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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fourth eludes Chelsea

Liverpool ends Blues' bid for Champions League slot


LIVERPOOL, England — Liverpool took advantage of Chelsea's erratic defending to earn an emphatic 4-1 win on Tuesday, gaining a small measure of revenge for Saturday's F.A. Cup final loss and putting the Blues out of contention for fourth place in the Premier League.

News photo
Unhappy return: Chelsea's Fernando Torres shields the ball from Liverpool's Daniel Agger during the Reds' 4-1 win at Anfield on Tuesday. AFP-JIJI

Three days after Chelsea beat Liverpool 2-1 at Wembley, the Reds dominated from the start in their last home game of the season and were up 3-0 within 30 minutes. While Stewart Downing missed a penalty right before halftime and Ramires pulled one back for Chelsea after the break, Jonjo Shelvey took advantage of backup goalkeeper Ross Turnbull's blunder to put the game away with his first Premier League goal for Liverpool.

"It was an excellent performance," Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said. "The pleasing thing is the performance was matched by the result and also the fact the supporters could go away from the final match of the season here with a smile on their faces."

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo made eight changes from Saturday, and the players on the pitch seemed to already have their minds on the Champions League final against Bayern Munich as they looked lethargic throughout. A win against Bayern in Munich is now the only route for Chelsea back into the Champions League next season, as the loss means it cannot overtake Tottenham for fourth place.

"It wasn't the team selection. We have to give credit to them (Liverpool)," Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo said. "We have played with these players the whole season and they have carried us so far and we still had a chance with two games to qualify for fourth spot. . . . But you know how demanding it has been for us — we have played every three days in the last eight weeks — and I thought tonight I thought a team which was energetic and fresh mentally would give us a chance."

Captain John Terry was one of the few holdovers from Wembley, but had a horrendous start to the game. Luis Suarez easily went past him as he produced a great run down the right side and into the area, and the Uruguay forward's attempted cross was knocked by Michael Essien into his own net in the 19th minute.

Terry then slipped six minutes later to set Jordan Henderson free on goal, and the Liverpool player slotted the ball past Turnbull.

Three minutes later, Andy Carroll headed the ball down for Daniel Agger to make it 3-0 and effectively make sure of a Liverpool victory.

The hosts looked likely to add a few more, as Stewart Downing blasted a great volley from outside the area against the crossbar before Carroll was knocked down in the area by Branislav Ivanovic for a penalty on the stroke of halftime. However, Downing hit the woodwork again, sending his spot kick against the post to leave Chelsea with a flicker of hope going into the break.

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