Monday, October 27, 2008

Match Report: Chelsea 0 - 1 LiverpooL

Xabi Alonso's first-half goal ended Chelsea's 86-game unbeaten home league record and put Liverpool three points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

Alonso struck in the ninth minute when his 20-yard shot deflected off Jose Bosingwa and left Petr Cech wrong-footed.

It was Chelsea's first defeat under new boss Luiz Felipe Scolari but Liverpool were always in charge of a pulsating contest at Stamford Bridge and look real title contenders on this form.

Chelsea had not been beaten at home since Arsenal's 2-1 success in February 2004 but Liverpool deserved their triumph with an impressive display.

Chelsea began the brighter of the two sides and their initial thrusts almost resulted in an opening goal.

Nicolas Anelka dribbled his way into the penalty area in the third minute but was tackled before he could test Jose Reina.

The ball fell to Deco but the Chelsea midfielder's shot was deflected to safety.

Liverpool went ahead in the ninth minute with their first attack of the game.

Chelsea failed to deal with a thrown-in when John Terry could only half-clear Dirk Kuyt's clever back-header.

The ball fell to Alonso on the edge of the penalty area and his shot deflected off Chelsea right-back Bosingwa into the net.

Liverpool were now in commanding form and dominating the game.

In the 17th minute, Albert Riera beat Bosingwa on the left flank but fired his shot into the side netting.

Chelsea, hoping to stretch their unbeaten home league sequence to 87 games, struggled to get back into the game.

Bosingwa tried to run at the Liverpool defence in the 21st minute but was chopped down crudely by Riera who received a booking from referee Howard Webb as a result.

Seconds later Salomon Kalou headed just over the bar from another cross by Bosingwa.

Liverpool continued to look dangerous and in the 24th minute they almost increased their lead when Cech was forced to tip a glorious volley from Steven Gerrard over the bar.

Chelsea began to find some consistency as the first half wore on but they were struggling to produce a telling final ball into the penalty area.

Time and again their neat approach work was undone by a poor pass but Frank Lampard, so often their inspiration, won a corner in the 33rd minute with a deflected shot.

But although it came to nothing, Chelsea continued to enjoy their best spell of the game.

Bosingwa sent over a number of crosses from the right flank but Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher were inspired at the heart of the visitors' defence.

In the 36th minute Deco was given time and space to run at the Liverpool defence but his left-foot drive from 18 yards was wide of Jose Reina's right-hand upright.

In the 38th minute Gerrard looked to be heading for an early bath for a foul on Bosingwa.

However, referee Webb elected to show the England midfielder a yellow card for his challenge.

Liverpool's speed on the counter-attack almost opened up Chelsea again in the 43rd minute but, despite some confusion in the home defence, John Mikel Obi managed to clear their lines.

Chelsea began the second half in a much brighter fashion and it required an interception from Carragher to prevent a cross from Florent Malouda reaching its destination in the six-yard box.

In the 53rd minute Malouda was booked for checking a fine run by Alvaro Arbeloa.

Moments later Malouda was felled by Liverpool 'keeper Reina in the penalty area but he had already been ruled offside by referee Webb.

Cole was next into Webb's book when the official took a dislike to his challenge on Carragher.

In the 57th minute, Kuyt tried his luck from 20 yards but his effort was wide of the target.

It was the catalyst for a Chelsea to make a double substitution with Malouda and Kalou replaced by Juliano Belletti and Franco Di Santo.

It was another indication of Chelsea's growing frustration and it prompted Liverpool to replace Robbie Keane with Ryan Babel.

The Reds were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out in the 60th minute when Belletti kicked Riera in the face.

Chelsea then had a massive escape when Alonso's effort rebounded off the foot of the post for Ricardo Carvalho to clear.

Babel was brought down by Cole as he tried to collect the ball but referee Webb decided to book Javier Mascherano for attempting to persuade the official to dismiss the left-back.

Cole squandered a great chance to level the scores in the 73rd minute when Di Santo nodded Lampard's cross into his path.

But the defender screwed his effort wide of the post from eight yards. Moments later Carragher rescued Liverpool when he deflected Deco's effort for a corner.

At the opposite end, a 25-yard drive from Babel was only just wide of the target.

Benitez: We're Not A One-Man Team

Rafael Benitez believes yesterday's win over Chelsea showed that Liverpool - with or without Fernando Torres - have squad capable of winning titles.

Liverpool's record going into the clash at Stamford Bridge was not flattering, and few neutrals would have tipped them to break Chelsea's sequence of 86 games unbeaten at home.

But that is exactly what they did, thanks to a certain Spaniard, although it wasn't the one who usually does most of the damage where the score-sheet is concerned.

Xabi Alonso stepped in the 10th-minute to compensate for the absence of Fernando Torres, who is still recovering from a hamstring injury sustained on international duty.

Most figured Liverpool would struggle while the 24-year-old known as 'El Nino' sat on the sidelines, but they are yet to suffer a defeat in any competition this season and have had no problems on the goalscoring front.

