A Reds letter day for Blues
Written By: Robert Halter
A guard of honour by the Liverpool players alongside a blue carpet, welcomed the newly crowned Premiership Champions, as Chelsea looked to preserve their unbeaten home record in the league, at their penultimate game at Stamford Bridge in May. In the opening minute, Raheem Sterling lay stricken on the floor, after a rash challenge by Cesc Fabregas, who went in the book of referee, Andre Marriner, but the Reds playmaker was soon back on his feet. But it was captain marvel, John Terry, that opened the scoring in the fifth minute, with a bullet header that rocketed into the net from a floating corner by Fabregas. The Reds tried to react with a long range blast by Philippe Coutinho, which was deflected away for a corner by Filipe Luis, three minutes later. On eleven minutes, from a ball over the top by Fabregas, the advancing Loic Remy, brought out a save by the outstretched palms of Simon Mignolet, who scrambled the ball away. Liverpool threatened again in the twelfth minute, as first former Blues defender, Glen Johnson, found the side netting, after a mazy run down the left wing, following an assist by Jordan Henderson, and then a minute later, from a pass by Adam Lallana, it created an opportunity for Coutinho, whose low drive was pushed away by the long legs of Blues shot stopper, Thibaut Courtois. On the quarter of the hour mark, Sterling steered a shot wide, after collecting the ball from Emre Can, as the Reds pressed for an equaliser. The Blues were back to business in the twenty seventh minute, when Willian found Fabregas unmarked, and as his strike flashed across the face of the goal, Mignolet got a hand to the ball and averted the danger. In the thirty first minute, Mignolet spilled a Fabregas corner, but was fortunate that the ball went behind for another corner taken by Willian. The Blues then made an enforced change, after a muscular strain to Kurt Zouma, as the reliable centre half, Gary Cahill, took over. However, as a minute of normal time remained, Reds captain, Steven Gerrard, brought the game level, after a near post header from a Henderson free kick on the left side, following a foul on Lallana by Branislav Ivanovic. Three minutes into the re-start, as Sterling cut the ball back from the left side, a snap shot by Coutinho, crashed into the outside netting, as Liverpool tried to build on their late first half equaliser. But on fifty four minutes, the Blues went forward through Eden Hazard, who found Willian on the right, but his shot flew past the target. Chelsea made a second change by replacing Ruben Loftus-Cheek with Nemanja Matic, and later on, the Reds brought on Jerome Sinclair for Rickie Lambert, before switching Lallana with Jordon Ibe. After an inspired run by Fabregas on seventy three minutes, he was unable to apply the finish and trouble Mignolet, and then two minutes later, Fabregas was stopped in his tracks by a lunging block by Martin Skrtel, who required treatment for his efforts. In the final Reds substitution, Gerrard made way for Lucas Leiva, to rapturous applause from both sets of fans, to signal his exit for L.A. Galaxy, in the summer. But it was Courtois that made a vital near post stop with the palm of his hand, to turn away Sterling’s low deflected strike, off Cahill, after a late Reds charge in the eightieth minute. The Blues then brought on Juan Cuadrado for Remy. On eighty eight minutes, Courtois lost his footing but recovered in time to hold onto a deflected strike off Cahill, from a drive by Coutinho. The Reds rallied at the end, as Henderson dragged a shot wide, after being found by Sinclair’s header, and then Can went close with a right footed shot from the edge of the box, from a Sterling cross. However, after an evenly contested match, the Blues and Reds, shared a point apiece, which put Liverpool out of contention for a top four finish and a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League.