Jose Mourinho may have dismissed Liverpool as a club who will never challenge Chelsea's Premiership dominance but it was Steven Gerrard who had the final word after Saturday's FA Cup semi-final when he told the Portuguese manager that he should "show us some respect".
The 2-1 defeat of Chelsea dissolved into a series of recriminations, initiated by Mourinho, who said Liverpool would never triumph over a 38-game season. "Over 38 matches it is more difficult," he said, "in a knockout you can lose against a fourth division team." The Chelsea manager even said his side had failed to raise themselves against Liverpool because they had found the Premiership so easy they had not been forced to improve.
It was with a smile that Gerrard responded to news of Mourinho's outburst. "That's a shock," said the Liverpool captain whose club have reached their 13th FA Cup final. He conceded that Chelsea had the better record between the two sides over the last 10 games - Mourinho has won five to Rafael Benitez's two, and there have been three draws - but added that Liverpool had won the "big matches". Including last season's Champions' League semi-final.
"We're not miles behind, obviously Chelsea have a better record against us over the last 10 games, but we've won the two big matches," Gerrard said. "We're progressing. We know Chelsea are a fantastic side with a lot of money behind them, and they can go out and buy whoever they want. But Rafa's building something here. We're a very strong team and I think Mourinho should start to give us a bit of respect."
Respect was the last thing on Mourinho's mind as he attacked the standard of the Premiership and defended his baffling tactical decision to drop three of his wingers. The Chelsea manager also accused referee Graham Poll of making "dozens and dozens and dozens of correct decisions but [making] two crucial decisions incorrect."
The two decisions were the ruling-out of a headed goal by John Terry on 50 minutes and a dubious free-kick against the Chelsea captain for a challenge on Luis Garcia that led to the first Liverpool goal by John Arne Riise on 22 minutes.
But it was for his own team's performance that Mourinho offered the most extraordinary justification. "I wouldn't say we are better than last season," Mourinho said. "We didn't improve psychologically. The motivation was bigger in the first season, the enthusiasm was bigger, the enjoyment from people not believing we could do it was bigger.
"This season was very easy from the beginning. By October or November the distance between us and the rest [of the Premiership] was very, very, very big. You need to be challenged from the beginning to feel pressure, to feel the need to improve and we never felt that."
Defending his decision to leave Damien Duff, Arjen Robben and Joe Cole on the bench, Mourinho said that the latter two had "lost form" while the Irish international had suffered problems with his Achilles tendon.
Benitez said that the result had shown that Liverpool, 15 points behind Premiership leaders Chelsea, were getting "closer" despite the two league defeats this season. The Liverpool manager repeated his insistence that the club would have to strengthen his squad in order to compete next season.Reuse content