Football: Liverpool rescued by Redknapp

Premiership: Chelsea pass up rare opportunity at Anfield while Gullit's cavalier style is exposed at Arsenal
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The Independent Online
Liverpool 1 Chelsea 1

CHELSEA HAVE won only once in 39 visits to Anfield and if they continue to be as profligate as they were yesterday they might never win here again. They caught Liverpool on a bad day and still failed to beat them.

A draw at one of the citadels of the Premiership might appear a good result but the Londoners know a chance to announce themselves in the championship race was lost. Chelsea have a reputation as show ponies, a good team who do not have the resolve to win titles, and this will not have done anything to dispel that impression.

At times Liverpool were wretched. Michael Owen was anonymous and Paul Ince had a match where he found blue shirts easier to pass to than red yet, contrary to their reputation for under-achieving, they withstood what for much of the afternoon was a lesson in football and might have won if a blatant penalty had been awarded in their favour.

One does not like to pillory officials, who have a next-to-impossible job, but how Graham Poll missed Frank Leboeuf's trip on Karlheinz Riedle was bewildering. The Liverpool striker's legs were whipped from under him yet the referee waved play on and then compounded his mistake by booking the German.

"It was a penalty," Gerard Houllier, Liverpool's joint manager said. "It was very frustrating." Had anyone been to see the referee? "I saw enough of him on the pitch," Roy Evans, the other half of the partnership, replied.

You could be forgiven for believing the Chelsea line-up is drawn by lots and yesterday's combination had Pierluigi Casiraghi playing up front with Gianfranco Zola, and Brian Laudrup free to create mischief behind him. And they did, carving through a Liverpool defence with the unorthodoxy of their runs and perceptiveness of their passing.

As early as the fourth minute the red shirts parted to allow Marcel Desailly through, a mistake only remedied because Leboeuf's pass was slightly behind his French compatriot.

It should have sent a warning, instead the error was repeated five minutes later to allow Chelsea to take the lead.

Roberto Di Matteo's 50-yard pass was a delight but Liverpool's back four neglected to mark Casiraghi and, one-on-one with David James, he slipped the ball past the Liverpool keeper and then rolled the ball into an empty net for his first goal since his pounds 5.4m transfer from Lazio in the summer.

Phil Babb had appeared the greatest culprit in the goal and his punishment was swift as he collided with a post trying to stop the goal and had to retire after 23 minutes. Casiraghi might have got a second, only his extravagant attempt to catch James off his line from 35 yards was too close to the goalkeeper.

It was hard to fault their critique as Liverpool's attack had amounted to two speculative shots from Robbie Fowler but Chelsea failed to press their advantage and the home team slowly, painfully dragged themselves into the game.

The failure to award a penalty after 64 minutes was a let-off but Chelsea could not escape when Michael Duberry tripped Fowler 19 minutes later. Redknapp, Liverpool's best player, calmly assessed the position of the Chelsea wall and curled the ball round it into the corner of the net from 25 yards.

Tempers flared into several confrontations and there was a report that Ince and Graeme Le Saux had clashed in the tunnel after the game. "To call it an incident would be to exaggerate," Houllier said, quick to play it down. "It's a game of passion, it's not a play or the theatre. They are competitors but it did not go very far."

The referee confirmed further action is unlikely."I didn't see anything," Poll said, "so there's nothing to report."

Goals: Casiraghi (9) 0-1; Redknapp (83) 1-1.

Liverpool (4-4-2): James; McAteer (Heggem, 55), Carragher, Babb (Matteo, 23), Bjornebye; Leonhardsen ( Riedle, 63), Ince, Redknapp, Berger; Owen, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Staunton, Friedel (gk).

Chelsea (3-4-2-1): De Goey; Ferrer, Le Boeuf, Duberry; Petrescu, Desaiily, Di Matteo, Le Saux; Laudrup (Lambourde, 89), Zola (Poyet, 60); Casiraghi ( Flo, 69). Substitutes not used: Newton, Hitchcock (gk).

Referee: G Poll (Tring).

Bookings: Liverpool: Babb, Redknapp, Ince, Matteo, Riedle; Chelsea: Petrescu, Duberry.

Man of the match: Ferrer.

Attendance: 44,404.