Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda scored as Chelsea defeated Liverpool this afternoon at Stamford Bridge.
The first half saw both sides begin cautiously with limited chances at both ends. As the half progressed, both Nicolas Anelka and Fernando Torres had headed attempts on goal that were saved comfortably. Albert Riera almost scored with a long-range effort towards the end of the first half.
Chelsea broke the deadlock in the 59th minute through an Anelka strike from close range. Liverpool struggled to break down the home side's defence until Yossi Benayoun was introduced midway through the second half. The Israeli wasted a great chance to score late on, but not before Malouda had extended Chelsea's lead after powerful work by Didier Drogba.
Liverpool were on top in the early stages with Steven Gerrard floating out to the left flank and sending a number of crosses into the box. Chelsea were able to cope with these comfortably as Ricardo Carvalho marshaled the penalty area.
Chelsea tried to venture forward in the 10th minute, connecting a few passes together in midfield, but whenever they got together any momentum Javier Mascherano was there to break up the play and win the ball back for Liverpool.
Chelsea created the first real chance of the game in the 28th minute, Michael Essien found himself up field on the left and pulled the ball back onto his right foot, turning Glen Johnson. The Ghanaian crossed the ball towards the back post as Nicolas Anelka stole a yard on Emiliano Insua. The Frenchman connected with a glancing header that was saved by Pepe Reina low to his left.
Gerrard had an opportunity to open the scoring with a free-kick slightly to the left of centre. The English international couldn't control his strike as his attempt went over the crossbar. It was too central to have troubled Henrique Hilario in the Chelsea goal.
Essien had a decent chance towards the end of the first half as Frank Lampard won a corner for his side as his shot deflected off Martin Skertel. Essien was lurking at the edge of the penalty area and as the ball was cleared it fell to the Ghanaian, who struck the ball with his right foot.
His first attempt was blocked but the rebound broke for Essien who took the ball into the penalty area and hit a low shot towards the near post. Reina was equal to it and saved without a problem.
Torres had a good opportunity, too, as Dirk Kuyt crossed from the right the Spaniard got the run on Carvalho to meet the ball at the near post. 'El Nino' didn't make strong contact and the ball went straight to Hilario.
Albert Riera almost caught out Hilario with a speculative effort from a long-range free-kick just before half-time. The Spaniard smashed the ball towards the bottom right-hand corner and the Portuguese reacted very late to make a finger-tip save to his right.
The corner was sent towards Skrtel at the front post, the Slovakian looked to be held down by Drogba as he went to head the ball but the referee was uninterested and waved away Liverpool's claims.
The second half began with Liverpool on the attack, with Gerrard unleashing a shot on goal from the right and although it was well struck, it was off target.
Branislav Ivanovic tested Reina with a long range effort moments later, on a rare forage forward the Serbian defender struck the ball with venom. The ball swirled in the air but Reina kept his eye on the ball and got his body behind it as he saved low to his left.
Chelsea took the lead in the 59th minute, Mascherano was caught in possession and the Blues broke on Liverpool with Ballack feeding the ball to Drogba on the left. The Ivorian sent the ball across the face of the goal and Anelka pounced at the back post, slotting the ball into the gaping net and beyond Reina.
The ball was at a difficult height and it was a deft finish by the Frenchman.
Rafael Benitez responded by replacing Riera with Yossi Benayoun as Liverpool were finding it difficult to create going forward. The Israeli international had an impact in the 73rd minute, showing good footwork to beat his marker and slide the ball to Johnson in the middle. The ex-Blue tried his luck from 20 yards but his shot went over the crossbar.
Lampard won a free-kick for Chelsea after a foul by Gerrard on the left. Drogba stepped up and rifled a powerful strike goal wards, Reina dived to his right but the Ivorian's shot flew inches wide of the post.
Liverpool were coming closer to equalising, a cross to the back post from Benayoun reached Kuyt who passed the ball inside to Gerrard. The Liverpool captain tried to engineer a shooting opportunity but was blocked by John Terry. The ball fell to Torres who unleashed a shot first time, but the Spaniard's strike flashed inches wide of the left-hand post.
As the game drew to a close Chelsea scored a second to finish the game. Drogba collected a long-ball towards the right of the penalty area and muscled past two Liverpool players to the byline. The Ivorian cut the ball back to substitute Malouda who tapped the ball home to seal the contest.
Moments later Benayoun had a glorious chance to grab one back for Liverpool, the ball was crossed in from the left and the Israeli controlled brilliantly to leave himself one-on-one with Hilario. Benayoun feigned a shot and committed the Portuguese, he looked certain to score but dragged his shot wide of the left-hand post.
Hilario was involved again in the 95th minute, saving a stinging strike from Gerrard. The Portuguese dived to his right to push the ball out for a corner. As the ball was cleared from the subsequent set piece the referee blew for full-time, 2-0 to Chelsea.
This article was first published on Goal.com