Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool: Rating the Reds Players at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea finished the first half very much with the upper hand, but Liverpool produced an encouraging second-half display and could have won it at the death if it wasn’t for Petr Cech and his two timely interventions.
Let’s look at the individual performances of Brendan Rodgers’ charges in an ultimately even contest.
Once again standing in for the injured Pepe Reina, Brad Jones produced an encouraging display in the Reds goal.
Of course, it is the unfortunate paradox for a goalkeeper that a fine performance reflects a sufficient amount of chances created by the opposition, but Jones still acquitted himself well in Reina’s absence.
His decision-making has improved massively this season, as well as his command of the box, and it showed at Stamford Bridge, where he timed his dives to perfection and foiled many a Fernando Torres attack.
Brendan Rodgers has stated Reina remains first choice, but he will be heartened in knowing that for the first time in many seasons, Liverpool finally have a remotely decent backup goalkeeper.
Perhaps the biggest compliment to Andre Wisdom this season is that he has totally justified Rodgers’ faith in him thus far.
He has played both as right-back and center-back in his fledgling career at Anfield, and his maturity and assuredness in defence belie his actual inexperience.
Playing with Jamie Carragher alongside him will do him no harm as well, as he benefited from the vice-captain’s directions and instructions at Stamford Bridge and dealt handily with a fearsome Chelsea attack.
Only six games into his Premier League career, Wisdom will have given Martin Kelly a tough route back to first-team football.
He’s on the wane, and he no longer commands a first-team spot, especially in the Premier League.
Jamie Carragher acknowledged as much after the game, and has maintained his enthusiasm and passion to put in a real shift whenever he is called on.
True, Chelsea’s attacking foursome of Fernando Torres, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar gave Carragher plenty to ponder, and exposed him for his lack of pace and ageing legs on Sunday, but with the help of his well-organized defence, Carragher held on.
And of course, he showed his experience by flicking on the corner that led to Luis Suarez’s equalizer.
On the left side of a back three, Daniel Agger put in a decent and generally solid performance against Chelsea’s forwards.
Indeed, after Agger’s famous elbow into Fernando Torres in the former No. 9’s debut for Chelsea against the Reds back in February 2011, he was at it again with a few crunching tackles on his former teammate.
His low of the night will have been the corner from which Liverpool conceded, however.
John Terry escaped his attentions from Juan Mata’s corner and powered a header at the near post, in truth a glaring defensive mistake from the Reds' point of view.
Glen Johnson has been impressive filling in on the left this season but was shifted back to the right as he took up a wing-back role in Rodgers’ 3-5-2/5-3-2 system.
Given his obvious attacking tendencies, it was, on paper, a position that he would fulfill with aplomb, but unfortunately the packed Chelsea midfield stifled his contributions going forward.
Widely lauded for his instincts bombing down the flank, Johnson’s improvements on the defensive side of his game have slipped slightly under the radar, but he contributed some interventions and interceptions that has become a recent hallmark of his game.
When Rodgers switched back to a straight back four in the second half, Johnson reverted to his left-back position. Perhaps, curiously for an erstwhile specialist right-back, he can be more effective starting on the left.
Jose Enrique is an enigma.
At his best, he offers a physically unstoppable outlet going forward and a formidable defender at the back.
This was a case of a lot of the latter and much less of the former.
His runs and attempted dribbles were a bit too predictable for Chelsea right-back Cesar Azpilicueta, who tracked Enrique well and forced him to often look for other options down the Liverpool left.
In defence, however, Enrique tracked his man well and used his strength and size to gobble up a considerable amount of Chelsea’s attacks through the right.
That is enough to earn him this report’s Man-of-the-Match nomination.
Rating: 8/10 (Man of the Match)
With the wealth of attacking talent in Roberto Di Matteo’s midfield, it was always going to be a tall order for Joe Allen to single-handedly keep them in his back pocket playing in an unfamiliar position.
And so it proved, as Allen put in surely his worst display for Liverpool since joining the Reds from Swansea City this summer.
With Nuri Sahin largely anonymous and Steven Gerrard looking forward, Allen was left to sweep up the attacks coming through the midfield, and it was too much for him to handle as he committed cynical challenge after cynical challenge.
Hopefully, with Lucas’ return from injury just on the horizon, Allen can revert back to his normal role alongside a specialist defensive anchor.
As mentioned in the previous slide, Nuri Sahin was largely anonymous at Stamford Bridge, which continued a worrying trend of subdued performances from the on-loan Real Madrid midfielder.
Optimists will look to Sahin’s performance and note that he recycled the ball with ease, finding passing options around him generally to good effect.
But in a midfield three (if we are to call Rodgers’ system 5-3-2 instead of 3-5-2), Sahin didn’t much link the attack with the midfield or the defence, leaving Steven Gerrard as the sole cog in the Reds midfield.
Such was his limited effect that he was again withdrawn for Suso in the second half.
Rodgers will be looking for more from such a highly rated midfielder. Otherwise, Sahin will be the first to lose his first-team place when Lucas returns.
As with the match itself, it was a game of two halves for Steven Gerrard.
During the first half, when Chelsea were the dominant side and fashioned scoring chance after scoring chance, the Liverpool skipper was almost reduced to a watching brief.
In the second half, however, Gerrard picked his game up and consequently that of his teammates. He contributed to the attack with a couple of defence-splitting passes, tracked back with purpose and tackled well.
Ultimately, it was another game in which his increasingly deep role allowed Gerrard to pull the strings from midfield but take a more reserved role in the Liverpool attack.
Since his first competitive appearance for Liverpool towards the end of last season, Raheem Sterling has excited Liverpool fans with his direct and tricky style.
But there are some games that showcase the all-roundedness of a winger’s game rather than any specialist attacking attributes, and Stamford Bridge saw Sterling pass that test comfortably.
One of the few attacking players in Brendan Rodgers’ squad who can provide the difference in a match, Sterling actually showed more of his defensive game rather than any outstanding contributions in the attack.
A few attempted dribbles ended in lost possession, but Sterling showed the mentality and tenacity needed of a modern-day winger by reclaiming the ball and restarting the Reds attack.
Perhaps the most important takeaway on the Reds No. 7 is that Luis Suarez once again scored to bring Liverpool the points (point on the day).
For all of the criticism he has received for not being a prolific enough goal scorer, Suarez is now topping the goal scorers' charts alongside Robin van Persie with eight goals in 11 league games.
In a Liverpool team increasingly reliant on his goals and attacking threat, Suarez didn’t put in a vintage performance up front, but he did what was required of him and earned a well-deserved point.
Rodgers will have been pleased with his striker’s work, but he will secretly be worried about the impact that a potential injury to Suarez might have on his team.
Brendan Rodgers made only one substitution against Chelsea, and it was one that had a telling effect on the outcome of the game.
A 60th-minute replacement for Nuri Sahin, Suso delivered the corner on 73 minutes that Jamie Carragher got a head on and Luis Suarez scored from.
Outside of this key contribution, Suso kept and shielded the ball well in an otherwise unspectacular performance.
Also check out: Suarez’s 10 Greatest Liverpool Moments