I was only 7 the last time Liverpool won the league and I have lived ever since dreaming of the day when that title comes back to Anfield. Every season some of my friends, family and other Liverpool fans have declared that this was the year that the drought ends, this was the year the hurt is over, this was the year we make it 19 titles. I never bought into this.
At the start of this season media commentators, newspaper columnists and fans alike were talking about Liverpool mounting a serious assault on the title this season. Again, I didn’t buy in; I’d heard it all before, I didn’t want more false hope that could only lead to disappointment.
Even when we beat Man Utd I wasn’t convinced. Even when we got off to our best start to the season in years I still wasn’t prepared to say we were contenders. I always stated I wouldn’t believe until after we beat Chelsea. Well, consider me a believer.
I didn’t fancy our chances as a weaker Chelsea team than yesterdays stuffed Middlesborough 5-0 in the previous match and they had not lost at home for 83 games.
Firstly, I need to make an apology. I am not the biggest fan of Rafa Benitez and I was convinced he would do as he has done in previous years at Stamford Bridge by packing the midfield and stifling Chelsea and playing for a 0-0 draw, particularly with our best player, Fernando Torres out injured. Instead, I was pleased to discover that Rafa deployed the 4-2-3-1 formation we had some success with at the end of last season.
The beauty of this formation is that allows us to play attacking football while making it easy to switch to a more defensive formation when Chelsea was in possession. Chelsea does not have much width in the midfield and heavily rely on their attacking full-backs Cole and Bosingwa to get down the wings and cause problems. We completely nullified this threat thanks to tireless work from Riera and Kuyt who provided the first line of defence against these players whenever they got the ball.
Another tactic Chelsea use to great effect is to get their attacking midfielders such as Lampard into areas just in front of the opposition defence in order to create uncertainty and force mistakes. We defended resolutely in two lines of four players, which meant that any ball played between defence and midfield could be quickly seized upon.
We took the lead when Chelsea only half-cleared a throw-in and Xabi Alonso’s shot deflected off Bosingwa into the net. Liverpool kept the pressure on and nearly doubled the lead when Gerrard struck from 25 yards, only to be denied by a good save from Petr Cech.
Liverpool came closest to scoring in the second half when Alonso’s free-kick hit the bottom of the post and was cleared to safety. Chelsea were limited to long-range shots and their best chance fell to Ashley Cole who had found himself in a rare bit of space but he put his shot wide.
Jose Reina had an easy afternoon with no real shots to save. In fact the only bit of action he had was to square up to John Terry after the Chelsea captain had led with an elbow in an aerial challenge. Liverpool came away with a deserved win, ending Chelsea’s 83 match unbeaten streak and go 3 points clear of Chelsea and amazingly Hull with Man Utd 8 points behind, albeit with a game in hand, after our neighbours Everton did us a favour by holding United to a draw.
The only reason we have not contended for the title in recent seasons was our inability to beat the other teams in the top 4. We only collected 4 points from a possible 24 last season. This season, we have already bettered that with the maximum 6 points that have been on offer. There is no reason why we cannot be up there at the end of the season seriously challenging for the title, and I can’t wait!!
- Alonso’s goal was the first winner for Liverpool at Stamford Bridge since Bruno ‘The new Zidane’ Cheyrou in 2004. This game was also the one and only appearance for Liverpool by keeper Patrice Luzi, another Gerard Houllier special.
- Chelsea had not lost at home since Arsenal beat them in 2004 when Claudio Ranieri was manager.
- Chelsea are still a real force to be reckoned with and will push us hard all season, Man Utd and Arsenal will be strong contenders. This may be the most exciting title race in years.
- Superb performance by the whole team today but Alonso stood out. He recently stated that he was prepared to leave over the summer but that the fan support during the pre-season game with Lazio persuaded him to fight for his place. He is putting in the best performances since his first season with us.
- Albert Riera is awesome! He is the player we have been crying out for years for. It is gratifying to see that he works hard to get back and defend as well.
- We need to consolidate this win and our league lead by beating Portsmouth on Wednesday. We don’t have a good record against Pompey but it is the right time to play them, as they have no manager, with Harry Redknapp (a former Seattle Sounders player!) taking over at Spurs.