Liverpool vs. Chelsea: Rating the Blues Players

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2013

Liverpool vs. Chelsea: Rating the Blues Players

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    With seconds remaining on the clock and Chelsea leading Liverpool 2-1 on Sunday, the headlines should have read of the Blues' Champions League surge.

    Victory at Anfield would have seen Rafa Benitez's side go third in the Premier League table and back in the driving seat for a top-four finish. But following Luis Suarez's late, late equalizer to make it 2-2, the pendulum continues to swing.

    The Blues have every right to feel aggrieved at dropping two points in this fixture. Not only did the equalizing goal come in the seventh minute of injury time—a minute over the allocated six—it was scored by a player who should have not been on the pitch.

    Suarez appeared to bite Branislav Ivanovic earlier in the second half, but with the alleged assault going unnoticed by referee Kevin Friend, he remained on the field of play to dent Chelsea's Champions League qualification hopes.

    It had looked so good for the Blues, too. Oscar had put them ahead in the first half with a superbly executed header from Juan Mata's corner, and while Daniel Sturridge scored against his former club to make it 1-1, Eden Hazard's penalty on 57 minutes put Chelsea back in control.

    They only have themselves to blame, though, after failing to close the game out and dropping points at such a vital stage. With matches against Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton on the horizon, their place in the Premier League's top four is by no means certain.

    Let's assess the contribution of the Chelsea players at Anfield on Sunday.

Goalkeeper: Petr Cech

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    He may have conceded twice at Anfield on Sunday, but Petr Cech stood very little chance with either of Liverpool's goals.

    Chelsea's No. 1 was largely untested in the opening period, but after the interval he was called into action almost immediately, saving well from Steven Gerrard as the Reds looked to get themselves back into the game. He made other vital saves throughout the second half and was a commanding presence.

    With John Terry and Frank Lampard benched, Cech was named captain at Anfield and behaved in the way one would expect of a player wearing the armband. In the closing stages he helped defuse confrontations following Daniel Sturridge's ill-judged challenge on Ryan Bertrand. For that, Cech deserves special mention.

    The 30-year-old has proved once again this season that he remains among the world's finest stoppers. This was another accomplished performance.

    Rating: 7

Defenders

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    Cesar Azpilicueta

    They did score twice, but in truth, Liverpool were not worth their draw at Anfield on Sunday. Chelsea will be disappointed to have conceded so late on after having dealt with the threat of the Reds' attackers over the course of the game, and Cesar Azpilicueta was a big part of a good defensive display.

    The Spaniard also looked a threat going forward. This was one of his better performances of late following a congested fixture list.

    Rating: 7

     

    Ryan Bertrand

    The void left by Ashley Cole's injury was a big concern for Chelsea, but Ryan Bertrand has come in and impressed.

    Rafa Benitez has played the Englishman a little further forward this season, and at times Bertrand has looked out of sorts.

    Back in his natural position of left-back on Sunday, he looked comfortable and did very little wrong. He was on the receiving end of a clumsy tackle from Daniel Sturridge late on, so Chelsea will be hoping he doesn't feel any ill effects heading into the Europa League clash with FC Basel on Thursday.

    Rating: 7

     

    David Luiz

    The Brazilian keeps getting better and better. This was another excellent display from a man many are tipping as a future Chelsea captain. He showed great composure as the pressure increased.

    John Terry and Gary Cahill are going to have a major fight on their hands to break up the Luiz-Ivanovic partnership, which is showing signs of maturing.

    Rating: 8

     

    Branislav Ivanovic

    After being on the receiving end of an alleged bite from Luis Suarez, Branislav Ivanovic showed great composure to not overreact. It was the game's most shocking incident, and although he protested initially, the Serbian didn't allow it to impact his performance.

    He remains one of the unsung heroes of this Chelsea team.

    Rating: 7

Midfielders

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    John Mikel Obi

    This was an impressive performance from the Nigerian. He had the measure of his opposite number Lucas and looked an assured presence when in possession.

    His form has somewhat fluctuated in recent weeks, but this was no doubt was of his more impressive displays. Had Chelsea came out winners, he would have been a major reason behind them taking all three points from Anfield.

    Rating: 8

     

    Ramires

    It's been a strange season for Ramires. After so much promise last term, he has struggled to consistently hit those heights once more. There were times the game seemed to pass him by at Anfield, but then others he was very much in the thick of the action.

    He was a little wasteful in possession, though. For a player of his quality, much more is expected.

    Rating: 6

Attacking Midfielders

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    Oscar

    He's already shown us the quality he has with the ball at his feet, and now Oscar has emerged as an aerial threat for Chelsea. His header to open the scoring was sublime and one most strikers would be proud of, let alone a player not overly celebrated for his aerial prowess.

    His contribution went a lot further than that, however, and he caused Liverpool a lot of problems.

    That said, despite his goal, he wasn't at the same level as he fellow "amigos" Juan Mata and Eden Hazard.

    Rating: 7

     

    Juan Mata

    If Juan Mata doesn't end the season with either the PFA Player's Player of the Year or Footballer of the Year, it will be a travesty. The Spaniard has enjoyed a majestic season.

    He impressed again at Anfield, setting up the first goal while also providing the cross that saw Luis Suarez commit a hand ball for Chelsea's penalty. He is the future of the club, and performances like this show just why.

    Rating: 8

     

    Eden Hazard

    Chelsea's Man of the Match, Eden Hazard, just shaded it over teammate Juan Mata. Not only did he make light work of expertly executing his spot kick, but he also gave the Blues an extra edge at Anfield on Sunday.

    There were moments Liverpool looked like they may stretch Chelsea, but Hazard was often the man tracking back, helping to break up attacks. His slalom runs had the Reds' defenders at sixes and sevens and he was well worthy of finding himself on the score sheet.

    He's another young player at Chelsea who had a fine future with the club.

    Rating: 9

Striker: Fernando Torres

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    After a promising spell of form recently, Fernando Torres was below par on his Anfield return.

    In truth, while the game may have passed him by, it never quite suited his style. Long balls from the back made for easy pickings for Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger, who clearly preferred an aerial challenge against their former teammate.

    There were flashes of what we know Torres is capable of, but this will go down as another poor display, which is unfortunate after the promise he has shown.

    Rating: 5

Substitutes

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    Yossi Benayoun

    Replacing Eden Hazard on 78 minutes, the Israeli showed some neat touches but had little impact on the game. With 12 minutes to make an impact, that's hardly surprising.

     

    Victor Moses

    The Nigerian came on for Oscar following the Brazilian's injury on 83 minutes. Similar to Benayoun, with such a short space of time, he had very little opportunity to make an impact.

     

    Frank Lampard

    Given Liverpool's intent to bombard the Chelsea penalty area with aerial balls, it may have been more tactically apt to bring on John Terry over Frank Lampard in the 90th minute. Did Lampard even touch the ball? It will count as an appearance, but with just seven minutes of injury time to his name, Lampard will feel this is one to forget in a hurry.