Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool

Chelsea and Liverpool fought out a gritty goalless draw at Stamford Bridge which did little for the differing aspirations of either side.
The visitors, missing the injured Fernando Torres in attack, had the best of the first half with Peter Crouch shooting just wide on 18 minutes.
Yet Chelsea were unlucky not to be given a first-half penalty when Javier Mascherano skidded into Joe Cole.
Liverpool now lie fifth and Chelsea sit five points behind leaders Arsenal.
Following Manchester City's shock defeat of Manchester United earlier in the afternoon, this match took on extra importance for both teams - clearly reflected in the early frenetic pace.
Liverpool, suffering from poor form and desperate for a win, started brightly with talismanic captain Steven Gerrard roaming menacingly behind Dirk Kuyt and Crouch.
The first real chance came on 18 minutes when Crouch headed down John Arne Riise's high ball on the edge of the box and, after receiving a return pass from Ryan Babel, dragged a shot just wide of Peter Cech's post.
Seconds later Gerrard battled his way to the right byeline and curled in a half-volleyed cross but Crouch, with his momentum taking him backwards, could only head weakly into Cech's arms.
Yet Chelsea, who were looking to exploit the opportunity to close the gap on second-placed United to a single point, could easily have been awarded a penalty on 24 minutes.
Lurking near the corner flag, Ashley Cole fed Joe Cole who danced into the box but when Javier Mascherano skidded in recklessly to up-end the Chelsea forward, referee Mike Riley waved away the Stamford Bridge appeals.
Relieved, Liverpool continued to press forward and Crouch could only head wide tentatively after Kuyt had drifted out to the right wing to put in a back-post cross.
Despite being the better side, Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez must have been rueing the absence of injured top scorer Torres as the teams trooped in goalless at half-time.
Both teams came out in determined mood for the second period but as the intensity increased, the quality of play suffered.
Frank Lampard, returning to the heart of Chelsea's midfield after injury, had little impact as he sought to turn the tide and was replaced by Jon Mikel Obi with 20 minutes left.
Liverpool also made a change at that point with Babel being replaced by Jermaine Pennant - but still goalmouth chances remained scarce and niggly fouls ever-present.
Chelsea, however, did get a sight of goal on 82 minutes when Ashley Cole cushioned a pass into Michael Ballack's path but the onrushing German pushed his volley wide.
No further chances were created and the match ended with Liverpool failing to register their first goal at Stamford Bridge under Benitez, and Chelsea looking less than satisfied.
Chelsea: Cech, Belletti, Carvalho, Alex, Ashley Cole, Ballack, Makelele, Lampard (Obi 71), Wright-Phillips (Malouda 64), Anelka, Joe Cole (Pizarro 86).Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Ben-Haim.
Booked: Belletti, Carvalho, Alex.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Skrtel, Riise, Gerrard, Mascherano, Lucas, Babel (Pennant 71), Crouch, Kuyt. Subs Not Used: Itandje, Kewell, Benayoun, San Jose Dominguez.
Booked: Babel, Riise.

Att: 41,788
Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire).

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