kick from Albert Riera on the stroke of half-time and an effort that Yossi Benayoun somehow dragged wide in the dying seconds, shortly after Florent Malouda had given the final score a flattering look.

So now the next two weeks will be spent licking wounds, rather than dreaming dreams but it must be remembered that this is not a fatal blow to ambitions and nobody at Anfield will be thinking that way. Yet they will also know improvements must be made once the next round of international fixtures are completed – otherwise Benitez could find himself with a headache that proves difficult to shift.

Defeat leaves Reds
title challenge faltering

Comment by Ian Doyle - Liverpool Daily Post

Before yesterday’s game, Rafael Benitez declared he was hopeful of soon locking horns with Carlo Ancelotti in a third Champions League final.

But the growing fear is that the managerial foes will not be competing for honours at the top of the Premier League this season.

While the championship is not won by October, it can be lost. And the evidence suggests Liverpool will struggle to replicate their enthralling title challenge of the previous campaign.

What else to believe after a disappointing defeat at Chelsea, a third loss in their first eight Premier League games?

The last time a team won the title from that position was Manchester United in 1966-67.

Yet it isn’t just history – and the six-point gap to Ancelotti’s leaders – that is pointing to Liverpool facing an enormous task in ending a championship drought that stretches back to 1990.

Yes, Benitez’s side have acquired the knack of seeing off the lesser lights, a shortcoming that ultimately undermined their title challenge last season.

But against any opposition that could be described as being half-decent, they have come unstuck. First Tottenham Hotspur. Then Aston Villa. Now both Fiorentina and Chelsea in the space of five days.

That is simply not good enough. And with moneybags Manchester City and a revitalised Arsenal pressing their title claims, the suspicion persists that last season may prove an opportunity missed for Benitez.

Even the new expansive style has hit a brick wall. Having scored 24 goals in their first nine games, Liverpool have now fired blanks in successive games.

And they rarely appeared capable of breaking through an impressive Chelsea defence yesterday until it was much too late.

Indeed, stand-in Chelsea goalkeeper Hilario, deputising for the suspended Petr Cech, could surely have not expected such a comfortable 90 minutes.

With neither Fernando Torres nor Steven Gerrard allowed to perform anywhere near their best, Liverpool struggled to generate a threat inside the penalty area.

In fairness, the same applied to Chelsea. Yet when Ancelotti’s side did fashion rare clear openings, they were taken. And that, as so often proves the case in these tense fixtures, proved the difference. Small details, as Benitez would say.

After attracting increasing criticism, this was a much-improved display from Liverpool’s defence – Glen Johnson secure against his former club and Martin Skrtel in particular atoning for his Florence misery – but, not for the first time, Didier Drogba proved their nemesis.

The match was billed as a showdown between Drogba and Torres, and it was the Ivorian who emerged a clear winner having created both Chelsea goals for Nicolas Anelka and substitute Florent Malouda.

Such a pity, then, that the Ivorian deems it necessary to resort to his own brand of acting, the nadir of which came when he was writhing on the turf after being dumped there by legendary hard-man Yossi Benayoun.

Javier Mascherano’s welcome return from a hamstring injury added steel to a Liverpool central midfield that was so worryingly overrun at Fiorentina in midweek.

But the Argentine’s struggle for form was encapsulated by his afternoon when, despite a typically tigerish performance in which he was one of Liverpool’s better players, it was his mistake that led to Chelsea taking a game-transforming 59th-minute lead.

Mascherano dawdled too long in possession and the hosts instantly broke, Deco feeding Drogba whose low cross from the left was turned in at the far post by Anelka.

The last meeting between these sides was the eight-goal Champions League thriller here in April.

But with both teams aiming to rebuild confidence after defeats during the past week – Ancelotti laughingly considered under pressure by some after Chelsea’s loss at Wigan Athletic last week – the first half reverted to the competitive, error-strewn encounters that have infuriated neutrals over recent years.

Benitez admitted he had never seen his Liverpool struggle as badly as they did in the opening 45 minutes in Florence, and the visitors began the game determined to make amends.

But while Chelsea were the more threatening of a fairly even first half, Pepe Reina was not extended to any great degree, Drogba and Anelka both directing headers at the Liverpool goalkeeper.

Drogba’s theatrics, and yet more poor marking at set-pieces, almost proved costly for Benitez’s side on 34 minutes when the Ivorian conned referee Martin Atkinson into awarding a foul against Jamie Carragher.

From the resultant free-kick on the touchline, Deco’s delivery from the right was header over by the unmarked Michael Ballack from barely six yards.

It wasn’t until five minutes from half-time that Liverpool managed to finally work Hilario, Gerrard releasing Dirk Kuyt down the right whose cross was headed at the goalkeeper by Fernando Torres.

