I’d love to sit down here at the keyboard and tell you to take it down a notch and dampen some of the wild expectations flying around, but that’d be an absolute bore, wouldn’t it?
Liverpool got off to the worst possible start at Stamford Bridge when Chelsea midfielder Ramires headed Cesar Azpilicueta’s fine cross past Simon Mignolet mere minutes after kick-off, but the hosts created very little from that point forward and deep into first-half injury time Philippe Coutinho restored parity with the kind of inspired strike only the boys from Brazil can provide. An early rally from Jose Mourinho’s men following the break quickly died off as the Reds pressurised their hosts to the breaking point with Coutinho adding a very similar second and Christian Benteke, brought on to great effect with just under a half-hour left to play, securing all three-points with an emphatic finish in front of the travelling Kop.
There are changes afoot in this team; we saw shades here, touches there, maybe a nudge and a quiet word or two leading up to this one, but if you needed convincing that Jurgen Klopp could turn the Reds into an entirely different monster, you now have proof — and a timely reminder that football can make you smile.
Self belief is pouring back into this side; the mere fact that our heads didn’t drop in that oh so familiar fashion when Chelsea took the lead is enough evidence of that. Out running, out fighting, out tackling and out passing our esteemed hosts, this was a win as much of our own creation as it was born out of the Blues inability to get their act together after getting off to the perfect start.
Content to sit deep, try to contain and hit on the counter, Mourinho’s men never looked like even venturing to grab a second goal until Coutinho’s curling masterpiece made the need to push forward in a numbers a conversation they had to have. Pressing high, pressing hard and pressing often, this was about as physical as we’ve seen Liverpool since the days when Luis Suarez was chasing every lost cause and Steven Gerrard squared up to all challengers; both Emre Can and Lucas were teetering on the edge of picking up a second booking and the latter will be thanking his lucky stars that Mark Clattenberg was in a forgiving mood when the Brazilian’s cynical trip on Ramires warranted only a talking to rather than a one way trip down the tunnel.
Simon Mignolet back-peddling to deny Oscar’s audacious 45-yard chip, Mamadou Sakho putting his body on the line at every turn, Alberto Moreno’s mad dash up the touchline, Roberto Firmino’s first assist since moving to Merseyside, Adam Lallana’s wheels in perpetual motion and Jordon Ibe making the kind of impact from the bench that you’d expect from a promising youngster with a point to prove — this was very much a team performance rather than a result conjured up through only fleeting moments of magic.
In defeat, you can point to this that or the other thing to make excuses for your shortcomings, but the result remains the same; this, as Klopp would say, is football. You’d be hard pressed to make a convincing argument against Liverpool deserving the win today with the Reds taking double the shots, enjoying the bulk of the ball, snagging more corners, completing more passes and generally wanting it that much more — you know, the kinds of things that get you all three-points.
That the Reds boss once again has this team looking like a cohesive unit rather than a couple of guys who get together to kick around the football a few times a month may be the German’s greatest accomplishment in his short time at Anfield and in the long run will prove invaluable going forward. Which, it goes without saying, is now the challenge facing this side.
Celebrations will be short lived; a meeting with Rubin Kazan on Thursday brings a hard trip to Russia in the Europa League for the Reds before we head back to the Capital on the weekend for a showdown with Crystal Palace. That’s a conversation for another day though; talking about the pile of work that still needs to be done, other mountains that need to be traversed and other housekeeping items can wait. It’s Saturday night and we just crushed Chelsea — that’s more than enough reasons to raise a glass or two.