Chelsea are fortunate to return to London with a point after a second half Lampard penalty earned a draw at Anfield. The decision by referee, Rob Styles, left Benitez dumbfounded while Mourinho was typically philosophical about his side’s fortunes.
Liverpool beat Chelsea in the corresponding fixture last season but have recently been more successful in cup clashes between the two sides. Making six changes from the win in Toulouse and keeping the injured Gerrard in the side, they hoped to improve their league record against the Blues.
Michael Essien picked up an early booking for a reckless challenge and ended as one of nine men on yellow cards. But it was Liverpool who made a lot of the running at the start of the game and impressed with their sheer determination and hard work during the 90 minutes.
And after Riise’s low drive at Cech from the left, Torres opened the scoring with a goal on his Anfield debut. Gerrard’s inch-perfect pass allowed the Spaniard to show his pace on the left flank before outsmarting Ben Haim and hitting a low shot across the goalkeeper into the far corner.
It was only from this point that Chelsea began to get more into the game. Shaun Wright-Phillips, who seems to be getting better and better as he refines his game for Chelsea, crossed for Drogba who headed comfortably over the bar.
Terry then had a golden chance to equalise for the visitors. Pennant’s foul on Chelsea’s right – and needless booking for dissent – gave Lampard the chance to put in a free kick. Rather worryingly for Benitez, it went straight though a static Liverpool defence and although Terry beat Agger at the far post, he just couldn’t get the final touch.
The Blues upped their game as the second half began. John Obi Mikel headed off target before another great cross from Wright-Phillips was nodded wide at the far post by Pizarro.
But with just over an hour gone, Chelsea were gifted a lifeline from a ghastly mistake by the referee. Wright-Phillips squared the ball along the 18-yard line from the right and Florent Malouda, the player who chose Chelsea over Liverpool in the summer, looked to dummy the ball by jumping over it. But in leaping into Steve Finnan and tumbling to the ground, the Liverpool defender was adjudged to have impeded the player and a penalty was harshly awarded. Lampard stepped up to convert from the spot, sending Reina the wrong way.
This incident spurred Liverpool into searching for the deserved winning goal and they took the game to Chelsea from the restart. A Gerrard ball forward was lobbed back across the face of the goal by Pennant and Torres’ smashing volley flashed wide.
But before either side could get a grip on the game, it quickly degenerated into a farce, which had stemmed from the poor penalty decision earlier. Chelsea claims that Torres had dived and should’ve received a yellow card resulted in a brief confrontation between John Terry and the Spaniard, for which the England defender was booked. But then Rob Styles appeared to show a second yellow card to Michael Essien before pointing over to Terry again. It took some communication with the fourth official to decipher Styles’ method but his lack of clarity fanned tempers on the pitch and contributed to the disruption of the contest.
Once it restarted, Liverpool continued to create the better scoring chances and had Petr Cech to thank for keeping them on level terms. He first saved from Agger with his feet and then tipped over Kuyt’s header before Babel hit the side netting as the game ended 1-1.
Both sides remain unbeaten this season, although Liverpool can feel aggrieved for not recording the win which would’ve moved them into the top five. They looked sharper, more creative and a much-improved side from last season.
Although Chelsea are still in second place, they, too, have lost their 100% record and slip two points behind the resurgent Manchester City who picked up their third win of the season against their Manchester rivals.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Arbeloa, Pennant (Babel 68), Gerrard, Alonso, Riise (Crouch 83), Torres, Kuyt.
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Hyypia, Mascherano.
Chelsea: Cech, Essien, Ben-Haim, Terry, Ashley Cole, Kalou (Pizarro 46), Wright-Phillips (Joe Cole 77), Obi, Lampard, Malouda (Alex 85), Drogba.
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Makelele.
Ref: Robert Styles (Hampshire).