EPL: Liverpool end Chelsea's top-four hopes
Liverpool: Liverpool took some retribution from their FA Cup final defeat by beating Chelsea 4-1 in an entertaining and sometimes bizarre Premier League game at Anfield.
The result means that the Reds are still capable of over hauling seventh-placed rivals Everton on the final day but Roberto Di Matteo`s side will finish sixth no matter what.
Luis Suarez conjured the opener with a mazy run before playing it off Michael Essien for an own goal, but it was John Terry at fault shortly after when his slip allowed Jordan Henderson through for a second.
Daniel Agger headed home from a corner and only Stewart Downing`s limp penalty miss just before the break prevented a 4-0 half-time advantage.
A sloppy Ramires goal after the break restored some Chelsea hope but Jonjo Shelvey ruthlessly punished Ross Turnbull`s error on the hour with a strike that broke the visitors` resistance.
Both teams fielded understandably weaker sides than those which contested the cup final. Liverpool made four changes, with captain Steven Gerrard the headline absentee through a minor back injury and the likes of Maxi Rodriguez and Andy Carroll recalled.
Chelsea, meanwhile, brought in Fernando Torres up front as one of eight alterations to Saturday’s XI, the striker making a long-awaited return to Anfield. Turnbull deputised in goal with Frank Lampard, Juan Mata and Ashley Cole among those on the bench.
After hearty boos for Torres, Liverpool forged the first chance; Suarez nutmegging Terry and running into space, but the Uruguayan’s shot was comfortably wide.
Carroll took his turn next, looking to produce the spectacular after a quarter of an hour, attempting a delicate chip from outside the area that swooped slightly off-target.
Chelsea came back moments later, though, with poor marking from a corner allowing Branislav Ivanovic an opportunity to head at goal, the Serb nodding Florent Malouda’s delivery against the bar.
The Reds, however, were the ones to break the deadlock. Though called an own goal against Essien, it was Suarez’s handiwork, the attacker gliding down to the right-hand byeline and weaving through two men before playing it off the Ghanaian and into the net.
Already having been twice outfoxed embarrassingly by Suarez, Terry’s evening got even worse five minutes later when he slipped comically at a crucial moment, allowing Henderson to seize a through-ball, advance into acres of space, and slot calmly home.
With the Blues looking totally absent, the misery kept coming. Liverpool earned a corner and Carroll evaded Terry, nodding across the box to the waiting Agger, who made no mistake as a rout loomed.
The Blues captain continued his malaise and was lucky not to be further punished when he unwittingly passed to Carroll in space, but the striker’s shot was saved by Turnbull.
A moment later Chelsea had a rare chance to break and hit the woodwork again. Torres darted into the area before unleashing a heavy effort that smashed against the bar.
Liverpool, though, continued to dominate, with Downing encouraged to try for his first league goal in some style, getting his foot underneath the ball to thump it at goal. The winger’s spectacular strike deserved better than coming back off the bar.
He certainly seemed more confident from over 30 yards than from 12. Chelsea’s catastrophe rolled on as Ivanovic inexplicably took aim and dug into Carroll with an elbow in the area, at the cost of a booking and a penalty, but Downing stepped up and limply rolled it against the post as half-time arrived.
Despite their submissive first half, Chelsea got one back within five minutes of the restart, Ramires’ touch off his groin enough to force Malouda’s free-kick past a flailing Pepe Reina.