Liverpool fell to their third defeat of the week, going down to a 1-2 defeat to Chelsea at Anfield. Brendan Rodgers side took a ninth minute lead through a deflected strike from Emre Can, before Gary Cahill equalised from a corner just five minutes later.
Diego Costa fired what proved to be the winner on the 67th minute, whilst the Reds were denied what looked a clear penalty five minutes from time when Steven Gerrard’s left footed shot appeared to be blocked by the arm of Gary Cahill.
Brendan Rodgers once again made wholesale changes to the team that had lost 1-0 to Real Madrid in midweek, with Kolo Toure, Lucas Leiva, Joe Allen, Adam Lallana and Fabio Borini replaced by Dejan Lovren, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Mario Balotelli.
Emre Can was the only surprise selection from midweek to maintain his starting place, and he set about proving why as early as the third minute. The German under-21 midfielder saw an early strike deflected narrowly wide after a driving run forward, and it was almost a carbon copy of that move which brought about the opening goal.
After some need passing football from the back, Can collected a pass from Philippe Coutinho and drove forward unchallenged. Encouraged to shoot, the 20-year-old fired a decent strike from 25 yards which flew in via a big deflection off Gary Cahill.
The lead didn’t last long however, with a set piece once again proving the Reds downfall. Cesc Fabregas’ corner was met by Diego Costa, who headed forwards towards John Terry. Simon Mignolet produced a superb save, only to see the ball fall to Gary Cahill. His shot was once again parried by Mignolet, but replay’s showed the ball hard narrowly crossed the line to draw the league leaders level.
In what was a feisty first half, no real clear cut chances followed. Philippe Coutinho looked Liverpool’s biggest threat, holding off two challenges and forcing a decent low save from Thibaut Courtois from the edge of the box. Other than that, both sides managed two half hearted penalty appeals for handball, whilst the physical battle between Martin Skrtel and Diego Costa threatened to boil over on a couple of occasions.
Into the second half, and it was the Spaniard who came out on top. On 67 minutes, Cesar Azpilicueta just about managed to keep the ball in play on the left hand side. He held off the challenge of Philippe Coutinho, before delivering a cross with the outside of the foot. Mignolet attempted to parry the ball away from the onrushing Oscar, but the ball fell kindly to Costa, who made no mistake with a low finish for his 10th Premier League goal of the season.
Brendan Rodgers responded with the introductions of Joe Allen and Fabio Borini in place of the lively Coutinho and goalscorer Can, whilst opting to leave playmaker Adam Lallana as an unused substitute.
Jordan Henderson saw a volley deflected over narrowly by Ivanovic, before Steven Gerrard’s left footed strike from the edge of the box appeared to be clearly blocked by the arm of Cahill. Despite the appeals, referee Anthony Taylor was unmoved.
Chelsea under Jose Mourinho have proved to be perhaps the most effective side in Europe at closing a game out, and despite five minutes of stoppage time, the Reds could only manage a header over from Fabio Borini from the penalty spot as they chased in vain for an equaliser.
The result moved Chelsea a massive 15 points clear of the Reds, and represented a fifth defeat in 11 league games for Brendan Rodgers side. With a title challenge looking out of the question already, attentions must turn to a push for a top four finish following the two week international break.