It was billed as the title decider of the season: Liverpool vs Chelsea; Rodgers vs Mourinho; ‘The Master’ vs ‘The Student’. But when the full time whistle blew at Anfield on Sunday afternoon, the 2-0 win that Chelsea departed with certainly proved that ‘The Student’ still had much to learn.
Chelsea began the game with what was arguably a second string side, but a one full of veterans nonetheless as Lampard, Cole, Mikel and Ivanovic all started. Liverpool on the other hand, were without Jordan Henderson who has had an exceptional season, whilst star striker Daniel Sturridge was only fit enough for the bench.
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If there had been murmurings about Chelsea’s starting XI before the match, there were certainly none by the end. They were under strict instructions from Mourinho to kill the game and make sure that they frustrated the opposition from start to finish, and boy did it work.
Such tactics are no secret, and neither are Chelsea the only team to do it: just look at Real Madrid’s victory over Bayern Munich in their match last week. A performance I’m sure Mourinho himself would have been proud of.
Liverpool struggled throughout when trying to breakdown the Chelsea back four, which sometimes turned to six when Salah and Schurrle hung back. By the 70 minute mark it was obvious that Liverpool had run out of ideas and that Plan A was not working.
The Reds have been a free scoring side all season, regularly notching up three or four goals in a fixture, but suddenly when faced with a well-drilled defence with the sole objective of shutting them out for 90 minutes, they became unstuck.
The result raised questions about Rodgers’ tactics and possibly even proved that Liverpool are somewhat of a one dimensional team. We know that Rodgers used to be one of Mourinho’s protégées when the Portuguese manager was in his first spell at Stamford Bridge, and yet it is apparent that there is still room for improvement for the Liverpool boss.
Had Liverpool set out in the same way that Chelsea did on Sunday, aiming first and foremost not to concede, then Liverpool could well have come away from Anfield with a 0-0 scoreline and one point in the bag.
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The truth is that Liverpool only needed a draw from this game. The point would have meant that, with two games left of the season, they would still have had a cushion between Manchester City and the Premier League title would still have been theirs to lose. I think any Liverpudlian at the stadium would have been happy to see their side drag the game out with time wasting from the first minute and ‘park the bus’. Or two, as Rodgers suggested in his post-match comments.
A win is a win, whether it be stylish and clinical or downright ugly. Liverpool and Rodgers must learn the art of winning ugly; it is something Mourinho is an expert in.