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The day Liverpool's title dream died against Chelsea

By Vincent Ashitey
The day Liverpool's title dream died against Chelsea

Liverpool against Chelsea is a 21st-century rivalry that has produced countless epic games. Few have had the drama, though, of the Anfield clash on April 27, 2014 when the Premier League title was on the line.

Brendan Rodgers' side looked set to become champions but this would prove to be the day a dream died. Sportsmail talks to those involved.

THE BUILD UP

Liverpool were top, having won 11 consecutive games, and had been blowing teams away with their electric starts. Such was the fervour, a trend started of fans gathering on Anfield Road to welcome the coach and, on this particular day, thousands lined the streets in expectation.

Chelsea, meanwhile, were third with an outside chance of overhauling their bitter foes but this fixture was sandwiched in between a Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid and they had wanted it switched from Sunday afternoon to Saturday evening to have more recovery time.

Broadcasters Sky were open to the idea but the Premier League ruled it out without consulting Liverpool. As a result, Jose Mourinho went into war mode. He claimed his club had been shown a lack of respect and vowed to make wholesale changes.

LUCAS LEIVA, Liverpool midfielder:

The confidence we had at the time was so, so high. The fans couldn't wait for the game. I remember being on the bus and seeing all the fans, with the flags and the scarves. Some of the boys videoed it on their phones because it was so spectacular, one of the best I have seen. We knew a win would be a big step to the title.

MARK SCHWARZER, Chelsea goalkeeper:

It felt like we were going to a carnival, there were swarms of people in red all over the place. The boys were talking about it on the bus and it felt like the fans believed they had won the game already.

Another thing they were talking about was fireworks. We stayed at Formby Hall, a nearby golf resort, and some Liverpool fans had set fireworks off during the night to try to disrupt us. It made no difference to me. I can sleep through anything!

THE GAME

Liverpool had a selection problem as Jordan Henderson was serving a suspension. There was another big doubt, however. Unbeknown to many, Steven Gerrard had a back injury that was so serious he needed an epidural to numb the pain and get through the game.

Mourinho, meanwhile, was also 'a doubt'. He had come down with a virus that prevented him travelling with the squad to Merseyside. Still, he picked a team that included young players Mohamed Salah and Tomas Kalas, who was making his debut.

MARTIN TYLER, Sky Commentary:

'The top line is that a Liverpool win and Chelsea cannot catch them.'

SCHWARZER: We barely saw Jose beforehand. He came up in a car on his own as he didn't want to infect anyone. He only did 10 minutes with us in the team meeting, Rui Faria talked us through the set pieces.

Jose told us that everyone thought it was a foregone conclusion we would lose and it was up to us to prove them wrong. He wanted us to frustrate them from the first minute. I know many Liverpool fans didn't like it but that is sport. The tactics were spot on.

JORDAN HENDERSON, Liverpool midfielder:

I was on edge big time, sitting in the stands. I could sense it with the crowd, too, when Chelsea started wasting time in the first few minutes. It wasn’t nice to watch. I never like to watch anyway, I’m more nervous watching than when I’m actually on the pitch. Chelsea went to do a job and they did it.

THE KEY MOMENT

Little had happened in the game other than a few long range shots but Liverpool's failure to score early created palpable tension. Mourinho loved it and held the ball away from Gerrard and Jon Flanagan at one point when they tried to take a quick throw in. In the 45th minute Gerrard lost his footing as he gathered a pass from Mamadou Sakho.

TYLER: 'Oh and Gerrard has slipped! Demba Ba is in here… out comes Simon Mignolet but Ba punishes — of all people — Steven Gerrard! It's a terrific moment for Chelsea but an awful one for Liverpool's skipper!'

STEVEN GERRARD: Don't think (the epidural) is an excuse for what happened. Not at all. What happened was just a pure bad stroke of luck for myself. That's why it was cruel. I haven't lost my man at a set piece. I haven't missed a penalty. I haven't made a bad pass.

Every single person on the planet slips at some point, whether it is on a set of stairs, on the floor or whatever, but it happened on the pitch at a really bad moment. I've went through the pain in the dressing room after and in the weeks and months after it. It was the worst day of my life.

SCHWARZER: It wasn't even a mistake from Steven. He took his eye off the ball at his first touch, all he was trying to do was make a quick movement and play his pass. There is no questioning Steve's ability as a footballer but things like that are never nice to see.

Liverpool became more frustrated as they tried to comeback and the atmosphere drained away. Gerrard had five shots in the second half, Suarez had one but the play was chaotic and summed up when substitute Iago Aspas took a short corner and gave it straight to Willian in injury time, enabling Chelsea to break.

TYLER: 'If they play this right, it's going to be a 2-0 win at Anfield… and it is Willian who can wrap it up for Jose Mourinho!

'The classic counterpunch at the end of each half! The master has rained on the apprentice's parade.'

THE AFTERMATH

Mourinho headed down the tunnel before the final whistle and revelled in the moment, shouting 'You thought they were sending the clowns!' to Liverpool officials.

He was criticised for his tactics — Rodgers said he had 'parked two buses' in the press conference — and responded by mimicking blowing germs to those asking questions.

The desolation in Liverpool's dressing room was obvious and was exacerbated by Manchester City winning at Crystal Palace. A private plane had been booked to take the squad down to London for the PFA Player of the Year Award, which Suarez had won, but many ended up staying on Merseyside.

CESAR AZPILICUETA, Chelsea defender:

We arrived with a very clear idea and played the game we had to. They were getting good results and smashing everyone, so to beat that team 2-0 was a very important win for the club, for the fans. Everyone enjoyed it and hopefully we can replicate it on Sunday.

HENDERSON: We went to Palace ourselves the following week. We were so much in control of the game and then we conceded three to draw the game, which was horrible. I try to use that time as an experience and try to help the lads in the best way I can.

LUCAS: Chelsea came not to lose and, slowly, they frustrated us. I will be in Rome on Sunday (Lazio play Milan on Saturday night) but I know the lads have a big chance again to win the title.

When I left two years ago, I was 100 per cent sure Liverpool would win important things. I hope they do it this time because they deserve it.

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Credit: Dailymail