Anelka (right) produced a controlled finish to score Chelsea's opener
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at Stamford Bridge
Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda sent Chelsea back to the top of the Premier League as their second-half goals gave Carlo Ancelotti's side a deserved victory over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
The enigmatic Didier Drogba - who mixed theatrics with threat in an encounter that was competitive rather than compelling - won the battle of the strikers with Liverpool's Fernando Torres to make decisive contributions and set up Chelsea's win.
Drogba, who infuriated Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez with his antics when coming into contact with opposing defenders, set up former Liverpool striker Anelka for a simple close-range finish on the hour to break the deadlock.
And in injury time he made light of the presence of Jamie Carragher and Fabio Aurelio to slide in another cross for substitute Malouda to seal the win.
Chelsea boss Ancelotti's usually impassive mask slipped in a wild touchline celebration, acknowledging the significance of beating a Liverpool side expected to be a serious threat to their Premier League ambitions, plus the importance of reacting swiftly to the shock defeat at Wigan.
And it was all done without suspended keeper Petr Cech, with his replacement Hilario distinguishing himself when called upon.
For Liverpool and manager Benitez, defeat capped a disappointing week after they slumped against Fiorentina in the Champions League on Tuesday.
The Reds threatened only occasionally, with Torres subdued by a magnificent performance from Chelsea and England captain John Terry, who repelled any danger that came his side's way.
Ancelotti pleased with important win
Substitute Yossi Benayoun missed the visitors' best chance, but that came after Malouda had doubled Chelsea's advantage, with Hilario also clawing away Steven Gerrard's 20-yard drive in the closing stages.
It was Liverpool's third league defeat of the season, eclipsing the number of losses they had in their entire campaign last term, and Benitez has much to ponder in the international break as they failed to rise to a vital occasion.
Emotions could not be more contrasting for counterpart Ancelotti, who will see his reputation at Stamford Bridge enhanced after the Blues ultimately out-manoeuvred their opponents.
Liverpool's midfield was strengthened by the return of Javier Mascherano after injury - and he played a crucial role in protecting his defence in a scrappy, niggly opening period.
Lampard (right) challenges former Chelsea defender Glen Johnson
Torres set the tone early on with a nasty challenge that floored Terry, then Michael Essien was fortunate not to connect with a reckless lunge at Mascherano, although the Argentine did himself little credit with a dramatic collapse.
The home side's best hope of a breakthrough looked to be via the aerial route, with Drogba and Anelka both having headers comfortably collected by Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina.
And Michael Ballack should have done better than head Deco's free-kick off target at the near post after he escaped the attentions of the Liverpool defence.
Chelsea had exerted a small measure of supremacy as the half wore on, but Liverpool's threat was still in evidence. Torres wasted a clear opportunity when he headed Dirk Kuyt's cross straight at Hilario.
And the stand-in keeper came to Chelsea's rescue on the stroke of half-time when he reacted late to Albert Riera's 30-yard free-kick but managed to dive low to his right to turn it around the post.
Frank Lampard had been a peripheral presence, but he made a crucial contribution as Chelsea took a lead they just about deserved on the hour.
Mistakes cost us - Benitez
He turned the tables on Mascherano by robbing the combative midfield man in possession and fed Deco. Deco in turn found Drogba, whose cross provided an open invitation for Anelka to turn a finish high past Reina from point-blank range.
It was Drogba at his menacing best, but the striker spent too much time reverting to his bad old ways, throwing himself to the ground - and staying there - even though contact had been minimal at best.
When he did stay on his feet he was, as always, a huge threat and Reina was grateful to see his angled low free-kick swerve narrowly wide from 25 yards.
The goal at least impressed on Liverpool the urgency of attempting to trouble the Chelsea goal, and Torres scuffed a presentable opportunity wide with 10 minutes left after Gerrard drove into the penalty area.
Drogba again demonstrated his power and threat as Chelsea wrapped up the points in injury time, dismissing the presence of Carragher and Aurelio to set up Malouda for the simplest of finishes.
90:00+4:14 Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Fabio Aurelio from the left by-line to the near post, clearance by John Terry.
90:00+4:04 Steven Gerrard takes a shot. Henrique Hilario makes a save.
90:00+3:13 Nicolas Anelka delivers the ball, Jamie Carragher makes a clearance.
90:00+2:45 Foul by Javier Mascherano on Didier Drogba, free kick awarded. Frank Lampard takes the direct free kick.
90:00+1:58 Yossi Benayoun has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the left of the goal.
90:00+0:55 Assist on the goal came from Didier Drogba.
