Before the match, the talk was all about the return of Rafa Benitez to Anfield. Afterwards, all the focus was on Luis Suarez, who’s bite on Branislav Ivanovic will be the main talking point, rather than his dramatic last-gasp equaliser. Liverpool opted to go with the same team who beat Aston Villa three weeks ago, while Chelsea continued to go with ex-Red Fernando Torres up front.
The Reds started brightly, with Glen Johnson in particular providing attacking output on the right hand side. It was the former Chelsea man who had the first attempt at goal, after Suarez found him on the edge of the box. Luckily for Chelsea, he failed to get his shot on target. Benitez’s side struggled to make any inroads on Pepe Reina’s goal early on, while the Kop continued to sing in support of the manager that guided the Reds to Champions League success in 2005. The same could not be said about Fernando Torres, who was booed and jeered with every touch. However Chelsea managed to work themselves back into the match, having a decent spell of possession after ten minutes. Chelsea’s first attempt on goal came from Ramires, who took a shot from outside the box, just about parried away by Reina.
Sloppiness crept into Liverpool’s game, Jordan Henderson in particular was guilty of spurning opportunities to launch an attack. Suarez’s footwork was also not up to his usual high standard, and he was lucky this wasn’t punished after 23 minutes, when Oscar drilled a shot at goal, which failed to trouble Reina. The end to end action continued, Jose Enrique linked up well with Coutinho, only for Henderson to overhit a pass to Enrique. The Blues got the ball upfield, and Enrique did superbly to get back and prevent Hazard from having an opportunity to cross. The left back only delayed the scoring, however, as Oscar headed in from the corner. It was a soft goal, much like John Terry’s header in the fixture at Stamford Bridge. Agger should have been watching Oscar’s run, and Carragher should have got in front of Oscar to win the ball.
The away side were buoyed by this, and Henderson earned himself a yellow card for a foul on Oscar. David Luiz took the free-kick from 35 yards, and Reina almost made an embarassing mistake, dropping the ball and coming close to rolling over the line. Luckily Reina redeemed himself and stopped it from being 2-0. Chelsea were passing the ball better and making more opportunities, while Liverpool looked out of ideas and subdued. Coutinho was enduring a frustrating game, as he managed to find Cech rather than Suarez on several occasions with his passes.
Torres’ first major contribution to the match came after 38 minutes, when he was booked during aerial duel with Carragher. The Reds nearly equalised just before half time, after Downing’s decent run ended with a cross to Suarez, who’s shot was parried away by Petr Cech. After a good spell for the home side, it was Enrique who had to be alert, dealing with Mata’s cross into the box to prevent it finding Torres. The last action of the first half saw Henderson finds Suarez on the edge the box. Suarez managed to get a shot away, but the angle was too tight for him to get enough power on it.
Liverpool desperately needed a change at half time, and sure enough, former Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge came on for the disappointing Coutinho. Sturridge immediately made an impact, cutting inside from the right wing to find Gerrard. The captain got a shot away, which was put out for a corner by the outstretched leg of Petr Cech. The January signing continued to make his mark on the game, hitting the post from 30 yards out. Chelsea managed to clear the danger and put some more pressure on Liverpool’s defenders, Carragher showing his experience to deny Hazard a shot on goal, and instead give away a corner. From the corner, Enrique’s sliced clearance had to be saved by Reina, and Torres’ volley was high and wide. Sturridge finally his impressive start with a goal. Enrique lofted the ball over to Downing, who’s clever pass found Suarez. The Uruguayan then crossed the ball to Sturridge, who made no mistake with the finish.
The scoreline didn’t stay the same for long, when again a Chelsea corner caused havoc in the penalty area. The ball came to Suarez, who foolishly handballed it to given away a penalty. Without regular penalty taker Frank Lampard, it was Suarez’s fellow PFA Player of the Year nominee Eden Hazard who took it. After a long wait, the Belgian sent Reina the wrong way for his 10th goal of the season. Chelsea again improved after going ahead, Enrique having to be alert to deal with Ramires. The fascinating tussle between Torres and Carragher continued, this time the veteran defender was the one booked by Kevin Friend. Chelsea’s free kick was poor, and it gave Suarez an opportunity to run with the ball in space. Suarez gave the ball to Gerrard, who left it for Daniel Sturridge. Gerrard got the ball back, but his shot was blocked. It was in this build up where video replays suggest that Suarez bit Chelsea defender Ivanovic during an altercation. The already booked Suarez was not reprimanded for this, suggesting the referee didn’t see the incident. This was reminiscent of a similar incident when he was at Ajax, where he was given a 7 match ban for biting Otman Bakkal.
Tempers continued to flare, as Jamie Carragher was furious when the Reds weren’t awarded a penalty. Replays indicated that he was fouled just outside the area, and the referee had made the right call in giving them a free kick. Suarez took it, dragging it agonisingly wide. Liverpool were beginning to take control again, and again it was Luis Suarez creating the opportunity. The striker slalomed his way through Chelsea’s defence, before having his shot saved easily by Petr Cech. The changing of formation to 4-4-2 appeared to have lifted the players, and the attacking positioning improved a great deal. Despite this, they created few clear cut opportunities, with the solid Branislav Ivanovic proving tricky to get past.
Shelvey was introduced for the last ten minutes, and really should have equalised after 84 minutes. A fantastic touch from Sturridge found Jordan Henderson, who passed the ball along the ground to his England U-21 teammate. The youngster failed to take the opportunity however, hitting the side netting. Times were getting desperate for the Reds, who were keen to keep up their unbeaten run, and restore some pride. Agger’s header went just wide of the post, while Shelvey and Enrique both had shots blocked by Ivanovic. Liverpool had so many late opportunities, but the game appeared to be over after the ball was cleared after the allocated 6 minutes of added time. The referee allowed Liverpool to have one final chance, which was duly taken. Sturridge delivered a beautiful cross into Luis Suarez who headed into the net with the last kick of the game.
It capped off a Jekyll and Hyde display from Luis Suarez, who was admittedly lucky to still be on the pitch. What is unclear now is whether the FA and Liverpool will take retrospective action on Suarez, but unfortunately his contribution today may well be his last of the season, if not of his Liverpool career.