Liverpool stumble and Rodgers rants over Chelsea title spoiler
Reds boss loses his cool as Mourinho 'parks two buses' at Anfield to hand impetus to Man City
Liverpool 0 Chelsea 2. Jose Mourinho struck again on Sunday to bring down his former apprentice Brendan Rodgers, halt the Liverpool juggernaut and blow the title race wide open.
The hard-fought Chelsea victory takes the title out of Liverpool's grasp and hands it back to Manchester City who are now three points behind the Reds with a game in hand. With the Sky Blues victorious in their match against Crystal Palace and with a superior goal difference they are now in pole position in the gripping Premier League race.
Liverpool's next game is against Palace, beaten 2-0 at home by City, and then they wrap up their campaign with the visit of Newcastle to Anfield on May 11. They must win those matches and pray that City slip up somewhere along the line in their remaining three fixtures, away at Everton on Saturday and then at home to Aston Villa and West Ham. If both Liverpool and City win their remaining matches then they will finish level on points, and City, whose goal difference is currently 58, should take the title as Liverpool are lagging behind on just 50.
Few people expected Liverpool to lose to Chelsea, given that Jose Mourinho had been promising all week to field a weakened side in order to be ready for Wednesday's Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid.
But the strength of Chelsea's squad is not to be underestimated and the starting XI was still formidable, with 20-year-old defender Tomas Kalas the only rookie on show. Mohamed Salah and Nemanja Matic, both ineligible for the Champions League, also started and there was plenty of experience with the likes of Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Andre Schurrle in the line-up.
But it was Demba Ba who gave the visitors the lead on the stroke of half-time, the Senegalese striker pouncing on a slip by Steven Gerrard to fire past Simon Mignolet. Liverpool strove to get back on level terms after the break but Gerrard and Luis Suarez looked out of sorts and there was a lack of creativity in general. Chelsea in contrast looked increasingly comfortable as the game wore on and they put the game to bed on 90 minutes when Fernando Torres teed up Willian for their second goal.
It was Liverpool's first defeat in 12 league matches and one that manager Brendan Rodgers found hard to accept. "There were two buses parked today, never mind one," he fumed. "It's the polar opposite to what we do. It's not difficult to coach, to put 10 players on the 18-yard box... it was clear that they had not come here to win the game with the time-wasting and whatnot."
All the same, Liverpool's inability to counter Mourinho's predictable tactics not only exposed Liverpool's inexperience at this stage of the season, but they also revealed that the pressure is getting to Rodgers. As well as blasting Chelsea's tactics in his ill-advised outburst he also took a swipe at his rivals' wealth, sneering: "We are still two points ahead of a team that has spent an absolute fortune."
While Rodgers' rant wasn't in the same league as Kevin Keegan's infamous tirade against Manchester United in 1996 when he was in charge of Newcastle, it will bring a sly smile to the faces of Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini. The former couldn't resist indulging in some mind games after his side's victory as he rubbished suggestions that Chelsea could yet win the title. "No, we're back in nothing," he said, despite the fact his side are second and just two points behind Liverpool. "We have nothing to celebrate but we can say that we finished third."
That could yet be the position Liverpool occupy in a fortnight's time if the pressure continues to get to Rodgers.