Chelsea hit Liverpool's Barclays Premier League title hopes at Anfield for a second straight season after a 2-1 win on Saturday. Brendan Rodgers' side came into the game looking to banish the memories of last term's corresponding fixture, Steven Gerrard's slip and the defeat which halted their trophy charge. But again they came out second best as Gary Cahill and Diego Costa overturned Emre Can's first Liverpool goal and Chelsea moved a daunting 15 points clear of the Merseysiders.
Gerrard, Mario Balotelli and Jordan Henderson were recalled after being omitted from the starting line-up for the UEFA Champions League match with Real Madrid, but it was the only change from last week’s BPL defeat by Newcastle United, Can, who put the hosts ahead early on with an effort that deflected in off Cahill.
The England man, against whom twice claims for handball in the Chelsea area were dismissed, atoned just five minutes later, bundling home despite Simon Mignolet's best efforts.
Jose Mourinho's approach was much more attacking than the April smash-and-grab, a reward coming after 67 minutes as Liverpool were punished by Costa's clinical finish.
Chelsea have taken five points from a possible nine away to Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool to underline their credentials as favourites for the Barclays Premier League this season.
Can was one of just three outfield players retained from the Madrid fixture and gave Liverpool a ninth-minute lead thanks to a sizeable nick off Cahill. But Cahill quickly had Chelsea level, reacting quickest to prod towards goal after Mignolet had denied John Terry from a corner, with Goal Decision Technology confirming the Belgian had carried the ball over the line.
A high-charged atmosphere was ramped up as claims for a Cahill handball in the penalty area were waved away before Costa introduced himself to the contest by shoving Martin Skrtel towards an onrushing Mignolet, earning a warning from referee Anthony Taylor.
A semblance of composure returned to the game but Chelsea looked increasingly dangerous on the break, especially behind the adventurous Alberto Moreno at left-back for Liverpool, as they built pressure prior to the interval.
The second period began at a much more sedate tempo, Costa's wayward overhead effort and Thibaut Courtois's save from Raheem Sterling representing rare flashpoints. But Chelsea exposed Liverpool’s right to go into the lead. Substitute Willian found Cesar Azpilicueta on the left, with Glen Johnson out of position, and Philippe Coutinho did little to halt the Spaniard's progress to the byline. Azpilicueta's cut-back was only deflected by Mignolet to Costa who powered home his 10th league goal of the season.
With Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert thrown on as Liverpool sought a dramatic equaliser, a second claim against Cahill for handball was turned down in the dying embers, leaving Mourinho to acknowledge victory calmly in contrast to his tub-thumping celebrations from last term.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: The players deserved a point at least, that's for sure. We've got to keep working hard.
"I only hope we get some injured players back in that give us the threat we've had for the majority of my time here. We hope Daniel [Sturridge] will be ready when he comes back after the international break. There's no magic formula. You've just got to work hard. Of course confidence can get affected when you're not winning games."
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: "A fantastic performance, we play as a team and as individuals. We had the game under control. We showed big personality, one point at Anfield, most teams accept that as a fantastic result, but the team didn't accept that.
"Fabregas maybe a problem for the next match... He has a hamstring problem."
Chelsea have scored in 12 successive Barclays Premier League matches.
Chelsea have netted five goals in the opening 15 minutes of matches this season, more than any other team in the top flight.
Only Crystal Palace (eight) have scored more goals from set-pieces than Chelsea (seven) in the Barclays Premier League this season.
Gary Cahill scored his first Barclays Premier League goal since December 2013, when he scored at Stamford Bridge against Southampton.
Liverpool have only kept two clean sheets in their last 17 Barclays Premier League matches.
Diego Costa scored his 10th Barclays Premier League goal in his ninth appearance in the competition; Mick Quinn (six) is the only player to reach double figures in fewer (Mark Viduka and Papiss Cisse also took nine).
All 10 of Costa’s BPL goals have been scored from inside the box.
After a run of four successive Barclays Premier League wins against Chelsea, Liverpool are winless in five against the Blues (D2 L3).
Only in two Barclays Premier League seasons have Liverpool had fewer than 14 points after 11 matches (1992/93 and 2012/13 (both 12)).
Only two teams in Premier League history have ever had more than 29 points at this stage (Chelsea in 2005/06 and Man City in 2011/12 both had 31, and both won the title).
The only previous team in the Barclays Premier League to have exactly 29 points after 11 matches were Newcastle United in 1994/95, they finished the campaign sixth.
|23 Nov 2014||v Crystal Palace (A)|
|29 Nov 2014||v Stoke (H)|
|02 Dec 2014||v Leicester (A)|
|06 Dec 2014||v Sunderland (H)|
|14 Dec 2014||v Man Utd (A)|
|21 Dec 2014||v Arsenal (H)|