This is in stark contrast to last season, when 33-goal Torres was the indisputed focal point for the Reds up front. But the arrival of Robbie Keane, the returned form of Dirk Kuyt and the continued growth of Ryan Babel have given Rafael Benitez a number of high-class attacking options.

"Everybody was talking about how it would be difficult for us to come to Chelsea without Torres," Benitez told Liverpool's official website after the Chelsea win. "Fernando is a key player for us who can change a game and is always a threat for the defenders.

"But, if you work well as a team together you can manage like we showed today. If we have to play one or two more games without Fernando I think we have enough quality in the squad."

Benitez's recruitment policy has received mixed reviews. Although the jury is still out on Keane, the Reds' big-money signings in recent years have rarely gone wrong: Torres is a keeper at £21million, Javier Mascherano equally so at £18million.

It is the more thrifty signings which have often gone awry. Craig Bellamy, Mark Gonzalez and Andriy Voronin are just a few who have failed to make the grade at Anfield in the last few years.

People were expecting more of the same when Albert Riera joined from Espanyol in a £6million deadline-day deal. The one-time Manchester City flop has exceeded expectations, however, and has been one of the Reds' most consistent performers during the early part of the season.

"Every year we are trying to improve the squad," Benitez continued. "We have made mistakes signing players but we have also made some very good ones. When I talk about players I don't just mean quality because they need a very good mentality."

And that has been the key to Liverpool's table-topping form this term; they have unearthed the winning mentality that had been buried since the days of Kenny Dalglish, and for the first time in more than 15 years they look like title contenders.

Benitez believes the key lies in not only the spread of quality throughout the squad, but also the number driven, hard-working, uncompromising performers - players who refuse to accept defeat, in other words.

"Players like Agger, Mascherano, Alonso, Gerrard, Carragher, Reina, you can see the mentality they have and it inspires the rest of the players too," Benitez added.

"We have a good squad with good competition. Diego Cavalieri hasn't played much but he is pushing Pepe Reina, Dossena is pushing Fabio Aurelio which is really positive for us so the new players have a very good mentality. Lucas Leiva is working so hard in every training session and everybody has to be on their toes."

Liverpool will hope to continue their impressive run when they face Portsmouth during the week.

Liverpool Can Win Title This Season, Boasts Boss Rafa Bentiez

Rafa Benitez declared his side as genuine title contenders after they ended Chelsea's long unbeaten home league run.

Xabi Alonso's deflected 10th-minute strike gave Liverpool victory - and Chelsea did not have the guile or the firepower to add to the 86-game streak stretching back to February 2004.

The win moved Liverpool three points clear at the top and with a victory over Manchester United already secured, Benitez is predicting a serious title challenge. He said: "Everyone was talking before of our statistics against the top sides - we knew we needed to improve. We were coming here unbeaten, they were unbeaten here for a long time so it was a massive game.

"It was a big boost for the rest of the season. We have belief, we have quality, we showed coming from behind in the other games that we had character. This is enough for being contenders, this is enough for being at the top of the table now.

"After the game I said congratulations to the players. To win here was a really difficult thing to do and so to win here sends a massive message to the other teams of what we can do and tells our fans what we are about."

Chelsea have changed their style since the arrival of Luiz Felipe Scolari, but Liverpool were largely able to keep a lid on the Blues' attacking efforts, Ashley Cole skewing their best chance wide.

Scolari said: "We did not play as Chelsea usually play. They put eight players out to defend and there was no space to work the ball, only space to cross. We didn't win one cross.

"This is not the football that we play. We need to play and touch the ball as we do not have big strikers.

"Benitez is intelligent. He knows that we don't have a two-metre centre forward, so they gave us space. But when we crossed they have players who are very good at winning the ball.

"We were running out of time and the players did not have the confidence to pass the ball. I tried to tell them to play but they didn't listen.

"It's only the second time we've not scored a goal and I have the same confidence in my players.

"They need to understand that Liverpool's defenders were better than us, that's all. I will not change my idea because we failed to score."

Rafa Benitez's Valencia Model Points Liverpool Towards Premier League Title

While Harry Redknapp's arrival at Spurs created most of the headlines over the weekend, across London, Liverpool's win at Chelsea was of far greater significance.

Manager Rafa Benitez is building his side on the Valencia model which won two Liga titles in three seasons.

At Valencia, Benitez had an experienced central defender in Roberto Ayala, "one of the best in Europe at his peak". Liverpool have Jamie Carragher, a different kind of player, but "in terms of effectiveness there is nothing between them".

Looking further up front, Steven Gerrard plays the Pablo Aimar role, making goals and scoring them. "It's the same shape, a title winning shape."

But the real key to Liverpool's title challenge will be the holding pair in central midfield. Xabi Alonso and Mascherano's main job is to soldify the area in front of the back four, so that the full-backs can supply width.

Patrick says: "They are the Albelda and Baraja, the founding cornerstones of this team. And that's why I believe, right now, if you ask me who's going to win the championship, I'd say Liverpool are going to follow in Valencia's footsteps."

Chelsea's Luiz Felipe Scolari Says Players 'Didn't Listen' Against Liverpool

Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was angry to see his players lose patience against Liverpool, and admits they "didn't listen" to his instructions.

