Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas looks lost as his side are dumped out of ... -

Chelsea's mantra is that the club must always remain competitive but this wasn't competitive. Where there were pluses all over the pitch for Liverpool — Sebastian Coates, Martin Kelly, even Andy Carroll — for Chelsea there were minuses, with Fernando Torres woeful and Romelu Lukaku, even worse. The only negative for Liverpool was a knee injury to the peerless Lucas, who was carried off on a stretcher. It looked like ligament damage and there will be anxiety if that prognosis is confirmed given just how vital the Brazilian is to the prospects of a Liverpool team who are shaping up to be genuine contenders. They are organised, committed and conditioned whereas Chelsea appear ragged and, to an extent, dispirited and only rallied once they had fallen two goals behind.

The game was also made all the more spikier by a poor performance by referee Phil Dowd, who awarded one penalty under controversial circumstances and could have given three more in a chaotic first-half. It opened with the colourful David Luiz slaloming into the Liverpool area, appearing to be caught by Coates only for Dowd to book the Chelsea defender for diving.

That caused confusion, and soon after, Luiz escaped when he shoved Carroll in the back — only for Dowd to wave away the penalty appeals. Almost immediately, Liverpool were appealing again and this time Dowd eventually relented after Alex, with an outstretched arm, blocked Jose Enrique's cross.

At first Dowd gave nothing but following pressure from Liverpool — or perhaps radio confirmation in his earpiece — he pointed to the spot. Carroll drove the penalty firmly but far too straight and Ross Turnbull saved.

There was still more controversy to come. Luiz appeared to catch Carroll inside the area — again Dowd didn't react. He booked Ryan Bertrand, though, rather than Lukaku, who had caught Jordan Henderson with a high, reckless tackle. Henderson carried on but, unfortunately, Chelsea lost Josh McEachran to an ankle injury which dismantled their midfield diamond.

Chelsea lacked a cutting edge — Lukaku headed wastefully over and there was a slice of fortune for Liverpool when Florent Malouda met Frank Lampard's free-kick only for his header to skim off the crossbar. Coates made a hash of the clearance, presenting the ball to Luiz, but chested away the Brazilian's goal-bound header. Chelsea soon paid for the miss.

If anything the pace increased — and Liverpool struck through Maxi Rodríguez. His goal, however, owed much to Chelsea's defensive failings with Bertrand caught out as Henderson played in Bellamy with both Alex and Luiz at fault as the striker crossed for the Argentinian to turn the ball beyond Turnbull.

Villas-Boas had seen enough and prepared to make changes. But before he could, his defence crumbled again. Bellamy, again, was the provider, swinging in a free-kick which was met by Martin Kelly who headed into the net to spark more Chelsea recriminations after he was left unmarked by Lukaku. Pepe Reina saved Torres's header and substitute Nicolas Anelka was denied after rounding the goalkeeper but Chelsea simply couldn't reply. And that will have really hurt.

30 Nov, 2011

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