Chelsea threw the kitchen sink at Luis Suarez to prevent him from running free for scoring chances, and it worked as they defeated Liverpool, 2-1, at Stamford Bridge. The polarizing star was held scoreless.
Just like their last fixture in which the Reds lost to a top-four foe on the road, Suarez wasn't able to make enough of an impact to keep his club in contention for even a point as they now fall to a two-game losing streak.
As John Cross of the Mirror noted on Twitter, he looked separated from his fellow attackers for much of the game:
Suarez looked isolated up front. But not same runs from midfield they'd had recently. Now a test of Liverpool's mettle after 2 setbacks— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) December 29, 2013
Despite his inability throughout, however, Suarez made his presence known early. It was enough to give Liverpool an early lead in thrilling fashion when he helped the Reds to strike first in the third minute.
The Uruguayan star striker battled with Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic for a corner kick and forced a ball toward the net, which Martin Skrtel finished into the open goal.
Suarez didn't earn an assist for the play despite creating the goal, but he did see his Reds into a 1-0 lead.
It didn't last long. Chelsea would strike twice before the end of the first half, and Suarez did his best disappearing act for the rest of the opening half.
The Blues' pressure applied in the central defense was just too much for any offensive moves to flow through Suarez, and the Reds' wingers couldn't take advantage of a shortage of bodies on the outside.
CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello noticed which typical tendencies Suarez didn't establish early on:
Suarez was kept under wraps for the most part in the first 45. Didn't do any of his usual, creating something out of nothing, type stuff.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) December 29, 2013
Not much changed in the second half, as Suarez finished most of his attacking attempts by falling to the pitch and begging for a foul call that was arguable at best.
His best chance outside of the third minute came in the 57th minute, when he got a feed from 25 yards out and ripped a shot on goal near the bottom right post that was easily stopped by Petr Cech.
When Suarez's best attempt of the second half is from 25 yards out, you know the opposing defense has done a spectacular job, and not enough can be said of Chelsea in that regard. They stacked half of their team around Suarez, who was isolated from a Liverpool attack that kept flowing to the outside and found nobody to connect with when it got there.
Suarez looked to convince for a penalty in the box late in the game, but the officials opted not to call it much to the chagrin of Liverpool.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho saw a little bit of acting in the charade, per BBC's James Horncastle:
Classic Mourinho on penalty appeal. Hazard should have had a “double penalty”. Suarez? No pen. Should have been booked for diving….— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) December 29, 2013
Pressure from Chelsea forced other Liverpool offensive players like Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Joe Allen to create their own chances, and that plan worked. Liverpool had their chances (eight shots, four on goal), but they weren't converted with Suarez out of the picture.
The loss to Chelsea was clear proof that the Reds need Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge back. Any time an entire offense flows through one player, it becomes much easier to stop. Chelsea did just that by loading up their defense on the Uruguayan and playing one-on-one on the outsides.
Liverpool's dream season two weeks ago has quickly emerged with plenty of question marks. If Suarez wants to carry this offense on his shoulders, his next chance will come on New Year's Day against Hull City as the Reds return home to Anfield.