Chelsea FC: Blues back in the title race

Chelsea FC stole all three points away from Liverpool on Sunday.  The league leaders’ potent attack was held without a goal as the Blues secured a 2-0 win.  It was a difficult match and the home side looked certain to equalize, but Chelsea scored a second in injury time to escape with the win.

Jose Mourinho faced a tricky scenario, having to balance the massive title implications of Sunday’s match with the Champions League semifinal tie at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Mourinho was helped with his decision by the eligibility of three midfield players for Tuesday’s clash with Atletico Madrid.  Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel, and Nemanja Matic are all unavailable Tuesday and had starting spots in Sunday’s lineup.  Lampard captained his club again in John Terry’s absence.

Petr Cech, out for the season with a shoulder injury, was replaced once again by veteran Mark Schwarzer.  Tomas Kalas made his full debut in the center of defense while Gary Cahill was given some rest.  Ashley Cole, Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic filled out the rest of the defense.

Demba Ba and Salah rounded out the lineup as Mourinho played a competitive, but unfamiliar and slightly inexperienced squad.  With Tuesday’s Champions League fixture looming, Mourinho gambled with his lineup against Liverpool.

Liverpool and Chelsea make a living off of scoring early goals, and it was a race to break the deadlock.  Both squads play much better with a goal advantage, and it was apparent that goal would be crucial.

Liverpool’s attack is the best in the Premier League while Chelsea owns the best defense, and the Blues won out in their second meeting this season.  Steven Gerrard made a costly mistake, losing possession, and Demba Ba sent in a goal in the 45th minute.  The home team was shocked, and the visitors went into the half with hope.

Chelsea dug in for the second half, as so many of their opponents have, and attempted to weather the storm.  Mark Schwarzer had another commendable performance in goal after struggling against Sunderland.  Gerrard peppered the goal with long range shots, but the Blues were relentless with their defense and never wavered.  Mourinho even brought on a fifth defender as Cahill was introduced late in the match.

It was clear that Liverpool was becoming increasingly frustrated, and the Reds were still trailing after ninety minutes.  They had one last realistic attempt in injury time, but the ball was stolen and late substitute Fernando Torres was off to the races.  He beat the last defender with Willian flanking him.  With a simple two on one scenario, Willian was able to walk the ball into the goal as Torres selflessly squared to the Bralizian.  Torres, the former Liverpool man, was ecstatic and will have all the confidence in the world heading into the match with Atletico.

The Blues still do not control their own destiny, but have shown time and time again that they are a resilient bunch and will not quit.  They did their job on the pitch Sunday, and will do their best to win their remaining two matches in Premier League play.  If Liverpool and Manchester City both lose one of their remaining matches, Chelsea can still win the title.

Regardless of what happens, Mourinho will be proud of his squad, and they will clearly be in the title talk again next season.  Chelsea will celebrate the victory against Liverpool, but attention will already be towards the monumental clash at the Bridge on Tuesday.  A victory against Atletico Madrid would make this strong season into a truly special one.