Chelsea threw the Barclays Premier League title race wide open after Demba Ba’s first-half strike and an added-time goal by Willian sealed a 2-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield.
Steven Gerrard will rue his part in the opening goal after he slipped while attempting to control a pass from Mamadou Sakho in first-half stoppage time, allowing Ba to burst clear on goal and guide the ball beyond the Simon Mignolet from 18 yards.
The hosts, whose attacking prowess had been integral to an 11-match winning run prior to this contest, were unable to find a reply and Willian added a late second for Chelsea after he and fellow substitute Fernando Torres had been left two-on-one with Mignolet.
Liverpool are now just two points clear of the west Londoners at the top of the table, while the result also provides a huge boost to third-placed Manchester City's hopes of catching Brendan Rodgers' side.
Visiting manager Jose Mourinho left defender Gary Cahill and Willian on the bench and handed a Barclays Premier League debut to 20-year-old defender Tomas Kalas. With Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic screening the back four, Chelsea were set up with the objective of frustrating their opponents and the gameplan worked perfectly as Liverpool struggled to create any clear-cut opportunities, despite enjoying a greater share of possession.
As a result, the leaders drew a blank for the first time in 26 Barclays Premier League matches and were condemned to their maiden top-flight defeat in 2014, having last been beaten in December's reverse meeting with the Blues.
Ashley Cole fired an early warning shot for the visitors in the sixth minute, with a fizzing 25-yard effort that Mignolet parried away low to his left, while Philippe Coutinho volleyed into the side-netting from a tight angle at the other end.
Cole was involved again in the 14th minute, this time clearing off the line after the ball had ricocheted off Mikel, before Sakho scooped Luis Suarez's driven ball over the crossbar from six yards out.
The hosts continued to enjoy the greater share of possession and Suarez curled an effort a yard over the bar from the edge of the box four minutes before the interval.
For all Liverpool's dominance, they fell behind in the third minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half. Moments after Kalas had glanced a free header wide from a corner, Gerrard's slip allowed Ba to race clear and the Senegalese striker kept his cool to slot underneath Mignolet.
Liverpool tested Mark Schwarzer for the first time in the 59th minute, the Australian getting down low to his left to keep out Joe Allen's first-time volley from just outside the area.
Andre Schurrle brought a similar stop out of Mignolet three minutes later, while Gerrard saw an effort from distance comfortably held by Schwarzer.
The Merseysiders continued to press hard for an equaliser, Schwarzer tipping Suarez's rasping drive over the bar in stoppage time, but as the hosts pushed on they were left exposed at the back and Willian had the simple task of finding an empty net after Torres' unselfish square ball.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: "Jose's happy to work that way, to play that way, and he'll probably shove his CV in front of me and say it works, but it's not my way of working.
"I like to take the initiative in games, try to dominate and let players express themselves. Our game is based on [being] offensive, being creative, as opposed to stopping.
"It [Chelsea's approach] is a defensive style, the polar opposite to how we work, and hopefully over time our offensive mentality and aggression will get us long-term results.
"It's not difficult to coach to put 10 players right on your 18-yard box but it's much harder to try and break through it and they defended it well.
"We were the team that wanted to win the game. It was difficult because they played with a back six right from the off.
"We found it difficult to break them down, but it wasn't nerves. It was just that final ball and maybe that bit of luck that we needed so we're obviously disappointed with the result."
Chelsea manager Jose Mouirinho: "The best team won. The team that deserved to win, won. Simple, in my opinion.
"Defensive display? I'm a bit confused with what the media thinks about defensive displays. When a team defends well you call it a defensive display. The team played brilliantly, every player was magnificent, no mistakes. I think it was a fantastic performance by my players.
"We have no chance [of winning the Barclays Premier League title]. We were waiting for this match to be the title match, we were speaking about it for a long time but for some reason this match didn't become the title match so today was three important points and we need one more to finish third.
"If we finish third we are in the Champions League automatically but now we can say we won both matches against the champions. If it's Liverpool, we won both. If it's City, we won both.
"The champions will be City or Liverpool so we have nothing to celebrate.
"Obviously many people would be expecting us to come here and lose 3-0 or 5-0 like others. Many people think it was impossible to get this result, but the boys had an amazing performance so I'm so happy for them and for the fans. This is the spirit we always want at Chelsea football club."
|05 May 2014||v Crystal Palace (A)|
|11 May 2014||v Newcastle (H)|
|31 Aug 2014||v Spurs (A)|
|13 Sep 2014||v Liverpool (H)|
|20 Sep 2014||v West Ham (A)|
|27 Sep 2014||v Liverpool (H)|