Match Report – Chelsea vs Liverpool

Chelsea 1 Liverpool 1

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Chelsea failed to close the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester United as Luis Suarez’s equaliser gave Liverpool a point at Stamford Bridge.

Captain John Terry headed the Blues an early lead but was then taken off on a stretcher after appearing to sustain a serious knee injury in an accidental first-half collision with Suarez.

Oscar and Juan Mata were guilty of missing clear chances to emphasise Chelsea’s obvious superiority and, with 18 minutes remaining, Roberto Di Matteo’s side paid the price when Suarez headed in his 11th goal of the season after Jamie Carragher flicked on Suso’s corner.

Suarez was on target for the fourth successive away league game – further illustrating his vital importance to a Liverpool team that enjoys plenty of possession but, apart from the Uruguayan, carries too little threat.

For Chelsea, this was a disappointment that leaves them three points adrift of United and fearing that influential captain Terry could now be facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

…(John) Terry – back in Premier League action after a four-match suspension – took advantage of sloppy Liverpool defending to give them the lead after 20 minutes, escaping easily from Daniel Agger to flash a near-post header beyond Jones.

Chelsea were still in the ascendancy as the break approached and Mata should have doubled their lead in stoppage time but shot high and wide with Jones once again the only obstacle.

Liverpool, thanks to Chelsea’s profligacy, had been able to stay in range and were back in business in the 73rd minute thanks to Suarez, who headed in from virtually on the line.

Suddenly the visitors had some impetus. Suarez attempted to surprise Petr Cech with an audacious long-range effort then narrowly lost out to the keeper in a race for Jose Enrique’s through ball.

Chelsea were also pressing and Branislav Ivanovic was not far away with a header as the game opened up in the closing phase.

The last chance fell to Enrique but he could not force his shot past Cech from an angle in the final seconds.

Read more about the tight encounter between the two English powerhouses written by BBC Football’s Phil McNulty. Meanwhile, Dominic Fifield was at Stamford Bridge to provide his account of the game and goes on to select Brad Jones (Liverpool’s keeper) as his man of the match.

The onset of winter is freezing Chelsea’s title pursuit yet again. Points were wastefully shed to Liverpool, the celebratory mood that had briefly flared when John Terry marked his return from domestic suspension with his first goal of the season having dissipated by the end. The four-point advantage at the top enjoyed a fortnight ago has been surrendered, with Roberto Di Matteo’s side now third and playing catch-up.

This might actually have been worse had Petr Cech not reacted well to turn José Enrique’s skimmed shot round a post in stoppage time, with Chelsea’s vulnerability having been exposed not least by Terry’s absence. The captain had not seen out the first half, crunched inadvertently by Luis Suárez, who had been nudged in the back by Ramires, and left thumping the turf in agony. He departed on a stretcher, medical staff left to scrutinise the state of his right knee, with concern mounting behind the scenes.

Chelsea’s centre-halves have contributed as many Premier League goals so far this term as their extravagant attacking trio of Eden Hazard, Mata and Oscar, and the home side should have eased further clear thereafter, revelling whenever they sprinted in possession at back-tracking defenders.

Liverpool had offered little, with Steven Gerrard too peripheral and the possession they enjoyed spent in deep-lying areas. Anxiety set in whenever Petr Cech came into view, their route back into the contest a grind as they benefited from the hosts’ profligacy and sought to create a clear-cut chance of their own. When it came, from the substitute Suso’s corner, it was taken. Jamie Carragher, making his first Premier League start of the season, flicked on and Suárez, peeling off Ramires, nodded in a sixth goal in as many league games. The Londoners have now failed to keep a clean sheet in eight games in all competitions, stretching back to early October. Their principal weakness remains clear.

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