May 8 2012 By Dan Levene
Liverpool 4-1 Chelsea
THIS may have been a dead rubber for Chelsea, but they were humiliated at the hands of the team they punished at Wembley on Saturday.
The Chelsea side that emerged from the tunnel at Anfield was one barely recognisable from the FA Cup-winning side of 72 hours earlier.
Wholesale changes were made, with a mixture of bit-part players, those banned for the Champions League final, and a couple of names in search of true match sharpness.
One thing it did have in common with the clubs' Wembley date was the soporific nature of the opening minutes.
The lone highlight, if you can call it that, was a kick in the head Florent Malouda received while on the floor from Jonjo Shelvey – something missed by the referee, and surely likely to be the subject of retrospective action.
Chelsea started to show promise on the quarter hour. Daniel Sturridge chested down a ball, and ran it along the edge of the Liverpool box, before turning and shooting on goal. The ball was diverted for a corner, which Branislav Ivanovic headed with maximum power against the upright.
But moments later the first breakthrough came at the other end. Luis Suarez took the ball down the right, cut inside on the touchline and slipped it back to the edge of the six-yard box where a waiting Michael Essien put it into his own net.
On 25 minutes it was 2-0. Jordan Henderson running onto a diagonal ball which John Terry, who endured a first-half horror-show, slipped and missed. Henderson rifled his shot past the vulnerable Turnbull.
And the Reds tally was taken to three in nine minutes when Daniel Agger headed in a corner.
The half was completed when Ivanovic gave away a penalty for a challenge on Carroll, which Stewart Downing struck against the post.
Perhaps sensing a change, if not a comeback, Chelsea emerged with a little more confidence. After five minutes the visitors had pulled one back. A lofted Florent Malouda free kick rolled down the chest of Ramires before being pushed past the hapless Pepe Reina with a hint of a pelvic thrust.
The three-goal cushion was restored on the hour when Turnbull, making his first league start of the season, put a clearance right at the feet of Shelvey – while leaving the goalmouth open. It was simple fayre for the Reds midfielder.
Suarez was lucky to finish the match, when late in the game he twice kneed Ivanovic in the back before giving him what appeared to be a right hook – the referee again missing the action.
How likely was it that this game could have mattered in the scheme of things? History will surely show the quest for fourth was already over.
But the biggest loser from this performance is Roberto Di Matteo, who surely now faces an uphill struggle to convince Chelsea he should be their next permanent boss.