Chelsea's ambition checked by Suarez


Chelsea 1 Liverpool 1:The onset of winter is freezing Chelsea’s title pursuit yet again. Points were wastefully shed to Liverpool here, the celebratory mood that had briefly flared when John Terry marked his return from domestic suspension with a first goal of the season doused long before the end. The captain now faces a spell in rehabilitation after sustaining a knee injury.

The last fortnight has damaged Roberto Di Matteo, the momentum generated over the campaign’s early weeks checked by defensive fragilities which have restricted his team to two points from three league games. Chelsea are not quite in the downturn that set in around this time last year under Andre Villas-Boas. Neither are they yet in the three-month slump that Carlo Ancelotti infamously christened a “bad moment” but failed to allay in 11 matches the previous season, or the stutter that became a stumble under Luiz Felipe Scolari in late 2008.

But scintillating form has quickly given way to stodgy results, and the four-point advantage they enjoyed at the top a fortnight ago has swiftly been surrendered.

They will hardly relish Saturday’s trip to The Hawthorns where West Bromwich Albion have proved so imposing.

It is the vulnerability, combined with over-complication among their host of attack-minded players, that has undermined them most critically.

If chances are passed up, as they were, anxiety tends to set in with memories of the side’s last clean sheet, against Nordsjaelland in early October, fading fast. Liverpool mustered only two shots on target and yet improved second-half urgency, provoked by a tactical tweak but reliant upon Chelsea’s shortcomings, ensured they departed with a point.

It was picked up 17 minutes from time, the substitute Suso’s corner flicked on by Jamie Carragher – on his first Premier League start of term – at the near-post for Luis Suarez to nod into the gaping net.

The visitors are unbeaten in six but continue to rely on their Uruguayan, with this his eighth league goal this season.

Jose Enrique might even have won it in stoppage time at the end only for Petr Cech to turn a skimmed shot round his near post as anxiety gripped the locals.

Even with Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard in typically flamboyant mood, Chelsea were incapable of getting the required second goal after Terry eluded Daniel Agger to power Mata’s delivery from a corner past the helpless Brad Jones.

That might have opened the floodgates but, for all their slick approach-play, Chelsea failed to add to their tally. Hazard darted through the middle but Jones saved smartly from Fernando Torres’s first-time shot. Mata skipped into space on the edge of the box only to sky his attempt. Jones denied Torres’ header from close range again just before the hour-mark

But first has become third in the space of a fortnight. This trend has been endured before.Guardian Service

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