Reds End Chelsea's Dream Streak To Go Top

Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool

In what could well prove to be the most important result of the season, Liverpool ended Chelsea’s unbeaten run at home to claim top spot in the Premier League standings courtesy of a somewhat unlikely source.

Reds End Chelsea's Dream Streak To Go Top

Both sides came into the clash with 20 points from their first eight games and, despite Sir Alex Ferguson’s pre-game attempts to downplay the significance of the match-up, it looked like a top-of-the-table clash from the get-go.

The opening stretch was fast-paced and fiery. Steven Gerrard and Albert Riera put together a few promising moves in the first minutes of the match – a sign of things to come from Liverpool. However, the first chance of the game fell to the hosts.

A stray pass from Javier Mascherano in the centre wrong-footed his midfield partner, Xabi Alonso, and allowed Nicolas Anelka to nip in and take the ball to the edge of the box. The Frenchman’s effort was cut out by the Liverpool defence and Deco picked up the loose ball, but he shot was deflected wide.

10 minutes had just ticked over when the Reds shocked the Stamford Bridge crowd, and perhaps the rest of England. John Terry failed to deal with Dirk Kuyt’s flick-on, the Chelsea captain’s meek clearance falling to Alonso just outside the box. The Spanish playmaker’s shot took a deflection which left Petr Cech stranded and gave the visitors an early lead – something they have been unaccustomed to this season.

Liverpool pressed on with confidence high and weren’t far away from creating another chance on 14 minutes. Gerrard’s delightful cross-field ball found Robbie Keane, whose excellent touch and hold-up play allowed his skipper to surge forward and almost pull off a clever one-two, but the move broke down on the edge of the area.

Moments later, the Blues spurned a genuine opportunity to equalise. An incisive one-touch move found its way to Salomon Kalou’s feet, but the Ivorian forward rushed his shot and Pepe Reina collected the ball comfortably.

Riera made his presence felt on the left throughout the first half, although his decision-making in the 17th minute let him down. After muscling his way down the left flank, the Spanish winger jinked into the box and could have slid the ball across to where Keane and Gerrard were waiting. Instead, he blazed into the side netting, earning an earful from a pair of frustrated team-mates.

Both sides played with pace and intensity as the fouls flew in, forcing referee Howard Webb to issue an all-encompassing warning after Keane’s 20th-minute challenge on Mikel John Obi. That resulted in Riera being booked less than a minute later for a fairly innocuous, albeit mistimed, tackle.

Deco began to assert his influence for Chelsea, resulting in Bosingwa finding plenty of the ball on the right wing. The Portugal full-back found Kalou with a curling cross in the 22nd minute, but again the young attacker misfired as his stooping header sailed well over the crossbar.

That miss almost proved costly two minutes later. A bouncing ball was tracked by Gerrard, who struck a powerful left-foot volley from 25 yards and forced Cech to make stunning save. Liverpool got their wires crossed on the resulting corner, however, as the shortly taken ball resulted barely reached the box.

Chelsea took the ascendancy as the half wore on. Liverpool were forced on the back foot as half-time approached, but they remained solid and took their lead to the break.

Second Half

Riera picked up where he left off, winning a free-kick in a dangerous position and teeing up Gerrard within five minutes of the interval. Neither moment resulted in a second goal, however.

Liverpool nerves were tested on 54 minutes when Reina appeared to foul Florent Malouda in the box after the French winger pulled of the shoulder of his marker. The Reds ‘keeper was saved by the linesman, who correctly flagged for offside.

The visitors were soon on the attack again. Kuyt got on the end of another neat move, but the Dutchman shot just wide from 20 yards.

Both managers made changes around the hour mark. Luiz Felipe Scolari introduced Belletti and Di Santo, while Rafael Benitez replaced Keane – who had been acting as lone striker in the absence of Fernando Torres – with Ryan Babel.

It was around this time Alonso came within inches of adding to his tally. Riera had won a foul 25 yards out, and the Basque native stepped to send a stinging, dipping strike into the base of the upright. Cech was left stationary, but the ball bounced back into play and was eventually hooked away to safety.

As with the successful effort in the first half, the Reds then marched on. A sublime combination involving Alonso, Gerrard and Babel saw them work the ball their own half into the opposition box with a series of one-touch passes, but the final ball was ever so slightly off-weight. Soon after, Mascherano found himself with time and space in the box, but he slashed a wild cross to the opposite touchline.

And then Chelsea had their best chance of the match. Ashley Cole came into the box and ran onto Di Santos’ perfectly tailored flick-on, but the England left-back failed to hit the target from 10 yards out. A great opportunity spurned.

Liverpool were forced to defend manfully for the remainder of the game, but they did so with aplomb. Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger were regularly called into action, never putting a foot wrong as they kept the Blues at bay. Carragher’s last-ditch tackle on Deco in the 73rd minute was of the very highest quality.

The Reds still strung some nice moves together; a Babel take, turn, dribble and shot in the 76th minute came agonisingly close to putting the nail in Chelsea’s coffin. The hosts, on the other hand, resorted to ambitious long-range shots – Lampard, Belletti, Di Santo and Mikel all sent efforts into the crowd as the visitors held on to claim a momentous victory and announce themselves as genuine contenders.

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