Liverpool: Chelsea Were Better Than Us & Howard Webb Is An Inept Idiot
A scintillating, compelling, high intensity match that serves as an advert for everything that is good in the English game wherein Liverpool take a 1-0 lead against a rival at the top of the table only to succumb to two sucker punches revolving around poor defending and a goalkeeper's hand which was just not quite strong enough.
Have we been here before?
The loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was a repeat of the loss to Manchester City at the Etihad in all but the fact was that we didn't play quite as well here.
Yes we've proved that we can mix it with the big boys, shown that we can play as well as those at the peak of the Premiership (and let's remember that four days ago that was us) but only to an extent; when it comes down to needing that extra spark of invention at the sharp end of a game, when the pressure is really on for a result, our squad still lacks the depth of quality that genuine title contenders need.
Chelsea lose Branislav Ivanovic to injury (no, not bite related) and they call on Ashley Cole, they lose Lampard and they introduce Mikel; we lose the influential Joe Allen and substitute him with a 17 year old left back taking a left wing position to allow Coutinho a central role. Brad Smith will be a major talent in time, today was too soon and on too big a stage; he appeared as out of his depth as you would expect most 17 year olds to.
In all fairness Liverpool lost today against a Chelsea side who produced an exhibition of creative flowing football that most of us doubted that they were capable of; the back four were forced to cope with the movement and ingenuity of Hazard, Willian, Oscar and Eto'o - endlessly threatening, pulling red shirts all over the pitch.
Ah yes, Mr Eto'o, scorer (via Simon Mignolet's outstretched palm) of Chelsea's winner approximately half an hour after he should have left the pitch for a potential leg breaker of a challenge on Jordan Henderson. The resulting third minute free kick brought the opening goal but there's a world of difference in playing against a depleted side for the next 87 minutes. It was just too early for Howard Webb to issue a red card it seemed.
Mr Webb then. England's best referee. A man that has been entrusted with the prestige of officiating a World Cup Final. Alex Ferguson's pet referee. A man that has never given a decision in Liverpool's direction. His work here wasn't done, his moment of true glory would come in the second half.
Liverpool's heads hadn't dropped despite the last twenty minutes of the first half consisting of Chelsea laying siege to our defensive lines, we still pushed and pressed and looked for the equaliser, looked for a foothold, looked to exploit Luis Suarez' explosive genius. And there was a moment when it almost happened; chasing a lost ball down in the Chelsea box, Suarez had clearly lost control to the nearest Chelsea defender and was posing little immediate threat when Samuel Eto'o decided the most appropriate course of action was to leap into Suarez, upending he Liverpool forward within the 18 yard area.
There was only one course of action. Mister (do we really need to dignify inept officials with the sobriquet 'Mister'? Let them earn some respect) Webb, directly in line with the incident, looked at the aftermath, pointed at the Chelsea forward and allowed the game to continue uninhibited by the stonewall penalty that he had just ignored.
For the second game in four days Luis Suarez knelt within an opposition penalty area and bemoaned an obvious foul not given by yet another referee incapable of applying the laws of the game.
Brendan Rodgers made certain that he praised Webb as one of our best referees in his after match interviews, obviously slightly wary after his post City comments concerning clear regional bias were so publicly noted. Nobody believed a word if it. Webb is an inept idiot at best. At worst? I'm saying nothing.
Still, at the beginning of December, with Cardiff at home but Spurs, City and Chelsea all away ahead, we would all have been happy to take six points from that set of fixtures. We have those six points and, although we have now dropped to fifth, we have faced all our major rivals on the road (United are no longer major, I can't reiterate this often enough) and have built a fine platform for the second half of the season with Anfield rapidly becoming a fortress once again.
The aim from the club was always Champions League football, that's still there. Personally speaking, I started the season saying that we would finish third; I stand by that. Liverpool will finish third at worst but, with the progress that the club has made in the last calendar year, much more is possible.