Postgame: Like so many games that have been played, this one was a tale of two halves. In the first, both teams were agressive but technically deficient. This is expected of a game that takes place directly after the international break. Stars return to their clubs fatigued, but determined to give a professional performance.
The game came alive in the second half. Chelsea removed Mikel and his goat horns and replaced him with Sturridge. The Blues dominated much of the half, created a number of quality chances, but their finishing abandoned them at key moments.
So much of the talk surrounded two ex-Liverpool men — Torres and Meireles — but it was the former Chelsea fullback, Glen Johnson, that won it for the Reds. His solo goal shows why big teams value him so highly. He collected Adam’s diagonal pass, beat his England teammate Cole, and his finish was both calm and accurate. Malouda was giving him fits all game and the 27-year-old went from “zero” to “hero” with one mazy run and cool finish. Neither of the Chelsea men had an impact on the game.
The result wasn’t expected, judging how the second half unfolded. Chelsea tied the game and always looked like they would win it in the minutes that followed. Pepe Reina deserves all the plaudits for keeping the Reds level with his save shortly after the goal. It was both magnificent and timely.
The win continues Dalglish’s mastery over Chelsea. As a manager he has never lost in 12 games against the Blues, winning nine games and drawing three.
Sunday’s win sets up the sublot that will dominate the lead-up to the LFC-Chelsea game on Nov. 29. Revenge will be in order for Chelsea and its embattled manager Andre Villas-Boas.
Final 2-1 Liverpool : It’s over at Stamford Bridge and the Reds emerge victorious.
87th minute, 2-1 Liverpool: It’s the right back Johnson who looks like he’s won it for the Reds. He scores against his former team as well.
The England international went on a rare forward adventure, beat Cole on the dribble, shielded Malouda and slots his shot to the far post past Chec. Terry came close to intercepting but was a step behind.
Chelsea hasn’t lost consecutive home games in the league in nearly a decade. It looks bad for Villas-Boas and the Blues at the moment.
86th minute, 1-1: Kuyt with a chance to win it. Downing set him up at the top of the box, but he just mis-hits his shot well wide.
84th minute, 1-1: Torres and Meireles come on for Drogba and Ramires. The reunion show is on now.
81st minute, 1-1: Luis Suarez has been far below his best today, but he grafts a corner for the Reds. It comes to nothing, but the embattled star is out there competing for every ball.
77th minute, 1-1: The goal scorer Maxi heads to the bench for Downing (for real this time). This is the type of situation where Carroll can do some damage, but Dalglish opts against it.
75th minute, 1-1: Ivanovich finds Malouda with the cross at the far post. He had the whole net to shoot at, but scuffed his shot across the face of goal. He really should have scored. Johnson lost him in the area.
72nd minute, 1-1: How much longer can Maxi last in his first league start of the season. He’s brought quality to the LFC attack, but is fading as the game progresses.
69th minute, 1-1: The pace has calmed a bit from the frantic nature of the early part of this half. Chelsea still controls the play and look far more likely to score, but the Reds look like they believe they can secure a result at the imposing Bridge.
66th minute, 1-1: Henderson comes on for Bellamy. The Welshman was effective in his first start in some time. He was key in creating Liverpool’s goal.
59th minute, 1-1: The Chelsea goal has utterly deflated Liverpool. All the good work the Reds were doing — the pressing, the tough challenges, making things tough for their hosts — has gone out the window. Liverpool needs a strong personality on the field to get this game under control because it’s all Chelsea at the moment.
58th minute, 1-1: Chelsea looks reborn in the last few minutes. The Blues have tied the game and come close to taking the lead. Reina’s heroics keep things deadlocked.
56th minute, 1-1: And just like that, Sturridge ties the game. Malouda fires it across the goal (not sure if it was a shot or pass) and the young Chelsea and England forward buries it.
55th minute, 1-0 Liverpool: Nerves will be central to the plot of the second half. Liverpool went with its veterans today, and it has paid off so far. The Reds have been better prepared, more composed and look like their lead at Stamford Bridge is all part of the natural order of things.
49th minute, 1-0 Liverpool: Drogba fires high and wide from the top of the area. It was the first shaky moment of the game for Agger and Skrtel.
46th minute, 1-0 Liverpool: Sturridge enters the game, replacing Mikel.
Halftime, 1-0 Liverpool: The story of the half has to be how Chelsea has not been able to play with any sort of fluency to its game. Liverpool’s pressure and tackling has kept its host from establishing itself in the contest.
Andre Villas-Boas may want to pick up the phone and call Guus Hiddink for advice. Or just wait until he gets to the locker room. The Dutchman could be in there measuring the drapes at this very moment.
46th minute (stoppage time), 1-0 Liverpool:Johnson fouls Malouda on the right side of Reina’s area. The Blues seem to be targeting the England international. What little danger they have posed came down that left side, but Skrtel and Agger have dealt with it comfortably.
41st minute, 1-0 Liverpool: Adam surges through the Chelsea midfield (again) and loses the ball to Luiz. He loses it, then fouls Adam in a dangerous position. It’s been many years since the Chelsea midfield looked this frail. Mikel lost the ball on the goal. Lampard is 33 and can’t bring it every week. Ramires is slight of frame and better going forward than tracking back.
