Chelsea 1: Terry 20'
Liverpool 1: Suarez 73'
Once again the leaked lineup proved to be accurate, even though it was still somewhat unbelievable--a 3-5-2 has been seen at Liverpool before, and even in a Liverpool victory at Chelsea before. Brendan Rodgers went to something similar in the derby for the second half, so we knew that it was an option, but the personnel made it seem fairly unlikely. Lining up that way today meant Andre Wisdom, Jamie Carragher, and Daniel Agger across the back (with Martin Skrtel out through illness), Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique as the wing backs, Joe Allen with Nuri Sahin deeper, and Steven Gerrard nudging up further behind Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez.
Rodgers hoped to nullify the threat of Chelsea's talented attacking trio of Juan Mata, Oscar, and Eden Hazard, and for much of the first half, Liverpool survived that threat without looking overly impressive or dominant. Chelsea's goal came from a set piece, with Mata curling a corner to an unmarked John Terry six yards from goal, and the hosts threatened a handful of times through a constellation of defensive miscues and simple talent, most often from Hazard and Mata.
On Liverpool's end there was little to discuss, with Petr Cech making it through the half untested and neither of Luis Suarez or Raheem Sterling finding any chances. Sterling dropped the deeper of the two and had a few dangerous moments, and Suarez freed himself occasionally but couldn't find any opportunities to get a shot on goal. The most notable incident involving Liverpool's attack was one that resulted in John Terry's nasty-looking injury; Ramires pushed Suarez from behind, causing the Uruguayan to slip and clatter into a flat-footed Terry. His knee took the brunt of the fall, and from the instant they collided it was clear something was very wrong. Gary Cahill came on after the Chelsea captain was stretchered off, and a late Mata chance on the break--which the Spaniard thankfully rushed and put over Brad Jones' goal--signaled an end to the first half.
The second half provided little respite for the growing Chelsea dominance, as Liverpool held less of the ball in the opening minutes and spent much of the time ushering the ball out of their own half. The visitors held on, though, and after Steven Gerrard's injury scare and the introduction of Suso for Nuri Sahin, Liverpool gradually turned the tide of the match.
They were more threatening and fluid, with Jose Enrique finally looking somewhat competent in attack down the left and Suso creating through the middle, and Glen Johnson continuing to be Liverpool's most promising player at the front and the back. The equalizer came as a result of a corner won by Andre Wisdom, who didn't have his strongest day, but the resulting kick was nodded back across goal to Luis Suarez, who headed into an empty net from just a few feet out and wheeled away to celebrate in front of the traveling supporters.
Liverpool looked the more confident from there, pushing further up the pitch and stretching Chelsea consistently for the first time all match. The hosts responded, with Branislav Ivanovic very nearly putting the home side back in the lead with a powerful header; Luis Suarez had a moment of his own almost immediately at the other end, latching onto a well-timed ball from Enrique only for Cech to make a terrific save in knocking clear before Suarez could round him.
Before it was all over Liverpool would have one more clear-cut chance, this time with Enrique played down the left after a nice spell of possession. Suarez played him into space all alone from ten yards out, and for one of the first times in his Liverpool career, Enrique connected well and put it low on goal. Cech was equal to it, though, and got down to his right to block, and Liverpool couldn't do anything with the corner before the final whistle.
There's going to be plenty of divided opinion about the performance today, which is fitting given how different Liverpool looked from first half to second. Around the thirty minute mark a point seemed like a stretch, with nothing going in attack and Chelsea looking like it was only a matter of time before they added another. It wasn't necessarily pretty at any point, but today at least felt like a point earned rather than points dropped, even if Liverpool very well could have had all three with the late chances for Suarez and Enrique.
Second-half adjustments proved to benefit Liverpool yet again, but the first-half failures are still bothersome. Neutered going forward and unable to put together anything worthwhile, it was a far too familiar sight and one that very well could have left Brendan Rodgers' side down at least two. Thankfully the changes in setup and personnel boosted the performance, with Suso yet again shining centrally and Enrique and Glen Johnson both very good.
Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger were solid at the back, with the latter getting forward at times to support the attack, and Brad Jones made a couple of good saves and smart decisions to keep things close. Andre Wisdom was up and down, but better overall than against Everton, and Raheem Sterling was active and lively in supporting Suarez up top. Not the most notable day for the Uruguayan, but the goal was needed and yet again he delivered.
On the opposite end we didn't get much from the midfield until Suso arrived and probably saw the worst Joe Allen performance possible; he was careless in possession and didn't have any sense of the space around him, losing out a number of times when he didn't account for the opposition around him. Nuri Sahin wasn't quite as bad but had little influence, while Steven Gerrard was, yet again, at his best and worst at various points throughout the match.
Points today were never a sure thing, and with most certain that Liverpool would be dropping all three, one doesn't seem quite as bad. But from here Liverpool most definitely need more to be convincing, both in league and in Europe. Wigan, Young Boys, Swansea, and Spurs await before November's out, and while today had more emotional energy wrapped up in it than those will promise, each will be just as important in measuring Liverpool's progress.