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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 January 2007, 14:37 GMT
Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea
By Phil McNulty

Dirk Kuyt
Dirk Kuyt is congratulated after Liverpool's opener against Chelsea
Liverpool dented Chelsea's Premiership title challenge in impressive style.

Dirk Kuyt took advantage of Peter Crouch's touch to put the skids under injury-hit Chelsea after three minutes.

Jermaine Pennant's brilliant dipping volley effectively sealed the points for Liverpool after 17 minutes in boss Rafa Benitez's 100th league game.

Chelsea staged a minor recovery after the break, but Liverpool could have added a third as John Arne Riise struck the bar with a long-range drive.

606 DEBATE: Give your thoughts on the match

The defeat leaves Chelsea six points behind Manchester United - who visit Arsenal on Sunday - and puts Liverpool only five points behind Jose Mourinho's troubled champions.

Chelsea were able to recall keeper Petr Cech after three months out with a serious skull fracture, but suffered a blow after it was revealed defender Ricardo Carvalho was out after being taken ill overnight.

John Terry was still sidelined with a back inury, and with Claude Makelele suspended, Liverpool's furious opening salvo was predictable.

And it reaped a reward after only three minutes when the makeshift central defensive partnership of Paulo Ferreira and Michael Essien was ruthlessly exposed.

Jamie Carragher's long ball was touched on by Crouch, and Kuyt eased his way past Ferreira to side-foot a composed finish past Cech.

And the Czech keeper demonstrated his value to Chelsea three minutes later with a brilliant block from Riise.

But Chelsea, a shambles from the start, did not survive for long and Pennant doubled Liverpool's lead in spectacular fashion.

Pennant, who has struggled to make an impact since his summer move from Birmingham City, took aim as the ball sat up perfectly and sent a stunning dipping volley beyond the outstretched arm of Cech.

Chelsea's day got worse after 20 minutes, when Arjen Robben - who had twisted his ankle in an earlier challenge - limped off to be replaced by Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Liverpool were comfortably in command throughout the rest of the half, and despite faint signs of a Chelsea recovery in the early stages of the second period, it was Benitez's side who looked more likely to add to their lead.

Crouch headed tamely at Cech when he should have done better, and he was slow to react when a Riise thunderbolt rattled back off the bar on the hour.

Despite Chelsea's struggles, it still took Mourinho until 17 minutes from time to introduce 30m misfit Andriy Shevchenko at the expense of the anonymous Mikel Jon Obi.

It was too late to make an impact and Liverpool took the points their performance richly deserved.

  • Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho:
    "There were definitely mistakes with people not adapting to their positions.

    "I was waiting for 15 or 20 minutes to go by with no goals conceded and the confidence arriving. But when the team is very fragile on the pitch and mentally not so self confident it is difficult.

    "In the second half I think we played better but Liverpool defended well and were full of confidence. They knew they could be adventurous because our defensive line is fragile."

  • Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:
    "We have three more points and I'm really happy with the situation. We have Man United and Arsenal at home, we have confidence and we are playing well."

    "I was confident when I saw my team sheet. I thought we did a very good job and deserved to win.

    "We played well. I don't know if it was because they had problems but we played well."

    Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Riise, Pennant, Gerrard, Alonso, Aurelio, Crouch (Bellamy 85), Kuyt (Gonzalez 90).
    Subs Not Used: Dudek, Hyypia, Fowler.

    Goals: Kuyt 4, Pennant 18.

    Chelsea: Cech, Geremi, Ferreira, Essien, Ashley Cole, Lampard, Ballack, Mikel (Shevchenko 73), Robben (Wright-Phillips 21), Drogba, Kalou.
    Subs Not Used: Hilario, Diarra, Morais.

    Booked: Ferreira.

    Att: 44,245

    Ref: R Styles (Hampshire).

    Saturday's football photos
    20 Jan 07 |  Football


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