Cech was caught out by a long-range Fabio Aurelio free-kick on Liverpool ’s last visit, but his deputy Hilario ensured there was no repeat with a smart save low to his right to turn around Albert Riera’s ambitious 35-yard shot shortly before the break.

There were shouts for a penalty moments later when Drogba clambered over Skrtel at a Liverpool corner, although the award would no doubt have been more likely given had the challenge been the other way around.

After falling behind, Liverpool mounted a strong challenge during the final quarter, but Torres’s miserable afternoon capped by the Spaniard miscuing his solitary clear opportunity harmlessly wide from 15 yards.

And with the visitors pressing for an equaliser, they were caught out on the counter-attack during injury time when Drogba muscled his way beyond substitute Aurelio and Carragher to the byline and Malouda turned the ball home from close range.

There wasn’t even the crumb of a late consolation for Liverpool, with Benayoun, lively after emerging from the bench, sending an easy chance wide and Hilario then saving spectacularly from Gerrard.

But there was to be no way back for Liverpool. Now Benitez must hope the same does not apply to his side’s title challenge.

Benitez stays defiant after loss

BBC Sport Online

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez insisted his team remain strong title contenders despite their 2-0 defeat at Chelsea.

Now six points behind leaders Chelsea, Liverpool have already lost more games - three - than they did last season.

But Benitez told BBC Sport: "It is too early. It is a long race and we must keep going. We are playing good football and creating chances.

"We are doing the things that you need to do. But when you have chances, you must score with them."

Benitez was highly critical of his players after their midweek defeat against Fiorentina in the Champions League.

And more sloppiness led to Chelsea's opening goal, which came after Javier Mascherano gave the ball away in midfield.

"The defence was much better. There were just one or two things (wrong) and we paid for them," said Benitez.

"We played a good game against a good team but if you make mistakes against them, they will score. The game plan was good, but top-class players make the difference."

The Reds manager added: "He (Mascherano) was doing a good job. We needed fresh legs and he was doing well for us.

"If Fernando Torres' header in the first half had gone in I think it could have been a totally different game."

Despite Liverpool's uncertain start to the season, Benitez predicted title-chasing teams would drop more points during the current campaign than in past years.

"You will see the top sides losing more points against any team," said the Spaniard. "That's good for the Premier League, for the competition, but it means we have to keep going. We can't think about three defeats.

"We drew a lot of games last season. We lost just two but people were telling me about the draws. Now we're winning more and losing a few but maybe we'll have more points."

Reds in battle for fourth

By Harry Harris - ESPN Soccernet

Liverpool will need to make history to land the Premier League title this season after three defeats in the first eight games, but a more sobering thought is that they have a battle to maintain a top-four place to qualify for the Champions League.

With Manchester City, Aston Villa and Tottenham making a concerted effort to break into the top four, "The Establishment", the usually-guaranteed Big Four are being put under severe pressure. The competitive edge of the Premier League has been questioned with too much predictability over the years, but is this the season to re-write the accepted order?

Liverpool have been craving the biggest domestic prize, particularly as Manchester United are out to break Liverpool's record total of championships. Both giants are on 18 domestic titles.

As for this season's battle, it is increasingly becoming a two-horse race between the current champions and Roman Abramovich's Chelsea Pensioners. They might have so many players 30 or over, but four of their OAPs strung together the passes to make the first goal.

It really does pain me to say that Liverpool are at risk, although Arsenal, too, cannot be sure of their position despite an emphatic 6-2 win over Blackburn. Anfield is awash with talent and Rafa Benitez has brought in some wonderful players, such as Fernando Torres.

But Drogba is a brute, too fierce to handle on his day, and although the Ivory Coast striker didn't score himself, he made both goals. The second one, Jamie Carragher couldn't stop, even when tugging at his shirt.

Chelsea haven't been firing on all cylinders, with defeat at Wigan surrendering their 100% record, and that put Carlo Ancelotti under pressure. Big Phil Scolari lost at the Bridge against Liverpool a year ago, after a blistering start, and his reign never was the same. The Brazilian coach was eventually sacked.

The Italian coach knows that if he defaults on the lust for silverware in West London then Guus Hiddinik will be back sooner rather than later.

As the Premier League shuts down for the double headers of World Cup ties, it was important for both clubs who pitched up at the Bridge to win, but even a draw would have given Liverpool some heart. Now, it seems more like a tough winter ahead, potentially of discontent if it gets much worse. Benitez has a lot of soul searching to do in the fortnight break to attempt to get Liverpool back on track in the title race.

But no-one has ever won the Premier League after losing three of their opening eight games. You have to go back to 1967 when Manchester United won the title after suffering that number of defeats at the start of the season.

