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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
The journey back from London to Liverpool is a long one and, if any of the American contingent from Anfield bothered to make it, you rather hope that someone sat next to them on the bus and told them exactly why they were returning with three points. This victory wasn't due to their only notable contribution, the fabulous Fernando Torres, because he was injured. Nor was it down to their astute financial management, because thus far they have run Liverpool with all the monetary acumen of the nation of Iceland. Liverpool ended Chelsea's long unbeaten record because of the tactical mastery of someone they tried to elbow out of the door last season.

Rafa Benitez has his faults. His transfer record is patchy at best and in four seasons he has yet to prove that he can balance Liverpool's European adventures with their domestic commitments. However, on a tactical level there are a few better, a fact acknowledged after the game by an endearingly magnanimous Luiz Felipe Scolari.

"Benítez is intelligent," the Chelsea boss admitted. "He and I know that we don't have a two-metre centre-forward, so they gave us space, but when we crossed they have players who are very good at winning the ball."

Chelsea whipped in a series of crosses, but only won the ball on a single occasion when Salomon Kalou headed amateurishly over the bar. For the rest of the afternoon their roving full-backs were pinned back by the attentions of Albert Riera and Dirk Kuyt who gave them so much to think about in their own half, that they didn't have the space to get forward and attack. All part of Benitez's masterplan.

Scolari lamented the fact that his players kept reverting to the tactics ingrained in them by previous managers, tactics that were doomed to failure against a defence superbly marshalled by Jamie Carragher.

"We needed to play and touch the ball as we do not have big strikers. I don't like to lose but if we lose we need to touch the ball, not put the ball in the box every time. We were running out of time and the players didn't have the confidence to pass the ball. I tried to tell them to play but they didn't listen."

Benitez had no such problems with his players and was delighted with the performance.

"The mentality and character we showed here will be a boost for the rest of the season. Against a very good team, a very offensive team who had lots of possession, we controlled it. We had chances. We are not a team thinking only about defending. We are thinking about the win. We have belief, we have quality and we have character."

And to think, if the Americans had got their way, Liverpool would now be managed by Jurgen Klinsmann, a man whose first move at Bayern Munich was to install minature Buddhas on the training centre roof and whose three man defence has been savaged in the Bundesliga. Bayern have improved slightly in recent weeks from their disastrous start and Klinsmann may yet make a good coach, but could he have secured a result like this? Something to think about on that long journey back to Merseyside...