34th minute, 1-0 Liverpool: LFC takes the lead over Chelsea. Mikel coughed it up to Adam just in front of the Chelsea area. Bellamy and Suarez combine nicely at the top of the box and feed Maxi. The Argentine beats Chec from close range and gives the visitors the lead.
27th minute, 0-0: Lucas sees yellow after crunching Luiz in an act of Brazil-on-Brazil violence. Suarez tried to feed Maxi on the break, but his pass was poor and Luiz intercepted. Lucas made a clumsy challenge on his Brazil teammate and was punished for it.
26th minute, 0-0: After 25 minutes, its safe to say this one falls into the style of a classic post-break game. There’s little flow or rhythm to either team’s attack. Passing often bypasses the midfielders and each side looks to hit the other on the counter. If not for the cracking atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, this would be brutal to watch.
21st minute, 0-0: Drogba whistles a free-kick wide but it ends up in the back of the net … more like behind the net. It fooled everyone including players, coaches and announcers.
16th minute, 0-0: Kuyt and Luiz get into it. The Brazilian takes a swipe at the Dutchman, presumably for knocking his team out of the 2010 World Cup. There was nothing — not even any contact — in the challenge. Referee talks to both and cautions neither.
14th minute, 0-0: Johnson goes on a run along the byline, but can’t get a cross or a shot on goal. LFC matched Chelsea’s attacking pressure of a couple minutes ago but reach the same result.
12th minute, 0-0: Chelsea looks to impose itself on the game. Mata’s shot went wide and the Blues continued to threaten Reina’s goal. LFC defense stands firm. Skrtel and Agger are solid in the middle.
Ninth minute, 0-0: Lucas and Adam sandwich Ramires, but the Reds’ pair escape without a booking.
Seventh minute, 0-0: Early signs are that this will be a contentious affair. Neither team is shying away from challenges or contact.
Second minute, 0-0: Dalglish is gambling going with three seldom used players in attack. The international break lessens the risk somewhat as top teams are never in full flow, but it still is a roll of the dice.a
Pregame: Managers are known to rotate their teams after the international break and the two bosses stuck to form in their team selections.
Liverpool’s problems going forward are well documented. Dalglish’s solution was to drop Downing, Carroll and Henderson and restore Maxi, Kuyt and Bellamy to the starting 11.
There is no room in the Chelsea team for the misfiring Fernando Torres. Sturridge also gives way for Malouda.
10:30 a.m. ET: Dalglish fields the team for which some supporters have been begging.
Here are the lineups:
Pepe Reina (25), goalkeeper
Glen Johnson (2), right back
Daniel Agger (5), center back
Martin Skrtel (37), center back
Jose Enrique (3), left back
Lucas (21), midfielder
Charlie Adam (26), midfielder
Maxi (11), midfielder
Dirk Kuyt (18), forward
Craig Bellamy (39), forward
Luis Suarez (7), forward
Doni (32), goalkeeper
Jamie Carragher (23), defender
Martin Kelly (34), defender
Jay Spearing (20), midfielder
Stuart Downing (19), midfielder
Jordan Henderson (14), midfielder
Andy Carroll (9), forward
Petr Chech (1), goalkeeper
Ashley Cole (3), left back
David Luiz (4), center back
John Terry (23), center back
Branislav Ivanovic (2), right back
John Mikel Obi (12), midfielder
Frank Lampard, (8), midfielder
Ramires (7), midfielder
Juan Mata (10), midfielder
Florent Malouda (15), midfieler
Didier Drogba (11), striker
Ross Turnbull (22), goalkeeper
Jose Bosingwa (17), defender
Oriol Romeu (6), midfielder
Raul Meireles (16), midfielder
Daniel Sturridge (23), forward
Nicolas Anelka (39), forward
Fernando Torres (9), forward
12 a.m. ET: After a two-week hiatus, the English Premier League resumes play and the marquee matchup of the weekend takes place Sunday at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool travels to Chelsea for one of those EPL clashes that fans around the world will be sure to catch.
Both sides saw star players depart for international duty and, for the most part, they returned unscathed. Luis Suarez complained of back trouble after scoring four goals in Uruguay’s win over Chile. He sat out Tuesday’s friendly victory over Italy. He is expected to feature for the Reds against the Blues.
Chelsea is currently in fourth place in the league , but the Blues are a team in transition. They are adjusting to a new, expansive style of play implememted by manager Andre Villas-Boas. Their stingy defensive record of years past has seemingly fallen by the wayside as this season has seen them concede 15 goals in 11 games.
Liverpool has a healthy squad of players from which Kenny Dalglish can choose. Vice-captain Jamie Carragher has shaken off a calf injury and is available for selection. Dirk Kuyt was bullish in his comments during the week. The Dutchman could return to the first 11.
Dalglish has never lost to Chelsea in 11 games on the Reds’ bench and the Reds won both league meetings last season. A win Sunday would see win back to back games at Stamford Bridge for the first time in 37 years.
Be sure to join us at 11 a.m. ET for our Liverpool Live Blog. We’ll have all the action as it happens.
Photo via LiverpoolFC.tv