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Chelsea came from behind to earn a vital three points in the Barclays Premier League title race with a 2-1 triumph over rivals Liverpool.
Martin Skrtel had put Brendan Rodgers' men ahead at Stamford Bridge inside five minutes, but first-half strikes from Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto'o secured a fourth consecutive home success for Chelsea to give their title hopes a boost.
Liverpool, who had only lost once in their previous six outings at Stamford Bridge, stormed out of the blocks and took the lead via Skrtel's close-range finish. But Chelsea were ahead before half-time, with a wonderful curling effort from Hazard and Eto'o's side-footed strike from six yards turning things around. Both sides had opportunities in a lively second period, but it was Chelsea who emerged victorious with Jose Mourinho's men, who sit third in the table, closing the gap on leaders Arsenal to two points, while Liverpool lie fifth after back-to-back top-flight defeats.
Frank Lampard replaced the suspended Ramires in one of four changes for Chelsea, while Liverpool named Daniel Agger in place of Aly Cissokho.
Liverpool were awarded an early free-kick when Eto'o upended Jordan Henderson. From the resulting set-piece, Suarez's header was only partially blocked by Branislav Ivanovic and Skrtel reacted quickest to tap home the loose ball from close range.
Chelsea almost had an immediate response when Simon Mignolet saved Hazard's initial effort but the ball deflected goalwards and required Glen Johnson to clear. The hosts continued to attack and the pressure finally paid dividends after 17 minutes. Oscar drove at the defence and his intercepted pass fell kindly for Hazard, who curled expertly into the top corner.
The home fans were celebrating again on 34 minutes as Eto'o completed the turnaround. Oscar was the architect again, crossing low into the six-yard box, where Eto'o squeezed the ball beyond Mignolet’s right hand.
Searching for a swift response after the break, Liverpool almost levelled when Mamadou Sakho's looping header rebounded off the crossbar. After surviving that scare, Chelsea almost extended their lead after 54 minutes as Eto'o collected Hazard's through-ball and forced Mignolet into a near-post save.
Oscar flashed an effort wide of the far post, while at the other end Petr Cech had to be on his guard to parry Johnson's low, left-foot drive. Liverpool made claims for a penalty when Suarez fell under pressure from Eto'o but referee Howard Webb waved them away as Chelsea held on for the win.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: "It was a big win, big opponent, big match and big respect to every player in this country because I love it, you love it, people around the world love it and the accumulation of matches is amazing.
“This was a big game; from the first to the last minute there was doubt about the result, everybody giving 100%. There was some good quality football and big emotion.
“We deserved to win because they did nothing to score the first goal. After that our reaction in the first half was fantastic. In the second half we defended well, they hit the post with Sakho, we had some counter attack situations where we could have killed the game with Eto'o, Torres and Hazard, but we didn't and it was hard until the last minute, but we deserved it.
'We knew before the game if we didn't win the distance to the leader was big because Arsenal had just won. Everything accumulated; fatigue, Ramires not playing, Mikel with flu, plus the injuries we had in the first half. All of this together makes me very happy with the level of their game.”
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: “It was always going to be a tough schedule for us, even if we had everyone fit, because of the squad being so thin. But I can only give credit to the players.
"Today, we showed moments of the quality we've shown throughout the course of the year and this season. We were unfortunate with the first goal, and the second one was a poor goal from our perspective.
"It shows you, even with the group we had, to keep the game so tight and I'm sure Chelsea are very happy with the win, everything about the determination and the will I have in the squad. We're disappointed with the result, but we have taken on two squads that are some of the strongest in Europe. For us, it demonstrates again the work we have to do.
"It's open. What I'm looking forward to is the second half of the season; we have to play every team except Manchester United at home. It's still very much open. On Christmas Day, we were top of the league; a few days and games later, we're fifth. I think that's the way it will go between now and the end of the season."
|01 Jan 2014||v Southampton (A)|
|11 Jan 2014||v Hull (A)|
|19 Jan 2014||v Man Utd (H)|
|29 Jan 2014||v West Ham (H)|
|03 Feb 2014||v Man City (A)|
|08 Feb 2014||v Newcastle (H)|