I doubt whether even the most partizan Liverpool supporters can believe that the Reds will win the title yet again. To be off the pace in early October is a shattering blow to a Liverpool side ambitious to re-ignite their quest for the title. In my view Liverpool were always going to be on the fringe of the title race, but more worrying must be that they are on the fringe of maintaining their top-four place.

As for Chelsea, I have pointed out that Frank Lampard has been in a rut - a rut of not scoring at anywhere near his normal rate. That will change. But Lampard made a telling contribution by winning the ball from Liverpool's ball-winner Mascherano, which set in motion the counter attack that led to Drogba crossing for Anelka to stretch to opening the scoring.

Lampard will have enjoyed that, but will enjoy his return to goalscoring even more as he gradually comes to terms with his new role within the manager's midfield diamond. Lampard's contribution has helped to take Chelsea back to the top of the table and the next major event in the title race will occur when Ancellotti locks horns with Sir Alex.

French polish puts
Blues in top spot


Second-half goals from Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda gave Chelsea a 2-0 victory over Liverpool and sent them top of the Premier League.

France international Anelka struck first in the 60th minute when he finished off a sublime low cross from Didier Drogba as Chelsea defied their critics with a performance of grit and quality.

Substitute Malouda sealed the win in injury-time when he slid home another low cross from Drogba.

Carlo Ancelotti's side were desperate to get back to winning ways in the league after their 3-1 drubbing by Wigan last week and a lacklustre victory over Apoel Nicosia in the Champions League in midweek.

But it was Liverpool who had the best of the early exchanges and the game sparked into life in the 12th minute when Fernando Torres was fortunate not to receive a yellow card for a late challenge on Chelsea captain John Terry.

The Spaniard's right foot was clearly too high and raked the shins of the England defender.

However, referee Martin Atkinson opted to give the Liverpool striker a lengthy lecture, much to the annoyance of the home fans.

Liverpool continued to dominate but a shot from Albert Riera was high and wide of the target in the 19th minute.

Michael Essien appeared to be late and high with a challenge on Javier Mascherano but referee Atkinson was perfectly positioned to see the incident and ignored Chelsea appeals. The Liverpool player soon rose to his feet without any damage to his right leg.

Both sides were full of attacking desire but neither goalkeeper had been tested at the midway stage of the opening half.

Liverpool's Jose Reina finally collected a header from Drogba just beneath the crossbar in the 24th minute but Chelsea's threat was somewhat impotent.

In the 27th minute Reina was called into action again when Essien's cross was met by Anelka.

The France international was unmarked but despite the luxury of a free header, he could not find a way past the Liverpool goalkeeper.

Liverpool were handed a chance to open the scoring in the 29th minute when Branislav Ivanovic was adjudged to have brought down Torres.

The free-kick was some 25 yards out but Gerrard's effort sailed over the crossbar to the delight of the home fans.

Four minutes later Chelsea squandered a chance of their own after Drogba had been brought down by Jamie Carragher near the corner flag.

Deco's free-kick into the penalty area was well placed but Michael Ballack's header was off target from six yards.

Chelsea were now enjoying their best spell of the game and when Lampard's 38th-minute corner fell to Essien at the far post, the Ghanaian international forced Reina to make a save at the second attempt.

Liverpool responded with Dirk Kuyt crossing for Torres to head straight at Hilario from six yards.

Deco was booked for a foul on Kuyt in the 44th minute and Riera forced Hilario into a late save with a 40-yard low drive.

In the 57th minute Liverpool won a free-kick when Riera was blocked by Ballack - but Gerrard's delivery was met by a confident punch from Hilario and Chelsea survived a difficult moment.

The Blues broke the deadlock on the hour after Mascherano lost possession to Lampard in the Chelsea half.

Essien and Deco fed the ball wide to Drogba on the left - and his centre was perfect for Anelka to convert his fifth goal of the season.

In the 63rd minute, Drogba met Lampard's free-kick but his header was well held by Reina - and four minutes later the visitors replaced Riera with Yossi Benayoun.

In the 77th minute Chelsea won a free-kick in a dangerous area when Lampard was brought down by Gerrard.

The challenge earned Gerrard a yellow card and Chelsea almost went two goals in front but Drogba was just wide of the right-hand post with his free-kick.

Chelsea's goal was now under siege and Torres wasted a glorious chance to level the scores when he shot wide in the 80th minute.

Substitute Malouda then settled the outcome when he slid the ball home from close range in injury-time.

There were two late chances for the Reds, though, with Hilario brilliantly denying a thunderbolt from Gerrard and Benayoun dragging a great chance wide of the upright.

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Thor Zakariassen ©