Chelsea On Brink Of Title After Beating Liverpool
Chelsea moved to the brink of the Premier League title as they cruised to a comfortable victory against Liverpool at Anfield.
Carlo Ancelotti's side must beat Wigan at home on the final day of the season to guarantee the crown, following Manchester United's later 1-0 win at Sunderland. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/eng_prem/8651355.stm
After a slow start at Anfield, they were put on the path towards the title by Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who gifted Didier Drogba the opening goal after 33 minutes with a dreadful backpass that left the striker with an easy job of scoring in front of The Kop.
Ancelloti stays cool on Premier League title
The goal, and the manner in which it was conceded, ended Liverpool's fleeting resistance and Chelsea cantered to victory.
Frank Lampard added the second from Nicolas Anelka's cross nine minutes after the interval, with only Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina preventing a more emphatic victory margin.
Much had been made of the potentially unpalatable prospect – for Liverpool fans at least – of a victory for their team opening the door for United to eclipse the Anfield club's tally of 18 titles. But suggestions that Rafael Benitez's side would stand aside to avoid this eventuality proved incorrect.
Liverpool were not betrayed by a lack of effort, it was a lack of energy after playing through 120 minutes against Atletico Madrid on Thursday to no avail that was part of their downfall. And more crucially, in a condemnation of a managerial reign that may well be coming to a close, it was a lack of quality and squad strength assembled by Benitez that was brutally exposed by Chelsea.
Lampard claims Chelsea have the momentum
As Chelsea ruthlessly closed in on the points, Liverpool saw their last faint hopes of Champions League football extinguished with one game left of a season that started with so much optimism but is ending awash with uncertainty surrounding the future of Benitez, and the ownership of the club.
Benitez joined Liverpool's squad and their families as they made their way around Anfield as a “thank you” to their supporters after the final whistle – but the response to the manager was relatively muted and there is a growing sense that this is likely to turn out to be his final game at Anfield in charge after a six-year reign.
In contrast to Liverpool's despair, Chelsea know the title is almost in their grasp – with the possibility of clinching an historic double with the FA Cup final against Portsmouth still to come.
Benitez resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes after Liverpool's Europa League exit. Injured Glen Johnson was replaced by Sotirios Kyrgiakos, while Maxi Rodriguez, ineligible against Atletico, came in for Ryan Babel.
Lampard was just off target from long-range inside the first minute, but Liverpool emerged as the better side in what was admittedly a desperately mediocre opening half hour.
Expectations for season too high – Benitez
Alberto Aquilani came closest in that spell with a drive from outside the penalty area that glanced off the bar with Chelsea keeper Petr Cech beaten.
As the opening half threatened to drift aimlessly to its conclusion, a shocking error from Gerrard presented Chelsea with a lead their lacklustre efforts barely deserved. Under no pressure, Liverpool's captain sent a backpass straight to Drogba, who could barely believe his luck as he rounded Reina to score in an unguarded net.
Chelsea believed they should have had the opportunity to double their advantage in the dying moments of the half when Salomon Kalou fell as he raced into the box accompanied by Lucas. Referee Alan Wiley appeared to put the whistle his lips in readiness to award a penalty, but then waved away Chelsea's claims.
Ancelotti's side started with real purpose after the break, with Anelka somehow failing to convert Kalou's cross from almost on the goalline – but they did not have to wait long for the goal their fans clearly believed clinched the title.
Anelka made amends for his earlier miss by beating Liverpool's attempts to play the offside trap before crossing for Lampard to slide in a simple finish.
The fight visibly drained out of Liverpool, who had to replace the injured Jamie Carragher with Daniel Ayala, and Reina had to produce an outstanding save low to his left to turn away Florent Malouda's volley.
Reina was keeping the score within respectable proportions for a Liverpool side who had barely raised a gallop after Drogba's goal, and he was forced to save twice from Anelka in the space of seconds as Chelsea went in for the kill.
All that was left was for Chelsea to play out time without any mishaps – which they were able to do without alarm as they moved to the brink of reclaiming the Premier League that they last won in 2006.