Liverpool 2: Sturridge 52', Suarez 90+7'
Chelsea 2: Oscar 26', Hazard (pen.) 57'
At this point Brendan Rodgers' lineups deviate very little, with the same constellation of players involved in the guessing game--two of Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, and Daniel Sturridge will always start, with the third left out in favor of the nailed-on Philippe Coutinho. Here it was Sturridge on the bench, with Downing right and Henderson advanced in central midfield. The rest picked themselves, with Sturridge and Jonjo Shelvey providing the only relatively experienced attacking options off the bench.
The occasion started with a wonderful remembrance for Anne Williams and the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and it was clear that the home crowd were up for it. Their efforts were matched on the pitch, where Liverpool started terrifically well, pressing and harrying Chelsea for most of the opening ten minutes. Few chances were created, but the workrate and commitment were there, and it was a positive start after the 0-0 draws against West Ham and Reading.
Unfortunately Liverpool dropped off a cliff from there, easing off Chelsea and failing to provide a shot on target until the 42nd minute. The visitors weren't as tame, threatening at the other end and converting when lax set-piece defending from Daniel Agger left Oscar(!) alone for a free header that Pepe Reina could only deflect on its way into the goal.
Rodgers opted to replace Coutinho with Sturridge at the half, and the benefits were almost reaped immediately--Sturridge played in Steven Gerrard for an effort that was well saved by Petr Cech within a minute, and seconds later he blasted an effort from distance off the post. That he finally got a goal wasn't surprising in the least, benefiting from a lovely Stewart Downing knock-down that Suarez crossed expertly.
Liverpool were knocked back five minutes later when Suarez handed a cross in the penalty area and Eden Hazard converted the resulting spot-kick, and another moment of madness from Suarez at the other end sent the match off the rails. The Uruguayan was halted and dispossessed by Branislav Ivanovic, but rather than slow up, Suarez continued into the defender, clearly opening his mouth and clenching down on his arm. Utterly insane and inexcusable.
I'd be lying if I said I knew much of what happened from there--Jonjo Shelvey came on to replace the ineffective Stewart Downing, and in the seventh minute of injury time, Suarez--always, always him--headed in off Cech from an inch-perfect Daniel Sturridge cross to leave the points shared.
I'm at a complete loss here, folks. I spent most of the latter part of the match more confused than anything else; I was angry, annoyed, upset, dumbfounded, embarrassed, prone to fits of nervous laughter whatever. It was just completely, completely surreal, and something that nobody can even come close to defending. Luis Suarez is a brilliant footballer and gifted beyond belief, but he's dragged his club into the deep with one of the most bizarre behaviors you'll see. Surely he's done for the rest of the season, and I don't know that it's terribly dramatic to say that he may well have played his last game in a Liverpool shirt.
We can half-heartedly explore the positives, most notably the play of Jamie Carragher for most of the match and Daniel Sturridge in one of the season's most impressive performances after coming on in the second half. Carragher was very good in his play and unmatched in his commitment, while Sturridge was unplayable, making an immediate impact and showing every bit of the form that won us over after he first arrived in January. On today's evidence he's more than capable of being the centerpiece in attack, and depending on the consequences doled out to Suarez, he may well be in a place to do so.
Other than those two I thought Liverpool were more hit than miss, but I don't know if there's even any point to having a discussion of any sort about that. It's going to be all Suarez all the time for the next little while, and it's likely going to be a fairly miserable stretch surrounding the club. He most certainly needs to apologize, taking all the blame and leaving nobody else at the club accountable or in a place to try to explain away what he's done. We've been there before, unfortunately, and it leaves the club in poorer stead.
Right now I mostly feel like hiding, though, so if you guys have pictures of puppies or red pandas that you want to link to and discuss, let's be having them. It's not going to be much fun at all--rightfully so, if you're Luis Suarez--so we might as well buckle in.