I approached this game with much fear, knowing that Rodgers was likely to switch back to his favoured XI (which he did). It was a team that didn’t perform against Newcastle and Hull, and frankly, I wanted those players that played against Real Madrid to play again, because they’ve earned that right. But clearly, as I’ve observed, Rodgers seems to have his favourites, and I was resigned to a poor performance again.
The start gave me hope, then it all turned very, very sour.
It was an interesting start to the half, as we bum-rushed Chelsea and found oceans of space in midfield. Can drove forwards from deep really well, and had a decent shot on goal before his actual goal, one that came from a deflection. But it was reflective of the space that Chelsea was leaving in midfield, which we took advantage of.
We managed to hold on to possession and really attack Chelsea for much of the first half, and Coutinho had some really brilliant dribbles through Chelsea. But nothing came of them, and we were sucker-punched by, you’ve guessed it, a set-piece goal. It was a brilliant double save by Mignolet, but as he fumbled to hold on to the ball for his second save, it went over the line and Hawkeye noticed.
After that, Chelsea really grew into the game as they put three players in our half to prevent us from passing out. Any long balls from Mignolet were taken easily by Chelsea’s bigger players, and our defence wasn’t doing us any favours by giving away the ball so damn cheaply. Skrtel had a running fight with Costa, but managed him well enough. Lovren though…geez. He was burned by Costa, then by Ivanovic of all people. He struggled like mad as the game wore on, and I can’t believe I started to wish to Toure to replace him.
Johnson had a few bungles too, but redeemed himself with two crucial blocks on Hazard shots. Moreno was better, but not by much. Gerrard was completely neutralised by various Chelsea players, and players just breezed past him. Can though was great, with powerful running, decent defending, and just performing much better than both his captain and vice-captain, who was pretty anonymous too.
Sterling was pretty bright in attack even if he didn’t give Moreno any support, but got an undeserved yellow card after getting a Ramires elbow in the face. That Michael Owen agreed with the preposterous decision in the commentary box just killed me. Balotelli was pretty good as well, but faded as the game continued, well shackled by the two Chelsea CBs and dropped too deep at times. Lone striker Balotelli is NOT going to work, Rodgers. When are you going to realise that?
We’re lucky we got to half-time at 1-1. Let’s hope that luck holds out.
And no. Our luck didn’t hold out.
We didn’t manage to compete at all in the 2nd half. But Chelsea weren’t much better. Their goal came from a moment of brilliance from Azpilicueta, and our terrible defending made it 2-1. From there, it was time to shut up shop for Mourinho, as Chelsea settled into a deep shape and only countered via Hazard.
Johnson continued to show that he is a shadow of his former self, with horrid defending, wayward passing, and zero attacking impetus. There was one moment when he skipped away from a challenge from Oscar, then just dallied on the ball as if waiting for Oscar to come back and tackle him again.
At least Skrtel defended decently, as Lovren decided to be completely useless throughout the 2nd half, getting nowhere with Costa. Moreno was far better, and the best defender on the pitch for us today. Gerrard and Henderson remained completely anonymous, which made it a terrible shock when Rodgers hooked Coutinho and Can, the two most productive players we’ve had today.
Allen and Borini came on, and changed nothing about the game. Balotelli continued to get no service, and his hold-up play deteriorated as time went on, losing the ball often. Lambert then came on for him, and as time ticked by, we got more and more desperate and kept trying crosses or charging through the packed midfield. Needless to say, it was useless.
Why did we not sub Lallana on for Gerrard? Henderson and Can could have played a double pivot, with Coutinho, Sterling and Lallana buzzing around Balotelli. It was ridiculous decision making, which exacerbated the ridiculous team selection. The only comforting knowledge was that we should have had a penalty when Cahill blatantly handled the ball in the box, but the referee was being an arse and didn’t give it.
What a terrible rut we’re in, to have to find crumbs of comfort in a penalty that wasn’t given. Time for Rodgers to prove he really does have balls, and wasn’t just pandering to the media when he said he wasn’t resting players against Real. Prove it by dropping Gerrard and Henderson, and moving to a 2 striker system. Drop Lovren for Toure or Sakho when he gets back. Sell Johnson into slavery and play Manquillo even if he has a broken leg.
I can’t stomach this.