Liverpool vs. Chelsea: 6 Things We Learned
Liverpool felt the full force of Jose Mourinho's tactical expertise as they fell to a hugely damaging 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at Anfield, which has seriously harmed their Premier League title chances.
The Reds struggled to create chances against the blanket Blues defence set up by Mourinho, whose side took the lead when a slip from Steven Gerrard allowed Demba Ba to score in first-half stoppage time.
Try as they might, there was no way back for Liverpool after that. Defensive organisation saw Chelsea over the line, with Willian adding a last-gasp second when he was set up by Fernando Torres.
Here are six lessons learned from what could be a pivotal afternoon at Anfield.
Jose Mourinho Is Still the Master of the Big Games
This wasn't, as many people would have you believe, a "reserve" Chelsea side, and indeed it was more expensively assembled than Liverpool's, but that almost didn't matter.
Jose Mourinho could have picked any 11 players; such was the relentless drilling that he must have put into them about this contest. They were to defend deep and defend well.
As we saw when Chelsea won at Manchester City earlier in the season and in their draw at Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, they know exactly how to play in big matches.
It isn't pretty to watch, but it works.
Brendan Rodgers Sometimes Needs to Tap into Mourinho's Mindset
Liverpool's attacking philosophy has got them this far in the title race of course, and they would be wrong to change that, but sometimes you need to have a little extra in the bigger contests, as Mourinho has shown.
Had Brendan Rodgers sent out his side in a more defensive manner, we might have seen the dullest match of all time, but we also might have seen the Reds gain a precious point, which would have kept them out in front in this race.
At only 41 years old, Rodgers is a young manager, but you get the feeling that he needs to pick up some tips on defensive play as his career progresses.
Tomas Kalas Is More Than Just a Training Cone
As the only somewhat unfamiliar name in the Chelsea team, there was a lot of attention on defender Tomas Kalas at Anfield. He didn't disappoint.
The 20-year-old Czech, who just two weeks ago compared his Chelsea existence to that of a training cone (h/t @KHaring75), was excellent at the heart of his team's defence and helped repel anything and everything that came toward him.
Kalas couple wks ago joked about his role in #cfc (in talk show): "I am player for training sessions. If they need a cone, they put me there
— Karel Häring (@KHaring75) April 27, 2014
Whilst it is true that Mourinho's system relies very much on the team rather than any individuals, the youngster proved that he can be trusted. He might be seen as a long-term replacement for John Terry.
Steven Gerrard's Enduring Role in Liverpool's Fortunes Continues
All or nothing, victory or despair, the hero or the villain. Steven Gerrard's role at Liverpool has never changed in his 16 years in the first team.
The captain's fortunes so often reflect those of his club, and so it was with his error, which allowed Demba Ba to score the goal that has so emphatically tilted things away from Liverpool in the title race.
Gerrard has had a fantastic season, as his nomination for the PFA Player of the Year award shows, but when there are fingers to be pointed and jokes to be shared, no-one will be talking about that.
And Liverpool don't end up as champions, Gerrard won't forget this day.
Chelsea's Squad Strength Sets the Blueprint for Liverpool
Whilst the Chelsea starting line-up was being scrutinized at Anfield, the real story was featuring on the bench.
The Blues could afford to bring on Gary Cahill, Willian and Fernando Torres in the second half at Anfield, with the latter pair combining for the goal that so flattened Liverpool in the dying stages.
The Reds, in contrast, turned to a not fully fit Daniel Sturridge and Iago Aspas in their bid to get back into the match, which underlines just how important it is that they've been able to keep their key men fit for the majority of the campaign.
With Champions League football assured next season, fleshing out the squad has to be Liverpool's first priority.
Jordan Henderson Was Sorely Missed for Liverpool
Liverpool's win over Manchester City two weeks ago was typically giddy, but perhaps the key moment came right at the end of it.
The red card for Jordan Henderson and the subsequent three-game suspension have disrupted the Reds' flow somewhat. Replacement Lucas Leiva is not quite up to the task of performing the same job as the Englishman.
Henderson would have been crucial here, as his energy would have been so useful in closing Chelsea down and disrupting them, but he was sorely missed. The Reds suffered as a result.