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Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea: Tactical Breakdown

28/04/2014 16:57 BST | Updated 28/06/2014 10:59 BST

Stifled by Chelsea and decided by a slip, Liverpool's loss has left their title hopes in the balance.

Goals in added time at the end of each half were enough to end Liverpool's 11 match winning run and prevent them from scoring for the first time since they lost to 2-0 to Arsenal in November.

Jose Mourinho's record against the top four sides this season has been superb - Chelsea have picked up 16 of a possible 18 points (they drew with Arsenal just before Christmas).

The Portuguese manager's threat to field a weakened team seemed implausible but there were noticeable absentees. Debutant Tomas Kalas started in defence ahead of Gary Cahill while Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah replaced Willian on the wing.

Brendan Rodgers made no changes to the side that beat Norwich last weekend. Lucas again deputised for the suspended Jordan Henderson while Daniel Sturridge was deemed fit enough for a place on the bench.

Tactics

The game quickly settled into the rhythm it would follow for the entire game. Chelsea allowed Liverpool possession and sat deep waiting for their chances on the break.

Liverpool had two general approaches to attacking. On the rare occasion there was enough space for a break they did so as a 4-3-3 with Sterling and Coutinho either side of Suarez. As was the case for most of the game, though, Chelsea defended incredibly deep, negating the pace of the Liverpool attack and forcing them to pick their way through.

Faced with this, Sterling, Suarez and (mainly) Coutinho took turns at dropping deep to receive the ball while Flanagan and Johnson pushed up high on the wings and Allen and Lucas joined Suarez on the edge of the box.

The roaming from the Liverpool players was designed to stretch the away side's militant defence but Matic and Mikel were playing so close to the back four that no gaps ever really appeared in the Chelsea back line.

While Allen's attacking contribution was of an acceptable standard Lucas was effectively a passenger. He looked particularly poor when compared to Henderson's more dynamic runs.

When Coutinho dropped deep, his unwillingness to utilise Flanagan created a lack of width. This meant that the Chelsea defenders were able to concentrate the majority of their defensive efforts on a relatively small section of the pitch.

Although Mourinho tailored his tactics to Liverpool's style of play, he didn't make any special tactical plans for any individual players. This season Liverpool have profited from teams attempting to man-mark Suarez or Sturridge. That inevitably led to gaps in the midfield or defence that the other Liverpool players could exploit.

Chelsea couldn't be tempted. They had a plan and didn't deviate. They challenged the home side to break them down and Liverpool failed to respond.

Goals

Describing the opening goal as fortuitous wouldn't do it justice. In a moment that resembled John Terry's ill-timed slip against Arsenal two seasons ago, Gerrard's unfortunate error allowed Demba Ba a rare sight of goal. The Senegalese forward made it count with a neat finish through Mignolet's legs.

To concede a goal just before half time would be damaging against any opposition. To concede one against a Mourinho side that hadn't looked particularly bothered about attacking anyway was catastrophic for Liverpool.

The second half was a more exaggerated version of the first. Even Lampard, Salah and Schurrle spent most of their time defending. Ba was an isolated spectator.

As the game wore on Chelsea sunk deeper and Gerrard pushed forward.

Rodgers introduced Daniel Sturridge and Iago Aspas but with the exception of a few moments Chelsea remained relatively untroubled.

The final blow came with less than a minute remaining. Substitutes Willian and Torres combined on the break to give Chelsea a hard fought, if uninspiring, victory.

Had it remained goalless at half time Chelsea would have opened up, providing Liverpool with space to work but Gerrard's lapse in concentration meant that never came to pass.

Full time

Chelsea's tactics limited the effectiveness of their host's attack. Where Liverpool really suffered though was in their lack of runners. With Gerrard working as a deep lying playmaker, Lucas and Allen were both forced further forward than they felt comfortable. Allen's runs were predictable but Lucas's were criminal. The Brazilian consistently manoeuvred himself into dead ends and was rightly substituted in the second half.

The introductions of Sturridge and Aspas posed questions for Chelsea and it was no coincidence that Liverpool looked their most dangerous in the last fifteen minutes.

This wasn't an unfamiliar situation for Chelsea's players though and that experience was crucial. Chelsea's opening goal might have seemed arbitrary but their performance and victory was not.