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27 Oktober 2008

Xabi Strike Smashes Chelsea's Unbeaten Run

A deflected goal from Xabi was enough to see Rafa Benítez's side rack up a victory over Luis Felipe Scolari's charges.

After 86 league games without tasting defeat at Stamford Bridge, something finally gave as Xabi's deflected effort silenced the home crowd.

After that early goal the Reds went on to remain the better side for the most part, and Pepe Reina was given relatively little to do between the posts.

That was largely down to a spirited defensive showing from the Scousers that endured in the face of sustained possession from the hosts.

On a rare break forward, in fact, Liverpool managed the lead. With Chelsea dithering over a clearance after an offensive throw-in, Xabi Alonso attempted to rifle the ball past Cech. His shot lacked conviction, but Bosingwa's body deflected it so that the helpless 'keeper could only flail at it with his legs.

Chelsea tried their best to build from the back, but time and again their moves broke down on the edge of the area, allowing the likes of Gerrard to respond with swift counters that saw Cech tested with long-range efforts.

Further back Mascherano and his back four were looking increasingly comfortable as Chelsea ran out of ideas heading into the second half.

Still, Chelsea had the occasional spell of dominance that called for physical play from the visitors. As early as the 22nd minute Riera had picked up a merited yellow for hacking down Bosingwa, and Reina, too, could have joined him in the book for bringing down Malouda, but the Blues' forward was already offside.

Both sides made their changes in an attempt to inject life into their play, Babel replacing Keane to hold the ball up and run onto counters while di Santo and Belletti replaced Kalou and Malouda.

This had the desired effect for both sides as first the Reds came close with a low drive from an Alonso free-kick, and then an increasingly frantic Chelsea created a chance of their own. Ashley Cole inexplicably fired off-target after Di Santo directed Lampard's cross towards him for a golden opportunity.

Although Liverpool started to panic a bit and defend deeply, they may have known in their heart of hearts even with ten minutes to go that they'd done enough, and the match ended 1-0 in their favour.


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