Chelsea vs. Liverpool: 6 Things We Learned About Each Team
Liverpool clocked up another win at Stamford Bridge and ensured that manager Kenny Dalglish continued his record of never having lost against Chelsea as a manager with a well-deserved 2-1 win in the Premier League.
After implementing a high-tempo pressing game in the first half, Liverpool took control with a well-worked goal from Maxi Rodriguez and deserved their one goal advantage at the break.
However, a change in emphasis and a goalscoring substitution at half time for Chelsea saw them equalize through Daniel Sturridge just 10 minutes into the second period, and they were much the stronger side over the next half hour of the game.
The game swung both ways late, as each side tried to grab a late winner, and it was the away team that grabbed it with a wonderful solo strike from Glen Johnson.
The result left the Reds on level points with the Blues—as well as Arsenal and Tottenham—and it means Andre Villas-Boas has lost all his encounters so far this season against rivals for the Champions League places.
Here are six things each side will have learned from today's game.
Andre Villas-Boas Still Hasn't Gotten to Grips with Playing the Top Sides
Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool: All three have faced the new look Chelsea team now this season—and all three have left victorious.
Perhaps most worryingly, two of those games have come at Stamford Bridge.
AVB cruised through last season with Porto in the Portuguese top league but has found the Premier League tough going so far, with four defeats in his first dozen games.
Consecutive home defeats to rivals Arsenal and Liverpool will also increase the pressure on Villas-Boas, even at this early stage of his Chelsea career.
Maxi Rodriguez: Still a Valuable Squad Member for Liverpool
Maxi Rodriguez made his first Premier League start of the season for Liverpool against Chelsea and marked it with a first half performance full of inventiveness and good movement—and the opening goal of the game.
Though he noticeably faded and tired in the second period, understandable given his lack of regular game time this season, he was a big part of Liverpool's attacking quartet, which troubled Chelsea so much in the first period with constant closing down and clever movement.
Maxi might not get a start every week, maybe not even next week, but his ability to notch a goal and put in a shift, as well as his off the ball onus, make him a valuable squad addition for the Reds.
Two Months Since Fernando Torres Last Scored in the Premier League
While he was also sent off in that game and missed three matches as a result, the fact that he has so far failed to recapture any kind of domestic form since then at all must be a huge concern for Andre Villas-Boas.
Not first choice, not even first choice substitute.
Last game week he missed a sitter from under the crossbar late on, while this week he managed a mere six-minute cameo and barely got involved in the game.
How much longer can Chelsea give him to break his duck, and how much longer can Villas-Boas continue to bench his £50 million man? Will Abramovich leave that decision in his manager's hands even?
Craig Bellamy and Luis Suarez: Liverpool's Most Dynamic Front Duo?
Craig Bellamy started his second league match for Liverpool this season and brought huge energy and movement to the Reds' front line alongside Luis Suarez and must have given Kenny Dalglish a real dilemma over whether to make the duo Liverpool's first choice front-pairing.
The off the ball work from both players gave Chelsea all sorts of problems in the first half, and Bellamy claimed a good assist for the opening goal.
His non-stop worrying of defenders can create chances from nothing, while he and Suarez seem to instantly read each other and expect the quick passes that perhaps other forwards haven't been able to grasp this season.
12 Points Behind: Chelsea's Title Bid Is Finished
After losing a third of their opening twelve Premier League matches this season, Chelsea find themselves 12 points behind the current leaders, Manchester City.
Consistency issues, defensive questions and plenty of raised eyebrows over the performances of Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres—Chelsea are really struggling to maintain any kind of Championship-inspiring form so far this season, and they aren't showing any sign of turning things around at the moment.
On this evidence, Chelsea can comfortably be written off as Premier League contenders.
Liverpool Finally Show a Clinical Edge
Two shots on target, two goals.
It has been a very different story recently for the Reds, as chance after chance has been squandered in recent matches, but today both efforts on target resulted in goals.
Maxi Rodriguez and Glen Johnson—not the most prolific of players usually—were on the score-sheet today, and goals from all over the pitch will always benefit Liverpool.
David Luiz: Talented Maverick or a Defensive Liability?
Brazilian centre-back David Luiz was a big-money signing for Chelsea last January but has still not convinced all his detractors in the Premier League.
