Demba Ba has reflected on the moment that may decide the destination of the Premier League title, insisting he anticipated Steven Gerrard’s mistake, which gifted Chelsea their opening goal in their 2-0 victory over Liverpool on Sunday.
Gerrard allowed the ball to run under his foot, and then slipped on the wet surface as he attempted to retrieve it, allowing Ba to open the scoring in first-half injury-time.
Chelsea's win boosts their hopes of landing the Premier League title while simultaneously taking the trophy out of Liverpool’s control and placing it firmly in the hands of Manchester City.
Ba said of the crucial moment when Gerrard fell, per Chelsea’s official website:
I was waiting for a mistake, it wasn't a surprise. We knew we weren't going to get many chances.
You have to keep going, you have to keep doing gambling and fortunately the mistake came. I didn't think about it, that's why I scored. If I'd thought about it I would have missed the chance.
For Liverpool, the goal was all the more infuriating due to the fact it came laced in irony. Chelsea had been time-wasting from the first minute and scored during the added time played by referee Martin Atkinson.
Chelsea’s tactics have divided opinion. Jose Mourinho clearly sent his team out to defend, waste time, disturb Liverpool’s rhythm and wait for a mistake. Had Gerrard not slipped, it’s arguable that Chelsea would find themselves out of the title race on Monday morning.
In that scenario, it’s hard to imagine anybody giving Mourinho praise for such a cynical approach.
Brendan Rodgers was certainly not impressed by Mourinho’s tactics, as reported by the Liverpool Echo’s Neil Jones and the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor:
Rodgers says he hasnt shaken hands with Mourinho. Says could see time wasting from first whistle.— Neil Jones (@neiljonesecho) April 27, 2014
Rodgers is asked whether he would ever play that way. "What do you think? Jose will show me his CV and say it works but it's not my way."— Daniel Taylor (@DTguardian) April 27, 2014
However, Chelsea will argue they put on a masterclass. Liverpool have blitzed Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham and Everton at Anfield in the first half this season, so Mourinho’s men killed the game from the opening whistle.
In Ba’s opinion, Chelsea merely stuck to a game plan that was necessary:
You always have a plan. Today it was to prevent them from scoring in the first few minutes because we've seen with every game they play at home they rush out and score goals.
We had to prevent them from doing that, which we did in the first 15 to 20 minutes. Because of the way we play it's difficult for the other team to score.
In fairness to Chelsea, the Anfield fixture came in between their Champions League semi-final clashes with Atletico Madrid.
What did you think of Chelsea's tactics?
Mourinho decided the Blues should rest key players for Wednesday’s second leg, so he set his team up to play in a manner that would give them the best chance of winning the game.
From Liverpool’s point of view, the Reds must now hope Gerrard’s mistake does not cost them the title.
City travel to Everton in their next fixture. If they drop points, the title is back in Liverpool’s hands ahead of their Monday trip to Palace.
If both City and Liverpool slip, Ba’s goal may yet take on even more significance for Chelsea.