90:00+0:55 GOAL - Florent Malouda:Chelsea 2 - 0 Liverpool Florent Malouda gets on the score sheet with a goal from close range to the bottom right corner of the goal. Chelsea 2-0 Liverpool.
90:00+0:53 Didier Drogba delivers the ball,
89:58 Javier Mascherano concedes a free kick for a foul on Michael Essien. Free kick taken by Frank Lampard.
88:30 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Branislav Ivanovic by Fernando Torres. Direct free kick taken by Henrique Hilario.
86:30 Effort from a long way out by Nicolas Anelka goes wide right of the target.
86:02 The ball is swung over by Glen Johnson, save by Henrique Hilario.
85:50 The ball is crossed by Fabio Aurelio, save made by Henrique Hilario.
85:44 The ball is crossed by Fabio Aurelio.
85:31 The ball is swung over by Fabio Aurelio, John Terry manages to make a clearance.
83:00 Outswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Florent Malouda, Ricardo Carvalho takes a shot. Save made by Jose Reina.
82:40 Substitution Fabio Aurelio joins the action as a substitute, replacing Emiliano Insua.
81:49 The ball is delivered by Glen Johnson.
80:39 Shot by Fernando Torres from deep inside the penalty area misses wide to the left of the target.
80:26 The ball is swung over by Emiliano Insua.
80:07 A cross is delivered by Dirk Kuyt, Branislav Ivanovic manages to make a clearance.
78:27 Effort on goal by Dirk Kuyt from outside the area goes harmlessly over the bar.
78:04 Yossi Benayoun delivers the ball, Branislav Ivanovic makes a clearance.
77:48 Fernando Torres decides to take the corner short.
76:25 Strike on goal comes in from Didier Drogba from the free kick.
76:25 Booking Steven Gerrard receives a yellow card.
76:18 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Frank Lampard by Steven Gerrard.
75:47 Substitution Ryan Babel comes on in place of Leiva Lucas.
75:23 Substitution Florent Malouda comes on in place of Deco.
75:05 A cross is delivered by Glen Johnson, Headed effort from inside the area by Fernando Torres misses to the left of the goal.
74:50 Free kick awarded for a foul by Didier Drogba on Martin Skrtel. Direct free kick taken by Leiva Lucas.
74:31 Fernando Torres sends in a cross, clearance by John Terry.
73:11 Glen Johnson takes a shot from just outside the penalty area which clears the crossbar.
72:51 Javier Mascherano delivers the ball, clearance made by John Terry.
72:46 The ball is swung over by Steven Gerrard.
71:39 Didier Drogba fouled by Dirk Kuyt, the ref awards a free kick. Ashley Cole takes the direct free kick.
70:28 Steven Gerrard takes the inswinging corner, Frank Lampard makes a clearance.
66:46 Free kick awarded for a foul by Nicolas Anelka on Jamie Carragher. Javier Mascherano takes the direct free kick.
66:05 Substitution Yossi Benayoun replaces Albert Riera.
63:17 Dirk Kuyt produces a cross, Ashley Cole makes a clearance.
62:14 Emiliano Insua gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Michael Ballack. The ball is sent over by Frank Lampard,
Didier Drogba takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina.
61:00 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Didier Drogba by Javier Mascherano. Free kick taken by Henrique Hilario.
59:15 Assist on the goal came from Didier Drogba.
59:15 GOAL - Nicolas Anelka:Chelsea 1 - 0 Liverpool Nicolas Anelka finds the net with a goal from inside the six-yard box high into the middle of the goal. Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool.
59:13 The ball is swung over by Didier Drogba,
58:09 Branislav Ivanovic concedes a free kick for a foul on Steven Gerrard. Direct free kick taken by Jamie Carragher.
57:44 Deco delivers the ball, Martin Skrtel makes a clearance.
57:21 A cross is delivered by Glen Johnson, Michael Ballack makes a clearance.
56:37 Michael Ballack challenges Albert Riera unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick crossed right-footed by Steven Gerrard
from left wing, save by Henrique Hilario.
55:19 Unfair challenge on Michael Ballack by Albert Riera results in a free kick. Branislav Ivanovic takes the direct free kick.
54:37 Free kick awarded for a foul by Michael Essien on Javier Mascherano. Jose Reina takes the direct free kick.
53:44 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Frank Lampard, clearance by Martin Skrtel.
49:50 Branislav Ivanovic takes a shot. Save made by Jose Reina.
49:42 Nicolas Anelka produces a cross, clearance by Jamie Carragher.
49:10 Effort from just outside the box by Steven Gerrard goes over the bar.
48:17 Unfair challenge on Fernando Torres by Branislav Ivanovic results in a free kick. The free kick is delivered right-footed
by Steven Gerrard from left channel, Henrique Hilario makes a save.
