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Chelsea 0 - 0 Liverpool


BlueLion.

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Chelsea F.C. 0 - 0 Liverpool

Sunday 10 February 2008, Premier League, Matchday 26, Stamford Bridge Stadium, London

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A spirited Liverpool performance denied a below-par Chelsea three points in a dramatic day in the title race.


With Manchester United defeated 1-2 at Old Trafford by their neighbours Manchester City in the local derby, it was the perfect opportunity for Chelsea to close the gap on the leaders as Arsenal were in action the following night. A victory for Chelsea would leave them a point off United in second and three behind leaders Arsenal, though Liverpool would prove tough opposition despite a poor run of form.

Liverpool had registered just one win in their last six Premier League matches heading into this encounter, whilst Chelsea had taken an excellent 16 points from their last eighteen after being held 1-1 at Fratton Park. And on an unbeaten run stretching 12 matches to mid-December, it was the perfect opportunity to close the gap and apply pressure on this season's title favourites.

But an excellent defensive display from the visiting team frustrated Chelsea, who were boosted by the return to fitness of key midfield player Frank Lampard. Paired with Michael Ballack for the first time in over 10 months, Florent Malouda was dropped to the bench as Ricardo Carvalho returned to the defence in place of Tal Ben Haim. Ashley Cole continued at left full-back with Belletti on the opposite wing, whilst Avram Grant continued with the in-form trio of Nicolas Anelka, Joe Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips up front. Mikel had returned from international duty at the African Cup of Nations and was on the bench - he would make a 70th minute return to action at Chelsea in place of Lampard.

Liverpool were not without their own injury worries, most notably Fernando Torres who was injured in Spain's friendly win over France. Replacing him was Peter Crouch, with Andriy Voronin also injured for the Merseysiders. With Dan Agger still missing due to injury, Martin Skrtel continued alongside Jamie Carragher at centre-half whilst Ryan Babel passed a late fitness test. In-form Yossi Bennayoun, formerly of West Ham United, was on the bench despite netting four goals in his last three matches.

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Chelsea began the better of the two teams, looking more comfortable in possession as Frank Lampard was quickly reintroduced to first team action after a prolonged period of absence. However, England vice-captain Steven Gerrard was beginning to get the run of the midfield as the fifteen minute mark approached, with Lampard's performance gradually becoming more and more ghostlike. Dirk Kuyt and Peter Crouch were in menacing form and it was the England striker that produced the best chance of the first half for Liverpool.

Riise's high ball to the edge of the box was well taken down by the lanky figure of the Liverpool forward, before his shot on the turn flashed wide of Cech's left hand post by a matter of inches. It was a technically excellent effort created out of very little - ironically similar to Didier Drogba's winning volley in last season's corresponding fixture.

Crouch had another good opportunity moments later as a driving run from Gerrard took him to bi-line. A half-volleyed cross found Crouch off-balance and the tall figure could head only into the arms of Cech who was well positioned. Immediately at the other end, Chelsea should have been given an opportunity to take the lead. Joe Cole danced into the box after being fed by his namesake, before being recklessly tackled by Liverpool's Argentine midfielder Mascherano. Despite the appeals of the Chelsea players and supporters, play continued.

Liverpool should have gone ahead yet again when Kuyt's run took him one-on-one with Ashley Cole. Beating the England man with neat footwork, his pass found Crouch who headed wide, albeit from a difficult angle. Liverpool were the more direct of the two teams and creating the more chances, though their inability to convert signified the huge responsibility on the shoulders of Fernando Torres.

The second half was a passionate affair with crunching challenges by both teams. However as the intensity of play increased the quality reversed, with half-chances and optimistic opportunities outnumbering clear-cut strikes on goal. Michael Ballack wasted Chelsea's best attempt, volleying wide after Ashley Cole flicked the ball on with a cushioned pass.

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Frank Lampard was replaced by John Obi Mikel with twenty minutes left; the England midfielder struggling to make an impact in the game. Florent Malouda was introduced along with Claudio Pizarro in the closing stages as Chelsea pressed for the all-important winning goal, but Liverpool's defence denied them in admiral fashion.

The visitors might have ended Chelsea's four-year-long unbeaten home run late on, but for brilliant defensive play by Ashley Cole who prevented Dirk Kuyt from running clean through.
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Match Fact : Chelsea are yet to beat any of the 'Big Four' this season in four encounters; drawing two and losing two.

Chelsea: Cech (6), Belletti (6), Carvalho (6), Alex (6), Ashley Cole (7), Ballack (6), Makelele (7), Lampard (5) (Obi (6)), Wright-Phillips (6) (Malouda (7)), Anelka (7), Joe Cole (6) (Pizarro (6)).

Booked: Belletti, Carvalho, Alex.

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Skrtel, Riise, Gerrard, Mascherano, Lucas, Babel (Pennant 71), Crouch, Kuyt.

Booked: Babel, Riise.

Attendance: 41,788

Referee: Mike Riley

Man of the Match : Ashley Cole

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Edited by BlueLion
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