LONDON: Chelsea’s week had been going so well. They had beaten Shakhtar Donetsk luckily in the Champions League and then announced a profit for the first time since Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich bought the club back in 2003.
But the smile was wiped from the face of manager Roberto Di Matteo by a 1-1 home draw with Liverpool. The early-season leaders thus slipped to third place behind the Manchester duo, three points adrift of leaders United and approaching a busy month without knee injury victim John Terry who has a scan tomorrow/Monday.
Matches between the two clubs have been sharp-tempered affairs over the last decade, ever since some controversial meetings between the clubs in the Champions League. This time the focus of rivalry attention was between Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez, the Liverpool hero who defected to Chelsea and his Uruguayan replacement at Anfield.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard had described Suarez, in the build-up to the game, as the greatest striker to play for the club during his time there. Similarly manager Brendan Rodgers had paid tribute to Suarez’s character and loyalty in sticking with the club after the managerial changes during the summer and then with his commitment out on the pitch at a time when he is the only experienced striker on the club’s books.
Suarez had scored five goals in his five previous Premier appearances and that statistic was not lost on Chelsea who looked far more secure in defence with Terry restored to league duty. But Terry’s match was ended after 34 minutes when he collapsed after wrenching his right knee in an innocent collision with Suarez.
Terry is a controversial figure within the English game but his courage and commitment out on the pitch has never been in question and it was bad news for Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo in having to substitute him immediately with England colleague Gary Cahill. Play was held up for four minutes before Terry was carried off on a stretcher.
Some 14 minutes earlier Terry had contributed potentially decisively to the outcome of the match when he strode into a gaping hole in the Liverpool defence to head home a right-wing corner from Juan Mata.
Chelsea could have increased their lead within minutes. Torres was foiled by keeper Brad Jones and Eden Hazard miscued his shot at the rebound. Then came the Terry injury and Chelsea, distracted, lost concentration.
They did not regain their cohesion until first-half stoppage time when Mata, running clear through the centre, lashed a left-foot drively wastefully over the bar with only Jones to beat
Chelsea did not need to make life difficult for themselves. The Blues have some testing fixtures ahead. They must play at West Bromwich in the Premier League and away to Juventus in Europe and then face Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.
They are also upset that the Premier League will not allow them to postpone a Sunderland game which comes just five days before they play their Club World Cup semi-final in Japan.
As in the first half, so Chelsea lapsed into complacency and Liverpool capitalised to equalise from their first serious opportunity. Veteran Jamie Carragher headed on a right wing corner and Suarez, at the far post, headed his eighth league goal.
At least Suarez won his personal duel; the goal-less Torres was substituted with nine minutes to go.