Liverpool v Chelsea: The Making Of The Best 21st Century Football Rivalry In England
A meeting between the two English behemoths of Liverpool and Chelsea is always one to mark down on the footballing calendar.
In the first decade post-Millennium, the two formed half of what was the traditional big four teams in the top tier, alongside Arsenal and Manchester United.
Since 2003, after Roman Abramovich began to transform Chelsea into a Premier League powerhouse, the rivalry between the two has grown exponentially.
Whilst no Premier League titles have been forthcoming to Liverpool so far, Chelsea have bagged five under three different managers. Liverpool still however hold onto their European prestige. The Reds hold five European Cups - tied third alongside Bayern München and Barcelona - and have reached one more final in the Abramovich era than Chelsea. However, both sides have taken home the most prestigious trophy just once in this period, and Chelsea most recently, in 2012 against Munich, seven years after Liverpool’s last victory, against AC Milan.
There have been 181 meetings between the two sides, with Liverpool having the edge on 77 occasions to Chelsea's 63. 41 meetups have ended in draws.
“It’s difficult to explain, it’s something that it’s been ingrained, it’s something that you just know: you don’t like Liverpool,” states Chelsea supporter Louis Beneventi of fan channel 100%Chelsea, “It’s almost the smarminess.”
"You’ve got to give credit to [Liverpool manager] Jurgen Klopp, it’s going to be a really tough match on Sunday."
"Liverpool is the most overrated atmosphere in world football. I hate how much they bang on about the atmosphere. It’s been absolutely diabolical. The most overhyped in British football.
"I’m on the fence about [Chelsea boss] Maurizio Sarri, but I think that if we were to stop Liverpool winning the Premier League again, that would confirm his legacy.”
Ahead of Liverpool versus Chelsea on April 14th in their latest league meeting here are the moments that have created arguably the most exciting rivalry in the top tier of English football in the 21st Century.
Jesper Gronkjaer Gifts Chelsea Champions League Football
Champions League status was at stake at the end of the 2002/03 season when these two sides met. Whilst Arsenal and Manchester United were competing for the title (remember those days?), Chelsea and Liverpool were fighting for a top-four place, Chelsea needing it to truly open that treasure trove afforded by their Russian billionaire backer.
With the score tied at 1-1, Jesper Gronkjaer’s goal won it for Chelsea and set in motion les enfants terribles really hitting their stride. New money versus old aristocracy.
Luis Garcia’s Ghost Goal
This would be the first of four Champions League knock-out meetings in four years, producing a rivalry that would not only help to define the premier European competition but fuel a resurgent enmity in the English game.
Nothing had separated the two sides in the first leg at Stamford Bridge but just four minutes into the semi-final leg on Merseyside, Luis Garcia caught hold of the ball the loose ball that had been parried from teammate Milan Baros’ attempted lob and tried to tuck home.
After it was deemed to have crossed the line, it was the goal that ultimately decided the outcome and took Liverpool to that night in Istanbul.
Former Chelsea skipper John Terry has stated that William Gallas, the man trying to clear the ball away from goal, remains adamant that the ball didn’t cross the line.
“My first proper memory of Chelsea versus Liverpool was that ghost goal. I was eight, I was watching it with my dad. I was sat, watching it, and I remember my dad going nuts,” said Beneventi.
“I didn’t understand it as an eight-year-old, but all I could think of is, that’s cheating.”
FA Cup Final 2012
Chelsea were on their way to a remarkable double in a season of axing manager Andre Villas-Boas with first team assistant and former player Roberto di Matteo stepping up and guiding an ageing side to the FA Cup and Champions League, for the first time in their history.
At Wembley against Liverpool in the final of the world’s oldest association football competition, with Chelsea leading 2-1, Petr Cech produced one of the saves of his long and illustrious career to deny Liverpool striker Andy Carroll (bought with the Torres funds) the equalizer, though echoes of that Garcia ghost goal remain depending on which contingent you ask.
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Steven Gerrard Slip Allows Demba Ba Through
There are many factors as to why Liverpool let the title slip in the 2013/14 to Manchester City but undeniably the defining image will be their skipper - in one of his final seasons at his boyhood club - on the turf as Chelsea’s Senegalese striker slipped through and opened the scoring in what became a 2-0 win for the visiting side and the first nail in Liverpool’s aspirations to be Premier League champions.
“They want us to be the clowns in the circus,” then Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho told his players before the match at Anfield.
“The circus is here. Liverpool are to be champions.”
“But we are not going to be the clowns.”
It was a mark of royal bastardry from The Special One, the future Manchester United manager helping to deny Liverpool their first triumph in the Premier League era.
Liverpool had held a nine point lead over City after a 3-2 win a fortnight earlier in mid-April with four games of the Reds’ campaign remaining.
Despite all his achievements and accolades, this will unfortunately be the prevailing memory of the collective. The fact that it was painted on the canvas provided by Chelsea is something that Blues fans aren’t keen to let Liverpool forget so easily.
Asked about the prevailing recollection of the fixture between the two sides as a fan, Beneventi doesn't hesitate: "110% Gerrard. That will always be the thing that sticks out in my memory."
Red or Blue or Both: The Long List Of Shared Players
Through the twisting turning recent history between the two sides that has on occasion produced theatrics worthy of a traditional derby day, numerous high-profile players have opted to wear both the red and blue.
Joe Cole, Nicolas Anelka, Glen Johnson, Yossi Benayoun, Raul Meireles, Victor Moses have represented both teams since 2000, whilst Daniel Sturridge - who remains on the books at Liverpool - was a key catalyst in that 13/14 title push, and had spent four years at Chelsea where he won the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League.
The most infamous of all, Fernando Torres undoubtedly stoked the animosity between the two sides, the Spaniard the focus of the then-British record transfer fee.
Torres made 30 more appearances in Blue after moving to west London in a deadline day frenzy in 2011 but scored almost 40 fewer goals than he had for Liverpool, where he had broken the record for most number of league goals scored by a non-British player during his debut season.