Blues smother Reds

I mentioned, earlier, watching Chelsea's duel with Liverpool.  I had been excited to see it, then a friend pointed me to Chelsea playing their B team for the game.  But I ended up deciding (a few hours after the game) to watch it anyway.

To make a long story short, it did not start out as an exciting game.  Chelsea looked like the B team, almost completely conceding possession to Liverpool, and just trying to pack in the box.

Well, they got a big break in stoppage time at the end of the first, when a D-to-D pass to Gerrard was slightly misplayed, then Gerrard slipped, giving Ba an open run to the goal.  Unsurprisingly, Ba beat Mignolet for the score to put Chelsea up.  Despite getting two extra minutes of stoppage time (was supposed to be three, but ended up being five; I'm not sure why), Liverpool was unable to break through, and went into the half down a goal.

So, how did that affect Chelsea's strategy in the second half?  They just about did the same.  When they got possession after blocking a pass, they mostly just cleared the ball.  It reminded me of when I played defense in high school (I mostly played left-half); not what I expected to see from a team in the Premiership, let alone one with title aspirations.

Gerrard was playing like a man possessed; I think he had five shots in the second half (only one of which was really good).

I told my daughter, when there were about twenty minutes left, that I didn't think Chelsea would be able to withstand the siege, and that Liverpool would probably win.

But time kept ticking down, and Chelsea kept preventing really good chances.

As time started to run short, Chelsea did try to possess the ball a couple times, and even got a decent scoring chance on a counterattack.  But Liverpool kept attacking in waves; they were able to get to the outer edge of the box without much trouble, but were basically stuck there.

And time kept ticking down, and Chelsea kept preventing really good chances.

There was only four minutes of stoppage time in the second half (given a couple of long stoppages, including one where two Chelsea players were "nursing cramps" at the same time.  Given that, I expected five or six.

And Liverpool kept attacking, and getting turned back.  And then, they pushed everyone up, and the last defender missed when he tried to pinch to keep the ball up, and Chelsea ended up with a 2-on-zero breakaway.  Mignolet played it about as well as he could have, but Chelsea kept their cool and put the game away for good.  Despite the long stoppage to celebrate, and the ample time left in the stoppage when the goal was scored, the game was called immediately upon the ensuing kickoff.

That, combined with City's victory at Crystal Palace just after, put City back in the driver's seat to win the premiership (probably on goal differential, again).  We'll see how it goes; City might have another letdown, like they did right after losing to Liverpool a week or two ago.

And we'll also note that it was Liverpool's first loss of the calendar year, and that it was at home.  Ouch.  Still, if City falters even a little bit, Liverpool will be in position to win their first title since 1990.

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