- Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea, Premier League
Gerrard slip loosens Liverpool's title grip
Two goals in added time of each half gave Chelsea a remarkable victory over Liverpool at Anfield, with Steven Gerrard's slip to present them with their opening goal perhaps a defining moment of a rollercoaster season.
At the end of a first half memorable only for Chelsea's time-wasting tactics, Gerrard received a pass around the halfway line, which he miscontrolled and then lost his footing in his panic to recover the ball. Demba Ba pounced then raced towards goal, keeping his composure to slip the ball through the legs of Simon Mignolet and into the net in front of a silenced Kop.
Slip sliding away...
- This is not the first time that Steven Gerrard has gifted a goal to opponents - he's even done it before against Chelsea in a title run-in:
- May 2, 2010: Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea
- Liverpool were out of the title race but Chelsea were very much involved in a titanic battle with Manchester United that would go all the way to the final day.
- Their visit to Anfield turned in the 36th minute when an ill-judged Gerrard backpass picked out Didier Drogba, who easily rounded Pepe Reina and tucked the ball home - in front of the Kop.
- March 12, 2006: Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
- Four years earlier, Gerrard had suffered an almost identical lapse of concentration.
- Midway through the second half and with Arsenal needing a win as they battled with Tottenham for the final Champions League spot, Gerrard tried to pass back to Reina but was easily intercepted by Thierry Henry who slipped the ball home for the winning goal.
Liverpool continued to knock on the door throughout the second half, with Joe Allen's volley producing a fine save from Mark Schwarzer, who continued in the Chelsea goal in place of the injured Petr Cech. Raheem Sterling had a shout for a penalty when challenged by Tomas Kalas, the 20-year-old Chelsea debutant who replaced John Terry, but referee Martin Atkinson waved the appeals away.
In injury time, a corner eventually fell to Luis Suarez with Schwarzer out of his goal, but the 41-year-old recovered his ground to push the shot away. With seconds remaining, Fernando Torres - on as a substitute - was left with a clear run through on goal and slipped the ball to Willian to complete an astonishing result.
As well as denting Liverpool's title chances, the result also raises Chelsea's faint hopes of winning the Premier League title, though they still require help from others as well as winning their own remaining matches against Norwich and Cardiff. It also ends a 25-game scoring run for Brendan Rodgers' side, which stretches back to a 2-0 defeat by Arsenal at the Emirates in November.
Reaching the Champions League final this season is still the primary objective for Chelsea and to that end they fielded a slightly weaker side. It showed seven changes from the midweek goalless semi-final first-leg draw at Atletico Madrid, but it still boasted more than 500 international caps with an entire squad value of about £200 million.
Kalas, with just two minutes' action in two different competitions this season, made his Premier League debut at centre-back and, surrounded as he was by massed ranks of blue shirts, he coped well.
In January, Mourinho criticised West Ham for playing a game from the "19th century," but the Portuguese brought to Merseyside his own brand of defensive football -- and then some -- as they slowed the game at every opportunity.
Not only were the visitors happy to defend throughout, they almost actively engaged in not wanting to play the ball anywhere on the pitch, with players frequently looking to run into the corners.
In time-wasting and breaking up play Chelsea denied their opponents any opportunity to establish the sort of rhythm which has regularly blown away teams in the first half. They even went as far as going to take throw-ins and free kicks before suddenly changing their minds and getting another team-mate to leisurely wander over to have a go instead.
It was a classic Mourinho destruction and frustration ploy and infuriated Liverpool so much Gerrard engaged in a bit of push and shove with the Chelsea boss in trying to get the ball back into play and Suarez stood to applaud goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer's time-wasting.
Referee Martin Atkinson made a big show of pointing to his watch, intimating he was adding on time, but he did not take decisive action in actually booking anyone until stoppage time. But Mourinho will argue the ends more than justified the means against a side that had won their last 11 league matches and dropped just five points at Anfield all season.
That Ashley Cole had an early shot parried away by goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was almost surprising considering how much possession and territory Chelsea were happy to concede.
A rehearsed corner saw Glen Johnson's shot deflected behind and Philippe Coutinho volleyed Suarez's cross into the side-netting before Cole cleared off the line from team-mate John Obi Mikel's deflection and Mamadou Sakho blazed over from the breakdown.
Chelsea's mindset was exemplified when Andre Schuerrle found himself one-on-one with Martin Skrtel on the halfway line, but five seconds later the ball had been passed back to Schwarzer.
Optimistic shouts for handball against Jon Flanagan were waved away, while, at the other end, Suarez failed to capitalise on Cole's mistake in giving away possession by curling a shot over.
Ba was not as wasteful when Gerrard slipped in possession 10 yards inside his half to present the Senegal international with a free run on goal and he did well, considering how little of the ball he had seen, to finish expertly.
If Liverpool were frustrated in the first half they knew they would face much more of the same after the break, but in addition they found Schwarzer in fine form as he produced a great save to keep out Joe Allen's first-time effort, although Mignolet's denial of Schuerrle was equally as good.
Gerrard tried his best to redress the balance, but twice found Schwarzer with shots from outside the area and once from a header inside it.
For once, though, even Liverpool's often inspirational captain could not get his side back into the game and even the return of striker Daniel Sturridge from a hamstring injury as a second-half substitute did not puncture a hole in Chelsea's thick blue line.
Suarez had one last chance in added time, but Schwarzer punched over his volley. Instead the match ended with the familiar sight of a jubilant Mourinho running down the touchline to celebrate substitute Willian's breakaway goal.