After more than four years and 86 Premier League games, Chelsea were finally defeated at Stamford Bridge thanks to Xabi Alonso's early goal.

Against expectations, Chelsea were unable to mount a second-half fightback and failed to recreate the level of performance witnessed in their 5-0 win at Middlesbrough last weekend.

Rafa Benitez was widely accepted to have won his tactical battle with Scolari, and Liverpool now lead the Premier League by three points.

"I didn't want my players to play high balls. I don't need them to put the ball in the box all the time," said Scolari.

"But they lost the confidence to touch the ball and were afraid of not changing the result. This is not the football we play normally. We need to try to play on the ground, not high balls, because I don't have big strikers.

"I said to them 'Look, try to keep on playing' but they didn't listen."

Scolari hopes to have Joe Cole back for their trip to third-place Hull on Wednesday.

"We may have Joe Cole back, maybe," said Scolari. "But Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack need another 10 days minimum."

Scolari is determined the Liverpool shock will not affect the confidence of his players.

"We will have a meeting with the players and start to think about Hull on Wednesday. The Liverpool game is finished.

"We did not expect the result but we need to understand that Liverpool have a very good team.

"In the first half we dominated the game and in the second we had more possession of the ball and passed it well until we got near their penalty area.

"After this we crossed many balls but they had a good defensive line and dealt with every one. We didn't play as we have done in other games because we didn't have the space. We only had space to cross."

Jamie Carragher :Liverpool Wont Get Carried Away By Victory Against Chelsea

Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher has insisted that the race for the title is far from over and that they won’t let their scintillating win over Chelsea last night, go to their heads.

A 11th minute goal by Xabi Alonso was enough to ensure that the Reds emerged victorious at Stamford Bridge to reach the top of the Premier League table with a gap of three points against second placed Chelsea.

At the start of the season the club insisted that this could be the season where the Merseyside club could end their 18-year title drought and they definitely look to be working hard to achieve their target.

30- year old Carragher is as desperate as the rest of the squad to bring the title to Anfield, but insisted that they should focus on every match rather then long term planning.

Speaking to the clubs official website Carragher said, "Before today Chelsea were playing as well as anyone in Europe.

"To come here and win should give our confidence a boost but we realise there's a long way to go yet.

"Their record was never going to go on forever, they were always going to lose at some point, and I'm just glad it was us who managed to beat them.

"We are top of the table but as I said, there's a long way to go.

"Over recent years Chelsea and United have been towards the top while we and Arsenal were trying to get involved and challenge.

"Hopefully we can bridge the gap this season."

Rafael Benitez’s side have already beaten Manchester United at Anfield last month and would like to continue this form of theirs when they play against Arsenal in December.

Jamie Carragher: Liverpool Can Bridge Gap After Historic Victory

JAMIE CARRAGHER believes Liverpool have gained a psychological lift from their historic win at Chelsea.

A 10th-minute goal from Xabi Alonso ended the Londoners’ 86-game unbeaten home league record and put Rafael Benitez’s side three points clear at the top of the table.

Carragher was the outstanding performer as Liverpool comfortably withstood the Chelsea revival

And the centre-back said: “It puts us top of the league and should give us a confidence boost.

“There’s a long way to go but psychologically it should give us a big lift. Before today I’d probably say Chelsea were as good as anyone in Europe with the way they’ve been playing this season.”

Asked about the significance of breaking Chelsea’s four-year run, Carragher added: “It was a great record but obviously it couldn’t go on forever. They had to lose sometime and I’m just delighted it was us.

“We’re top of the league now, there’s a long way to go. Chelsea and Manchester United have been up there for the last four or five years but hopefully we can bridge that gap this season.”

Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, beaten for the first time since taking charge in the summer, admitted his players had resorted to long-ball tactics in a bid to save their unbeaten home league record.

Liverpool became the first team to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the league since Arsenal’s 2-1 success in February 2004 and Scolari admitted his players had been left “very sad” by their defeat.

But the Brazilian coach was more concerned with the loss of three points than a long-standing record he had little to do with.

“We did not expect the result,” said Scolari. “But we need to understand that Liverpool have a very good team.

“They didn’t play better than us but they took their chance. In the first half we dominated the game and in the second we had more possession of the ball and passed it well until we got near their penalty area.

“After this we crossed many balls but they had a good defensive line and dealt with every one. We didn’t play as we have done in other games because we didn’t have the space.

“We only had space to cross. This is not the football we play normally. We need to try and play on the ground, not high balls, because I don’t have big strikers.

“But this is what happened today and they won. It is just three points. Now, they are three points in front of us, that’s it. I say sorry to the fans but we were not better than Liverpool today and they won.

“I saw my players try to do their best and I don’t ask for more than that. Tomorrow we will have a meeting with the players and we need to think about Hull on Wednesday. This game is finished.

“The players are sad, but it is normal. But it is only one game. I didn’t want my players to play high balls.

“I don’t need them to put the ball in the box all the time. But they lost the confidence to touch the ball and were afraid of not changing the result. I said to them ‘Look, try to keep on playing’ but they didn’t listen.”