Rafa revels in fit of the giggles at formation folly

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The Independent Online

Football fans try to go for the underbelly and Liverpool's walking along Sir Matt Busby Way were no different. "Chelsea FC," they chanted, "you ain't got no history." You can imagine ambassadors singing much the same to the newly-created Germany in 1871, but, boy, have they gone silent over there now.

Not for the first time, football's bar-room philosophers were way off mark. Chelsea had problems yesterday but none were associated with history. A lack of a decent tactical plan was one, a manager so sure of his powers he imagines he can do almost anything, another. Which just shows how wrong you can be, Jose Mourinho; distorting your line-up to the point of paralysis is not clever, although it verges on being funny.

Quite what the reaction in the Liverpool dressing room was to seeing Paulo Ferreira playing as a right winger is unknown but Rafael Benitez must have been close to breaking into a fit of giggles when he saw Gérémi explaining the position to his Portuguese colleague in the warm-up. "Kick it like this," may not have been the exact words, but they did not appear to be much more complex.

One up to Benitez then, because the only explanation for such a bizarre formation was that Chelsea feared the man on Liverpool's left flank. Harry Kewell was once, infamously, held up to George Best in a Leeds United match programme, but surely two full-backs patrolling the Australian was taking the comparison too far. But then most comparisons were untrustworthy yesterday and especially the one that has Chelsea among the powerhouses in Europe.

Yesterday, until Didier Drogba gave them belated hope, Mourinho's team, cowered into caution by the manager's tactics, looked like the plug had been stretched so far it had come out of the wall. It was Liverpool who crackled with energy and desire.

After 15 minutes of cat and mouse it became clear Liverpool could not be threatened on either flank and Kewell and Steven Gerrard could go forward with relative impunity. The former twisted poor Asier Del Horno into nerve-wracked obsolescence with one run while Gerrard sped past the left-back with such ease just before half-time that Liverpool should have gone in 2-0 ahead at half-time. Only a hopelessly skied shot from Luis Garcia stopped them.

By then John Arne Riise had given Liverpool the lead with a clever free-kick that confounded the defensive angles on the Chelsea wall, so Mourinho had to do something to alter the shade of the game that had become increasingly red. Del Horno was sacrificed to give the Londoners width. Benitez countered by withdrawing Gerrard slightly and, more importantly, by getting another goal.

The last time Luis Garcia scored against Chelsea, in last year's Champions' League semi-final, Mourinho called it a "ghost goal" because he believed the ball had not crossed the line. This time, as the Spaniard thumped a volley past Carlo Cudicini, there was no doubt about the validity, but the spectre of Ferreira and Gallas's headers that gave Garcia a chance will still have the power to haunt.

Benitez won the tactical battle, just as he outwitted Mourinho last year in the Champions' League. Liverpool had history on their side, and for 90 minutes at least they also had the better manager.

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