Saturday 16 December 2017

John Terry's season in doubt as Suarez adds to Chelsea's woes with Liverpool leveller

Chelsea 1
Liverpool 1

John Terry lies in agony on the ground after picking up a injury in a collision with Liverpool's Luis Suarez
John Terry lies in agony on the ground after picking up a injury in a collision with Liverpool's Luis Suarez

Football can be such a fickle creature at times. One moment John Terry was celebrating his return from suspension with a goal, blowing kisses to the Chelsea fans, relishing the homage of those who laud him as "captain, leader, legend."

The next Terry was writhing on the cold unforgiving turf, brought to earth in painful fashion, his season thrown into doubt. The sound of Terry's piercing scream and the sight of Chelsea's medical team being scrambled said it all about the seriousness of his knee injury.

Terry himself had set in motion the train of events that led to such distress. Ten minutes from the break, the centre-half's clearance was picked off by Steven Gerrard, who invited Luis Suarez to run at goal.

Ramires intervened, seeking to regain possession, but managing only to push Suarez on to Terry, whose right knee bent back. However much it may disappoint those who like to link all the assorted plot-lines of the mad Premier League soap opera the Suarez-Terry collision was pure accident.


Roberto di Matteo leaned over to comfort Terry as his stricken captain was borne past the dugout. Chelsea have cover at centre-half and Di Matteo can perm two from Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill and David Luiz, but Terry's leadership qualities will be missed.

Whatever his obvious shortcomings as a human being, Terry remains an important player for Chelsea. Those of Terry's many detractors, taking instantly to the social-media airwaves, considering toasting his injury with a glass of schadenfreude, should think again. The sight of any player being incapacitated is no cause for celebration.

This was a bitty, scrappy, disjointed match, lacking some of the epic intensity of recent confrontations between the sides. Suarez and Jose Enrique were good for the visitors and Brendan Rodgers reminded any doubters of his managerial abilities by changing the game's destiny with his second-half changes -- but this was not a classic.

After the well-observed minute's silence for Remembrance Day, the usual rules of rancour re-applied. Chelsea supporters enquired acidly as to whether Steven Gerrard had ever won the league. Liverpool fans jeered Fernando Torres. They also made a point about the game's rampant commercialism and ticket prices, holding up banners "against mod£rn football" and "football without fans is nothing."

The focus was soon on the pitch, with Terry to the fore. Rodgers had tweaked his system, going three at the back with Glen Johnson and Enrique as ersatz wing-backs, but they needed more work at Melwood on defending corners. When the initially lively Torres won a corner off Enrique, Chelsea delivered a set-piece special, involving Terry cleverly eluding Daniel Agger by ushering his marker into traffic.

This was one lion's den that Daniel could not escape unscathed.

As Juan Mata swung over the corner, Terry was on the move, darting to his right as Johnson and Ivanovic drifted across, tangled together like ill-suited dancing partners. Agger was caught out by Terry's manoeuvre, the Dane unable to recover and find a way around the rolling Johnson-Ivanovic road-block. Enjoying the freedom of the Liverpool area, the unmarked, untroubled Terry headed powerfully in.

Cahill stepped into the defence alongside Ivanovic (with Luiz absent with tonsillitis). Chelsea were largely in control. Torres was denied by Brad Jones, Mata shot over after elegantly bamboozling Liverpool's defence, but the visitors' cohesion and threat levels improved after the break.

The new mood was embodied by Raheem Sterling, who stole the ball off Mata, glided past Oscar and accelerated into Chelsea's half only to be upended by John Obi Mikel.

Chelsea still menaced. Joe Allen hauled down Torres. Johnson was cautioned for fouling Oscar. Jones pushed away a Torres header.

Liverpool's attempt to regain some momentum seemed to be damaged when Gerrard opened up his medial knee ligaments, according to Rodgers, but he eventually continued. Rodgers indicated that Gerrard was fit enough to report for England duty today, although he is unlikely to train at Manchester United's Carrington base later. Roy Hodgson's squad fly out to Stockholm tomorrow for Wednesday's friendly with Sweden when Gerrard is scheduled to win his 100th cap.

Liverpool will not want Gerrard to aggravate any problem by rushing into an understandably emotional occasion with England. The midfielder remains a talismanic force for Liverpool, second only to Suarez in importance.

Liverpool's reliance on the Uruguayan was again highlighted after 71 minutes when his savvy movement, slyness and predatory instincts were all seen. As Suso bent in a corner, Jamie Carragher flicked a header towards the far-post and there was Suarez, having pushed Ramires out of the way, heading in. Suarez celebrated by shouting his delight down a camera into a million living rooms.

It needs noting that Liverpool had benefited from Rodgers' decision to alter his system, reverting to a back-four, moving Johnson to left-back and pushing Enrique on. Suso had replaced the largely anonymous Nuri Sahin.

Liverpool looked far more balanced, far more designed to attack. Gerrard and Sterling combined to set up Suso who missed. Suarez, reviving the spirit of Xabi Alonso, tried to catch Petr Cech off his line, but narrowly failed. Suarez, who was triggering the offside flag too often, then timed his run perfectly, racing through but was thwarted by Cech. Minutes later, the South American railed at the assistant referee, Darren Cann, for an offside flag. Cann, who has officiated in Champions League and World Cup finals, was right. He usually is.

Liverpool almost stole all the points when Enrique found himself in space down the inside-left channel, but again Cech stood firm. The final whistle was greeted with more glee by Liverpool than Chelsea, who need to regain their earlier brio. (© Daily Telegraph, London).

Irish Independent

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