Kenny Dalglish ran his unbeaten streak as Liverpool manager to 12 games against Chelsea, who have now lost two in a row at home, their first Premier League home losing streak in nine years.
Dalglish telegraphed his aggressive intent even before the teams took the field by dropping a slumping Stewart Downing from the lineup and giving Maxi Rodriguez his first start of the season. Craig Bellamy also started up front with Luis Suárez with Dirk Kuyt on the right wing.
The aggressiveness also manifested itself tactically as well as Liverpool constantly pressured Chelsea in possession and that pressure resulted in a Chelsea giveaway just at the top of the box, allowing Rodriguez to reward his manager’s faith with first League goal of the season.
Petr Cech made the dubious decision to pass the ball out of goal to John Obi Mikel, who was then easily dispossessed by Charlie Adam. The ball fell to Bellamy who played a quick one-two with Suárez before unselfishly passing to a wide open Rodriguez for the 33rd minute goal.
Andre Villas-Boas needed to make changes at the half and he did so by benching the ineffective Mikel in favor of Daniel Sturridge and repositioning Juan Mata into the hole. The move paid an immediate dividend as Sturridge drew Chelsea level in the 55th minute.
John Terry ran down the Liverpool left side drawing Glen Johnson to the end line, opening a gap just behind Adam for Florent Malouda to run into. The Frenchman flubbed a shot wide of the far post for a perfect assist to Sturridge, who sneaked in behind a napping José Enrique.
Chelsea would boss the game for the next half hour, until Charlie Adam found Johnson with a pinpoint a 40-yard pass along the Chelsea right side. Johnson neatly nutmegged the on-rushing Ashley Cole before holding off Malouda to slot past a scrambling Cech and Terry in the 87th.
The play was near a carbon copy of Jordan Henderson’s own nutmeg of Cole and hurdle of Terry, except Dirk Kuyt failed to finish the brilliant move by shooting wide of the far post. This time the Liverpool and England right back made no mistake in bulging the net and sealing the win for Liverpool.
As always, player ratings are presented by position (back-to-front) below, along the following guidelines:
10: Exceptional— superlative performances only.
9: Excellent— outstanding performance.
8: Impressive— very influential game.
7: Very good— eye-catching game.
6: Average— good game, but nothing overly impressive.
5: Below Average— decent performance, but with some faults.
4: Poor— many faults, performance stands out for all the wrong reasons.
Additionally, any performance which affects the outcome of the game will increase or decrease a player’s rating by half a point (.5)
Reina— Did not have much to do today, but nonetheless kept his focus enough to deny Bratislav Ivanovic with a terrific save in the 57th minute. Grade 7
Glen Johnson— once more got the start ahead of Martin Kelly, and finished the game on an incredible high with his stunning goal. Outside of the goal however he had a very uneven performance, allowing Malouda entirely too much space on the right side, and overall losing the running battle with the Chelsea man. Earlier in the game he made a nice run to elude several Chelsea defenders on the end line, but failed to pick out any of his wide open teammates in the box. It is a performance on which he must improve, the brilliant finish notwithstanding. Grade 7
Martin Skrtel—had a very solid game in defense helping keep Didier Drogba in check, and even managed to surge forward on occasion. He won seemingly every aerial challenge today and has put his early season struggles behind him to help solidify the Liverpool backline. While it’s uncertain that he would have gotten the start ahead of a healthy Jamie Carragher, in the least he’s giving Dalglish confidence in the depth of the unit. Grade 7
Daniel Agger—had another solid game in central defense today despite drawing lead responsibility for marking Drogba. He was physical with Drogba when necessary and otherwise relied on his positioning and intelligent reading of the game to deny him too many touches. Grade 7
Enrique—had another so-so game today which constitutes a mini slump by his stellar standards. Was largely responsible for failing to track Sturridge in the 55th minute, and was largely ineffective when venturing forward. Grade 6
Dirk Kuyt— had a disappointing game for Liverpool today in what was a largely anonymous performance. Failed to capitalize on the great play made by Jordan Henderson in the 86th minute, by pushing the ball wide. Received a booking for a silly cynical foul on Sturridge in the 64th. Grade 6
Lucas— was simply brilliant today in defensive midfield. He tracked every Chelsea run in the first half and was largely responsible for bottling up Mata and Mikel in the first half. He hardly put a foot wrong all day and even his one notable misstep, a yellow for a foul on David Luiz, was the result of a combination of a poor pass by Dirk Kuyt, gross embellishment by Luiz, and naiveté by referee Lee Probert to be fooled by Luiz. Grade 8
Adam— had a very nice game today, enjoying a bit of a turnaround to the disappointing start to the season. His pressure on Mikel resulted in the giveaway that lead to Rodriguez’ goal, and his long diagonal pass to Johnson set up the winner. His deliveries off set pieces were terribly disappointing however, even more so considering that this is supposed to be his specialty. Grade 8
Rodriguez (Stewart Downing 77th) — got his first Premier League start of the season and justified the start with his first PL goal of the season. Played hard for most of the game before fading badly in the second half, and was well past his shelf life by the time Stewart Downing replaced him. Grade 7
Suárez (Andy Carroll 89th) — He had a great opportunity with the ball in the 29th minute but opted for the wrong pass, which was intercepted by Luiz, leading to Lucas’ yellow card. Seemed unsettled by all the attention and criticism of recent weeks, hesitating with his passes and being unable to get the ball from under his feet a couple times. His focus just wasn’t as sharp as he seemed more intent on not making any mistakes, rather than just playing his usual improvisational game, making the wrong choice on his passes time after time. Nutmegged Luiz in 79th before being rashly taken down by Ivanovic, earning the Serbian an entry in the referee’s book. Grade 6.5
Bellamy (Jordan Henderson 66th) —had a big impact on the game early on by constantly threatening the Chelsea back line. His unselfish and intelligent play continues the rehabilitation of his reputation at Anfield. Reputation aside, he has made a positive impact every time he’s been on the field this season and would like nothing better than to give his manager a selection headache come game day. Grade 7
Henderson— had another positive performance today, and perhaps this ought to be his role for the club going forward. He had a brilliant play in the 86th minute when he nutmegged Cole and skipped over a wild lunge by Terry to set the table for Kuyt, as noted earlier. Games like this should bode well for his confidence going forward. Grade 7
Downing—didn’t really do much in his 20-odd minutes on the pitch, and judging by the play of Rodriguez and Bellamy, may find himself coming off the bench for the foreseeable future. Grade 6
Carroll— did not make much of an impression after replacing Suárez in the 89th minute. Grade N/A
Not used: Alexander Doni, Jamie Carragher, Jay Spearing, Martin Kelly