Jose Mourinho's Chelsea team beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield after an enthralling game between the Premier League's top two sides.
Chelsea’s team selection has been cause for discussion all week after Mourinho insisted he would rest players. The breaking news when the teams were announced was that Tomas Kalas was set to make his Premier League debut alongside Branislav Ivanovic at centre-back. Demba Ba was spearheading the Chelsea attack.
Chelsea team v Liverpool: Schwarzer; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Kalas, Cole; Lampard (c), Mikel, Matic; Salah, Ba, Schurrle. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) April 27, 2014
Kalas started the game with great conviction for one so young and so inexperienced. Luis Suarez played in Raheem Sterling down the right-hand channel, but a magnificent lunging tackle from the 20-year-old took the man and the ball.
Chelsea fans were already taking to him:
That was some tackle by Kalas! #CFC— Chelsea Alerts (@ChelseaAlerts) April 27, 2014
At the other end of the pitch, Bleacher Report’s Karl Matchett was enjoying the titanic battle between Ba and Liverpool’s central defender Mamadou Sakho as both players relished the physical clash:
Sakho vs. Ba is a beast of a battle. Both so strong.— Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett) April 27, 2014
Kalas continued to impress as the game wore on, with Chelsea sitting deep and looking to soak up Liverpool pressure. Some onlookers certainly weren’t overly impressed with Mourinho’s defensive setup:
Chelsea's heatmap vs Liverpool today... pic.twitter.com/1WN5d6hs6c— Football Funnys (@FootballFunnys) April 27, 2014
Then, the young Czech Republic defender had a wonderful chance to give his side the lead before the break, but he failed to connect properly with a header from a corner:
Wow. Kalas. Should have scored.— Russell Saunders (@bridgeviews) April 27, 2014
Although, Bleacher Report’s Sam Tighe claimed Kalas’ skipper John Terry probably couldn’t have done much better in fairness:
"If Terry was playing instead of Kalas he would have scored from that corner." Football, never change. #CFC— Sam Tighe (@stighefootball) April 27, 2014
Halt-time loomed large, but Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard slipped on the ball, allowing Ba to race clear and slot home at the Kop end:
Ba scores! #CFCLive— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) April 27, 2014
Ba was gifted the chance, but in such a high-pressure game it was a very composed finish, as the Irish Daily Star’s Paul Little was quick to note:
Good finish by Ba in fairness - having been told by his manager he's rubbish all season— Paul Little (@little_football) April 27, 2014
The pattern of the game continued in the second half, with Mourinho’s men perched on their own 18-yard box. Kalas showed great strength to better Sterling once again, this time with an authoritative shoulder barge. The Liverpool supporters appealed for a penalty to no avail:
He continued to cut an assured figure, as his team defended with diligence, demonstrated here by Squawka:
Chelsea have made 47 clearances so far. GET RID! pic.twitter.com/ziuqnrHcyh— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 27, 2014
Ba had a marvellous chance to launch a Chelsea counterattack as the game became stretched, but he dallied in possession and lost the ball. After that terrible piece of play, the Senegalese international was withdrawn for former Liverpool man Fernando Torres:
With Liverpool pushing plenty of men forward, Chelsea broke away to score again in stoppage time.
The defensive effort was superb throughout the course of the contest, with Kalas vital in the Chelsea cause. Many had him down as man of the match after an imperious debut:
Nathaniel Chalobah was quick to pay tribute to the performance of his Chelsea teammate:
Special performance lads. Well done Tomas Kalas, brilliant performance on his first start #CFC— Nathaniel Chalobah (@chalobah) April 27, 2014
As was his manager:
JM: “the team played brilliantly. every player was magnificent. no mistakes. Kalas played as cover man, fantastic by my players."— Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett) April 27, 2014
Ba worked extremely hard and scored a hugely significant goal for his team. His passing, touch and decision-making did let him down on occasions, but as he did against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, he took his chance when it mattered. That's something the club will hope to continue to see from him consistently.
Kalas looks a real find for Mourinho's men. For one so young making his debut, he was mature, composed and frighteningly strong in the tackle. You suspect Jose will have no worries about playing him in any other big games further down the line.
If he can continue to perform at such a high level, he will prove a valuable addition to the club and could develop into a difference-maker with regular playing time.