47:08 Dirk Kuyt crosses the ball, Headed effort from the edge of the area by Steven Gerrard goes wide of the right-hand post.
45:01 The match restarts for the second half.
45:00+1:43 It is the end of the first-half.
45:00+1:10 Corner taken by Frank Lampard from the left by-line, Branislav Ivanovic concedes a free kick for a foul on Jose Reina. Direct
free kick taken by Jose Reina.
45:00+0:32 Leiva Lucas is ruled offside. Free kick taken by Henrique Hilario.
45:00+0:19 Corner taken left-footed by Albert Riera to the near post, clearance by Ashley Cole.
44:51 Steven Gerrard takes a inswinging corner to the near post, clearance made by Didier Drogba.
43:40 Albert Riera produces a strike on goal direct from the free kick, Henrique Hilario makes a save.
43:40 Booking Michael Essien receives a caution for unsporting behaviour.
43:36 Michael Essien gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Leiva Lucas.
42:37 Dirk Kuyt challenges Ashley Cole unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Ashley Cole.
41:13 Deco fouled by Javier Mascherano, the ref awards a free kick. Frank Lampard takes the direct free kick. Branislav Ivanovic
sends in a cross, clearance by Glen Johnson. A cross is delivered by Michael Ballack, Jamie Carragher manages to make a clearance.
39:51 Outswinging corner taken by Frank Lampard.
39:28 Dirk Kuyt sends in a cross, Fernando Torres takes a shot. Save by Henrique Hilario.
39:16 Nicolas Anelka delivers the ball, Jose Reina makes a save.
38:58 Free kick awarded for a foul by Javier Mascherano on Deco. Direct free kick taken by Frank Lampard.
38:15 Michael Essien takes a shot. Jose Reina makes a save.
37:53 Outswinging corner taken by Frank Lampard from the right by-line.
36:04 Didier Drogba fouled by Leiva Lucas, the ref awards a free kick. Shot comes in from Frank Lampard from the free kick.
35:12 Emiliano Insua sends in a cross, clearance by John Terry.
33:05 Jamie Carragher challenges Didier Drogba unfairly and gives away a free kick. Deco sends in a cross, Michael Ballack produces
a header from deep inside the six-yard box that clears the crossbar.
32:40 Free kick awarded for a foul by Fernando Torres on Ashley Cole. Ashley Cole takes the free kick.
31:50 Javier Mascherano challenges Deco unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Frank Lampard.
31:07 Corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard from the left by-line to the near post, Fernando Torres concedes a free kick for
a foul on Didier Drogba. Henrique Hilario takes the free kick.
28:49 Unfair challenge on Fernando Torres by Branislav Ivanovic results in a free kick. Steven Gerrard shoots direct from the free
27:44 Michael Essien delivers the ball, Nicolas Anelka takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina.
25:15 Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard played to the near post, Branislav Ivanovic makes a clearance.
25:03 Steven Gerrard crosses the ball, John Terry gets a block in.
24:04 Centre by Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba takes a shot. Jose Reina makes a save.
22:05 The official flags Fernando Torres offside. Branislav Ivanovic restarts play with the free kick.
18:51 Shot from just outside the area by Albert Riera goes over the bar.
17:28 The ball is delivered by Deco, clearance made by Jamie Carragher.
16:37 Nicolas Anelka sends in a cross, clearance made by Jamie Carragher.
16:29 The ball is sent over by Didier Drogba.
13:47 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Fernando Torres by John Terry. Direct free kick taken by Leiva Lucas.
12:12 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on John Terry by Fernando Torres. Henrique Hilario takes the direct free kick.
12:06 A cross is delivered by Steven Gerrard, clearance by John Terry.
10:34 Deco challenges Jamie Carragher unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Jose Reina.
8:51 Unfair challenge on Steven Gerrard by Michael Ballack results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Javier Mascherano.
7:07 Foul by Deco on Leiva Lucas, free kick awarded. Martin Skrtel restarts play with the free kick.
6:39 The ball is swung over by Glen Johnson, save by Henrique Hilario.
5:02 The ball is crossed by Steven Gerrard, clearance made by Ricardo Carvalho.
4:51 Steven Gerrard produces a cross, clearance by John Terry.
4:28 Steven Gerrard sends in a cross, John Terry makes a clearance.
3:56 Steven Gerrard takes a inswinging corner from the left by-line played to the near post, clearance by Branislav Ivanovic.
3:29 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Dirk Kuyt by Michael Essien. Direct free kick taken by Steven Gerrard.
0:00 The match gets underway.
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