Liverpool’s chances of ending their 24-year wait for a league title hang in the balance after losing 2-0 to fierce rivals Chelsea at Anfield.
The result, coupled with Manchester City’s 2-0 win at Crystal Palace, mean City are just three points behind the Reds with a game in hand and a superior goal difference, with Chelsea closing the gap at the top to remain second and two points adrift.
Liverpool now have to hope for a favour from local rivals Everton next weekend as they host Manchester City. If the Toffees were to take anything from that game it would put the title back into their neighbour’s hands.
Chelsea’s win at Anfield ended Brendan Rodgers’ team’s 11-game winning streak as Jose Mourinho’s successful defensive tactics frustrated Liverpool. Demba Ba – after a rare but costly mistake by Steven Gerrard – and Willian scored the crucial goals which left Reds fans fearing the worst, after starting the day as title favourites.
The first half was a tight, cagey affair with little being created by either side annd Chelsea doing everything they could to stop the home side making their customary fast start.
As the interval approached, a slip-up by captain Gerrard in possession just inside his own half gave Ba a free run at goal and the striker made no mistake with the finish, slotting the ball through Simon Mignolet’s legs and stunning the Kop in the process.
Liverpool knew that they had to get something in the second half if the title dream was to remain in their hands, but chances were hard to come by.
Gerrard seemed desperate to make up for his mistake with numerous shots from outside the area which never really threatened Mark Schwarzer’s goal. Rodgers introduced former Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge as his team chased an equaliser but there was still no way through the blue wall in front of the home side.
Joe Allen and Luis Suarez had Liverpool’s best attempts, forcing Schwarzer into some good saves, but as Liverpool threw everyone forward in stoppage time Chelsea broke away and with no defenders in sight, former Anfield favourite Fernando Torres squared it to Willian who rolled the ball into an empty net.
After the match Rodgers backed skipper Gerrard after his possible title-defining error, saying: “There’s certainly no blame because we are in the position we are in now because of him, he’s been instrumental for us this season. It’s just unfortunate that he’s slipped over. It could happen to anyone.”
Rodgers also talked about his opposite number’s tactics: “Jose got his result today and credit to them. It’s the opposite of how we want to play, it’s not difficult to coach. Win our last two games and we finish above them and maybe City too.”