From the opening whistle last night, it was clear that Chelsea came to Anfield with a clear objective: sit back, defend, and try to hit on the counter. Over the years, this style of organized, defensive football has been an Achilles heel for the Reds at home, and one that has proven particularly problematic over the last month.
Chelsea came to Anfield last night with a 10 point gap over Liverpool, and an 8 point gap over Arsenal. Simply put, the Blues needed to not lose, and all three points would have benefited the home side much more than the visitors. With Liverpool’s defensive frailties and league position in mind, Chelsea smartly changed their tactic for the night.
"We weren't surprised, every time we play here it is very difficult, it's hard," David Luiz explained to SFR Sport Chelsea in an interview after the game. "They're a team that plays well, they're very good technically, with dynamic players, it is never easy.
“We played with a defensive set-up, because we knew that if we had come here with a different philosophy, it would have been difficult to win the match. We're a bit disappointed not to have won the match, but a point is good for us."
Indeed, with fellow would-be chasers Tottenham and Arsenal both dropping points to Sunderland and and Watford, respectively, Chelsea were still able to extend their overall lead at the top of the table from 8 to 9 points.
Meanwhile, Liverpool are now in a fight for their Champions League lives. If both Manchester clubs win tonight, there will be 4 very good clubs, plus Manchester United, all separated by 3 points for the final 3 qualifying spots.
The biggest positive of the night was the fact that Liverpool could manage to peg the visitors back to level terms after going down in the first half. If the Reds want to finish in that coveted top 4, they’ll have to do so by learning how to break down compact defenses at home—a strategy that has been successfully deployed by teams big and small this season.