Drogba leads the rout as last bastion of resistance crumbles

Liverpool 1

Chelsea 4
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The Independent Online

Four goals, the evisceration of Liverpool and suddenly the memories of last season's European Cup semi-final second-leg victory, when Anfield turned back what seemed like English football's inevitable tide, felt more like a piece of history.

Led by an outstanding performance from Didier Drogba, Mourinho's Chelsea controlled in a manner they were never permitted to in the Champions' League match on Wednesday and extended their own lead at the top of the Premiership to nine points.

As first Frank Lampard, then Damien Duff, Joe Cole and Geremi scored the goals that extinguished Anfield's frail hope, all the discussion of Chelsea's style and of their value as entertainers was rendered meaningless. What matters about them is that they are, for the moment at least, unstoppable. And Rafael Benitez, the man who so skilfully unpicked their Champions' League dream last season, is no closer to beating them this time than his humble neighbours at Wigan.

Respect for his team, for their achievements was what Mourinho demanded in the aftermath, and as the Chelsea manager punched the air with every goal you sensed that this one counted more than most. The Kop's pre-match banner proclaiming "This is the Special One" was quietly rolled up and taken away as the away support mockingly asked whether they could play Liverpool every week. After two meetings in five days it has felt like they have of late, but yesterday there was no disputing who has emerged from the two games on top.

Liverpool's defeat was about their failure to contain the awkward, truculent presence of Drogba and an old problem concerning their own goalscoring. They have just four goals in six Premiership games and for all the neat flicks of Peter Crouch, they would have exchanged all for just one goal from the England striker in waiting.

Liverpool finally gave way in the 26th minute and for blame you needed to look no further than Djimi Traoré. Dawdling down the left flank he cleared the ball against Drogba and allowed the Chelsea striker to go past him before offering a challenge so imprecise that it was bound to draw a penalty decision from the referee Graham Poll. Frank Lampard drilled his shot low past Jose Reina.

Liverpool's equaliser came on 36 minutes and Chelsea will not be breached the same way too often this season. There was a corner from John Arne Riise on the left, a flick by Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard stole in at the back post to lash the ball into the far corner. Asier Del Horno won no awards for bravery with his shrinking attempt at a block, and Petr Cech brushed the ball as it went past, but the old stadium thrilled to the sense of parity.

Not for long. It was removed before the end as Benitez committed to attack, but Sami Hyypia will not remember this day with any fondness. The old Finnish centre-half was reduced to his trundling worst for Chelsea's second: beaten by a flick from Drogba down the left wing, he could only watch as the striker crossed for Damien Duff at the near post to take one touch and score.

Five minutes after the interval Hyypia was panicked into heading Duff's long ball straight to Drogba and he should have beaten Reina.

That miss, and Drogba's fortune to have been only booked for a confrontation with Alonso in which he seemed to throw a punch, were the only flaws in an unimpeachable performance from the Ivory Coast striker and his role in the third goal was crucial.

Settling on to a through ball from Lampard he cut in front of the pursuing Liverpool defenders and went round Reina. When his weak shot found Cole alone in the penalty area, the winger appeared to have drifted offside but there was no argument offered by Poll as Cole rolled the ball into the unguarded goal and ended any hope Liverpool might have had of a reward from the game.

The fourth belonged to substitute Geremi, who converted a Drogba cross that Robben had not been able to reach on 82 minutes.

Before then Crouch had turned Ricardo Carvalho with the most delicate of touches and then rattled his shot into the Kop. Upon such moments are the destiny of seasons decided; the problem for the rest is that, with eight successive victories, Chelsea appear to be deciding their own without toleration of any intervention.

Goals: Lampard (26) 0-1; Gerrard (36) 1-1; Duff (43) 1-2; Cole (63) 1-3, Geremi (82) 1-4.

Liverpool (4-1-3-1-1): Reina; Finnan, Hyypia (Sinama-Pongolle 71), Carragher, Traoré (Cissé, 82); Hamann (Sissoko, 67); Alonso, Gerrard, Riise; Garcia; Crouch. Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Josemi.

Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Gallas, Terry, Carvalho, Del Horno (Huth, 84); Makelele; Cole (Robben, 67), Essien, Lampard, Duff (Geremi, 76); Drogba. Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Crespo.

Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

Booked: Liverpool Carragher; Chelsea Cole, Lampard, Drogba.

Man of the match: Drogba.

Attendance: 44,235.

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