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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
What is it about Liverpool - Chelsea? For the second year running the game was decided by the mistakes of a referee. Last year it was Rob Styles who gave Chelsea a penalty so soft that it was bullied at kindergarten, this year it was Riley who sent Frank Lampard off for the kind of routine 50-50 challenge that you'll see dozens of times in every game. It would be more understandable if Riley was at least consistent in his fussiness, but Steven Gerrard's identical high challenge moments earlier, and his sweary response to the official, drew nothing but a ticking off. The Football Association ask for respect for referees, but how can you respect such alarming double standards?

Riley's fingerprints were all over this match. He was always too quick with a card, never letting the game settle down. Booking Gerrard for diving was a rarity, a good, brave decision. Trying to book almost everybody else on the pitch was the norm. John Terry remonstrated with him after the final whistle and for once, it was difficult to condemn the England captain for his public complaints. Chelsea might not have ever been in contention to win this game, but with all eleven of the London sides' men on the field, Liverpool were struggling to break down their determined resistance.

The trouble with most matches between these two teams is that they promise so much and deliver so little. With both sides playing narrow variations of a five man midfield space was at a premium and clear-cut chances were few and far between. Liverpool seemed reluctant to give their attacking moves the support they required, a syndrome best summed up the total lack of interest in chasing onto a first half Petr Cech parry after a fearsome Javier Mascherano shot. With Cech in such uncertain form, why not chase every shot down just in case? The home fans were certainly quick to let Rafa Benitez know what they thought.

Sometimes you wonder how much Benitez actually wants to win and where that desire stands with his fear of losing. If ever there was a time to take a game to their title rivals it was here, with 30 minutes left and with Chelsea cruelly reduced to ten men. If ever there was a time to take off a defensive midfielder and throw men up front, it was against a side camped in their own half who had barely threatened even when they had all their players on the pitch. But Benitez doesn't think that. His only substitutions were like-for-like until there were just seven minutes left and by then it was almost too late. This time Fernando Torres was there to save the day, and perhaps the season, but would it have happened without Riley's clanger? Perhaps not. Will it happen the next time Liverpool's caution leaves them chasing a winner in a game they should have already won? You can't rely on it.

This should have been a battle between two of the strongest sides in the country, but before Riley's intervention it was descending into a dull stalemate between two teams who look about as likely to challenge Manchester United for the title as Tottenham Hotspur. Sir Alex Ferguson might have preferred the score to have remained at 0-0, but even with Torres' late goals, the only source of danger at Anfield was the referee.

Crowd - 44,170
Yellow Cards - Mascherano, Alonso, Gerrard, Arbeloa (Liverpool), Mikel, Cole, Terry (Chelsea)
Red Cards - Lampard (Cheslea)
Liverpool -
Pepe Reina 7, Alvaro Arbeloa 7, Jamie Carragher 7, Martin Skrtel 7, Fabio Aurelio 7, Xabi Alonso 7, Javier Mascherano 7 (Ryan Babel 6, 83rd), Dirk Kuyt 6, Steven Gerrard 7, Albert Reira 7 (Yossi Benayoun 6, 74th), Fernando Torres 8 (David N'Gog, 90th)
Chelsea -
Petr Cech 6, Jose Bosingwa 6, Ashley Cole 6, John Terry 7, Alex 7, John Obi Mikel 6, Michael Ballack 6, Frank Lampard 6, Salomon Kalou 6 (Miroslav Stoch 6, 85th), Florent Malouda 6 (Deco 6, 69th), Nicolas Anelka 5 (Didier Drogba 6, 69th)

SHOCKER - What was Steven Gerrard thinking of when he needlessly blasted the ball at Jose Bosingwa's groin from a distance of about two feet? Wasn't Rory Delap sent off for that on Saturday? Bosingwa survived the impact, but there may not be any little Bosingwas for a few years, if you take my meaning.

SHOCKER - What was Jose Bosingwa thinking of when he laid his studs on Yossi Benayoun's backside and booted him off the pitch? The linesman was stood right next to him, but somehow Bosingwa stayed on the pitch. Granted, he was probably in a bad mood after taking a Gerrard thunderbolt between the legs, but even so, this was a disgraceful foul.