Chelsea's plan against Liverpool was a beauty
Published 28/04/2014 | 09:50
It's up to Everton now. If Brendan Rodgers is going to lead Liverpool to their first title in 24 years the Ulsterman will require some assistance from across Stanley Park.
Footballing fate can be funny like that.
Liverpool, for all their fabulous free flowing football, can no longer win this season's Premier League crown on their own.
The trophy is in Manchester City's hands again after Steven Gerrard let it slip from his grasp.
It was Gerrard, the normally magnificent Liverpool captain, whose mistake gifted Chelsea's Demba Ba the opening goal at Anfield yesterday.
From then Jose Mourinho's expertly drilled side never looked like losing. They even added a second through Willian in the dying seconds of the contest.
The Stamford Bridge men are criticised for not playing the beautiful game, but in big games they know how to play a winning one.
Chelsea have now done the double over City and Liverpool this season. Had they defeated Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sunderland recently they'd already be champions. Obviously the bigger the game, the better Chelsea are.
Mourinho's tactics on such grand occasions are not pretty to watch, but he and his team still deserve credit for carrying them out to perfection.
What annoys is when the 'Special One' lambasts others for doing the same to him!
Rodgers, whose instinct is to attack, said afterwards the visitors 'parked two buses'. With the title on the line his players failed to get around them.
Crucial to Chelsea's plan was not being blown away early on like so many other sides at Anfield. They showed great discipline, organisation and awareness, with young defender Tomas Kalas outstanding, to keep the home side at bay. Mark Schwarzer, the 41-year-old goalkeeper, made some saves but was rarely under pressure thanks to the exceptional efforts of those in front of him.
With Chelsea in front, the more the game wore on the more Liverpool appeared to lack ideas, imagination and invention. Intensity too and most concerning of all the belief to break Mourinho's men down.
On the back of 11 successive victories, the momentum in this thrilling title race was with Liverpool, but that red tidal wave was halted by a blue wall that could not be shifted and everything changed.
The victory for Chelsea moved them to within two points of Liverpool with two games left and allowed City, 2-0 winners at Crystal Palace, to jump three points behind Rodgers' side with a match in hand and a superior goal difference.
Manuel Pellegrini's men need three wins from three to secure the title. They will overcome Aston Villa and West Ham at the Ethiad in the final week of the campaign. Before then, on Saturday night, they travel to Goodison Park.
City have a dismal record at Everton. If it continues, Liverpool, who still have to play at Palace and at home to Newcastle, would be favourites again.
Despite the misery of yesterday, the dream is not over yet for Liverpool fans or Rodgers, who has done such a staggering job to have the Reds in the mix at this stage
In this astonishing Premier League season, expect at least one more twist in the tale.