While his ability on the ball can't be questioned and his skill at bringing the ball out of defence is a big plus when things are going well, at the moment Chelsea have been unable to solidify things at the back, and it is there where Chelsea need Luiz to be displaying his talents.
Against Liverpool he struggled at times with whether to stay or go, close down or stand off, defend or attack.
Alex, Ivanovic and Luiz have all partnered John Terry in the centre this season; until one of them makes the position their own, Chelsea will likely continue to struggle defensively.
Pepe Reina Proves He Is Still One of Liverpool's Match-Winners
Glen Johnson might get most of the headlines after his late winner against former club Chelsea, but Liverpool owe just as big a debt of gratitude to goalkeeper and stand-in skipper Pepe Reina.
Just moments after Chelsea equalised through Daniel Sturridge, Reina produced one of the saves of the season, flinging himself low to his left to tip a Branislav Ivanovic header away and around the post.
Given that he was not troubled seriously for most of the match, before or after the goal and incident in question, Reina's concentration and reactions for this save were commendable.
Losing a hard-earned lead at a ground like Stamford Bridge is one thing; seeing a lead disintegrate into a one-goal deficit in the space of two minutes would have been a hammer blow to Liverpool and would have been very difficult to come back from, especially to turn back into a victory.
No Settled Parterships All over the Pitch Costing Chelsea Fluidity, Consistency
John Terry and David Luiz as a central defensive pairing have been regularly broken up this season, as Alex and Branislav Ivanovic have both been given chances alongside Terry.
While in defence this could certainly be contributing to Chelsea's lack of cohesion at the back, it is not just in defence where this is affecting the Blues' play.
In midfield they have regularly switched between two central players and three according to how the game has progressed, while up top there has not been any one player who has been a constant with Daniel Sturridge, Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda, Saloman Kalou and Juan Mata all being regularly swapped and changed.
While rotation is a big and necessary part of modern day top-flight football, much success of teams is built on solid and reliable partnerships in different parts of the pitch.
Chelsea have this season failed to get any kind of partnerships going, and it is costing them in results.
Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger Show Jamie Carragher His Spot Is Far from Certain
Jamie Carragher returned from injury against Chelsea to take his place among Liverpool's substitutes, but on the pitch the pairing of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger continued their impressive recent form to show the Liverpool-born stalwart that his passage back to first team action might not be as simple as it usually is after a lay-off.
Clean sheets against West Brom and Swansea in the last two games were followed up with another rigid and excellent showing against Chelsea with just the one moment where the back-line was breached, costing the Reds a goal.
Skrtel was strong in the challenge and alert to movement from the likes of Drogba, while Agger was similarly bullish in his duels and both confidently passed the ball out of defence.
Carragher will return sooner or later, whether because Agger gets injured or because Skrtel has one of his mad moments which costs the Reds a match, but for now at least he might have to watch on from the sidelines as his team-mates provide the last line of defence for Liverpool.
Chelsea Need to Find the Winning Formula Quickly
With five matches in the next 16 days, Chelsea's schedule is not going to get any less demanding.
They face a Champions League away clash with Bayer Leverkusen within a few days of their defeat to Liverpool, followed by another home game against Wolves next weekend.
The second game within nine days against Liverpool follows in the League Cup quarter final—also at Stamford Bridge—before early December sees them travel to Newcastle and face a testing home tie against Valencia in the Champions League.
Andre Villas-Boas needs his side to find some consistency pretty quickly to deliver results, which will allow them to challenge for trophies on all three fronts into and beyond the Christmas period.
Liverpool's Champions League Chase Is Still Up and Running
After a series of home draws appeared to have derailed Liverpool's attempts to claw their way back into the top four of the Premier League and the Champions League placings, their victory over Chelsea has propelled them back in among the teams chasing those spots.
One of the most pleasing aspects of the season so far has to be Liverpool's away form—four wins from six, including wins at both Arsenal and Chelsea, show that Kenny Dalglish's side are still heading in the right direction.
Their first half performance gave them a well-deserved platform for victory at Stamford Bridge, and if Dalglish can coax similarly energetic and aggressive performances out of his players at Anfield, then the Reds will be confident of taking their place in the top four over the second half of this season.