Liverpool saviour in fresh storm
By Chris Hatherall
Liverpool 2 Chelsea 2
This was a game that was meant to be all about Rafa Benitez’s emotional homecoming and Chelsea’s hopes of Champions League qualification; but the only name anyone was discussing as they left Anfield was Luis Suarez. And sadly not for the right reasons.
Suarez’s 96th minute goal, a flashing header deep into injury time, earned Liverpool a point and left Chelsea hanging on to fourth place but if there is a newspaper in the world that leads on those simple facts it would be a bigger surprise than seeing Manchester United end this season in second place.
All the attention from every media outlet in every continent will focus on a 64th minute moment of madness that saw Suarez bite the arm of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic as the pair tussled in the six-yard box.
Ivanovic was so shocked that he simply sat on the floor staring at his arm for a good minute before eventually remonstrating with referee Kevin Friend, who had clearly missed the incident.
In fairness, most of the 40,000 crowd will have missed it too and the Kop probably headed home singing the praises of their terrace hero who once again saved Liverpool from defeat through sheer force of character as he scored a dramatic late equaliser. But will they feel the same this morning?
This really was a game that encapsulated everything that is good and bad about the Uruguayan striker who went from genius to maniac and back again in the space of an hour and a half.
He had missed two chances in the first half, which was a bitty affair, and seen Liverpool go behind when Oscar escaped the attentions of Jamie Carragher to head home a Juan Mata corner after 25 minutes.
But Liverpool responded well after the break as Daniel Sturridge, a former Chelsea player, came off the bench to inspire a revival.
Sturridge had already laid on one chance for Steven Gerrard and hit the post with a 20m effort when he produced an equaliser, beautifully and sweetly created for him by a chipped pass from Suarez.
Within minutes, however, Suarez had blotted his copybook. First he inexplicably punched a Mata corner to hand Chelsea a 57th minute penalty which Eden Hazard converted with admirable precision and then came his moment of total madness.
It isn’t the first time he has been involved in a biting incident — he was also banned for seven matches in 2010 when, during his time with Ajax in Holland, he bit PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal in a Dutch league game.
But this one could have even more far-reaching consequences.
It certainly had consequences for Chelsea because the South American striker eventually denied them a hard-fought victory when he started and finished the move that earned Liverpool an equaliser deep into injury time, heading home a Sturridge cross from close range.
The result leaves Chelsea now clinging on to fourth place, only a point ahead of Tottenham with five matches to go; so perhaps it was understandable that Benitez focused more on the referee’s decision to add six minutes at the end of the game than on his failure to send off Suarez.
“I didn’t see anything, I was just concentrating on the game,” he said.
“For me, the headline should be why six minutes and 45 seconds. That’s the most important headline for me. That’s the only one I have to understand, at the moment. I don’t think you’ll see that in any other game.”
It was almost an after-thought when the Spaniard was asked about his much-vaunted return to Anfield, a subject that had dominated the pre-match build up and nobody was hanging on his answer.
“I was pleased with the reception of the fans but disappointed with the late goal we conceded. The game should have been finished.”
Perhaps Benitez has a point but sadly, it isn’t the one most people will be discussing this morning and the repercussions are anything but finished.
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