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Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool: Torres hype proves a let down as Pensioners fall too easily

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What was supposed to be a defining moment in the history of British transfers for Chelsea Football Club turned into a pitiful defeat as Fernando Torres made the worst possible start to his Chelsea career,losing 1-0 to Liverpool- the team he left just last week.

The stage had been set for the most expensive player in Britain to torment and terrorize his old club at the first time of asking, however Liverpool appeared to have left the script at home as they devised a sub-plot of their own to the most dramatic January transfer window in history.  The visitors came away with a priceless and well-earned victory, the resurgent Raul Meireles grabbing the only goal of the game in an otherwise anti-climactic encounter.

For Chelsea the defeat means they have missed out on a golden opportunity to close the gap on their title rivals, with Manchester United slipping up to a 2-1 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday.  A win would have kept them in fourth place, but it would also have put them 7 points within the Premier League leaders and just 1 point behind third placed Manchester City with a game in hand.  With so much to play for, Carlo Ancelotti sent his men out on a wet Sunday afternoon with strict orders to bring all three vital points home- they were to come back into the changing room with nothing but disappointment.

The game could have had a completely different complexion had Chelsea’s ‘El Nino’ capitalized on a stray pass early on.  Maxi Rodriguez must have forgotten the past weeks transfer comings and goings as he squared a pass straight to the former Liverpool number 9 in his own half.  Torres bore down on goal, only for his 25-yard effort to lack anything like accuracy.

Chelsea were enjoying plenty of the ball, albeit on the half way line, and seemed to be the more likely to threaten with some intricate passing.  Nicolas Anelka was deployed in a deeper and more central role to the one we normally see him in and the Frenchman was easily the most comfortable player on the park in the opening stages, finding gaps between Liverpool’s solid banks and distributing the ball well.

The home side appeared to be loosening the Liverpool rearguard little by little and when Torres was played in to the inside right channel by Didier Drogba, it seemed the moment had arrived for what before the game was touted as an inevitability.  Jamie Carragher had other ideas on his return to first team action, sliding in with perfect timing to deny any chance of a debut goal.

Whilst Liverpool defended well, their brief skirmishes deep into Chelsea territory became more and more threatening and the Reds should have taken the lead before half time. Captain Steven Gerrard did very well to evade the surrounding Blue shirts and sent in a low and measured cross from the left hand side of the area.  The ball trickled past everyone and was met by Maxi who needed only to direct his shot goalward to put his side into the lead.  The Argentine was too relaxed or had taken his eye off the ball, either way he found his side-footed effort rebound off the bar.  Gerrard’s expression of disbelief summed up the collective feeling around Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea were let off hook, and a good ticking off from boss Ancelotti at half-time should have been the cue for Chelsea to start playing like true champions.  Anelka looked to be the most likely to break the deadlock for the home side, however with the Frenchman playing so unnaturally deep, the former Red was restricted to pot-luck shots from outside the area.

His two attacking partners were failing to live up to their blockbuster billing, with Drogba playing the part of ‘passer-by’ for much of the game and Torres struggling to throw off the shackles of Carragher. Sadly, one or the other would have to make way and on 66 minutes Nando’s number was up.  Torres left the field to the boo’s of the travelling fans that once adored him, whilst his new supporters tried their best to cheer away those jeers – as a cheap air-freshener tries to mask a bad smell.

Salomon Kalou replaced the Spaniard, but the Ivorian did not look like he was going to do a much better job against a repellent Liverpool team.  As Chelsea went from one frustratingly poor shot to the next, Liverpool sensed the time was apt to strike.

Gerrard found himself once again with too much time in a wide position and his floated cross caused mayhem of disastrous proportions in the Chelsea penalty box.  Petr Cech who had already come to blows with Branislav Ivanovich over a communication mix up, hesitated in front of the on-rushing Dirk Kuyt and when both players missed the ball, the goal was almost half empty for Meireles to tap home.

It was a deserved goal for a Liverpool team who appeared to have their tactics spot on; resilient in shutting out Chelsea, decisive on the counter.  Chelsea on the contrary were pedestrian in all areas of the pitch and even with the game in it’s dying embers, Ancelotti’s men seemed to take their Pensioners nickname a little too literally.

Hit and hope balls were all the home team could conjure up, but the aerial bombardment was not the way to try and compete with a dominant Liverpool defence.  The Blues, in their old age also seemed to forget their long-used recipe for success: pass and move football.  There was no width, no urgency, and unfortunately no hope.

Liverpool were good value for their win and look more and more confident with every game under Kop idol Kenny Dalglish.  Chelsea must forget this defeat very quickly if they have any realistic aspirations of competing for honours this year.

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