Wins at Anfield are always special. Last season's was a particular highlight, but despite the joy and hilarity that accompanied that 2-0 victory, it was always a little bit hollow. The Reds lost the title there, and it was us who took it away, but the celebrations were about stopping someone else rather than Chelsea getting the points.
Granted, stopping Liverpool from winning the title constitutes a major service to humanity and I don't want to take anything away from the blissful schadenfruede of last season, but this was something more complete, something better. Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool wasn't just about laughing at the Reds -- although we can and will do that, of course -- it was our win that mattered this time. And that's a far more wholesome feeling, I think.
Since the last international break, Chelsea hadn't been on top form. With only one emphatic win, a few close calls as well as draws at Manchester United and Maribor, we were some way from the dominant force we'd been at the beginning of the season. Liverpool represented perhaps our most difficult test of the period, and for a little while it looked as though we'd continue with this weeks-long blip.
The defence can't say they weren't warned. Within the first minute, Emre Can had had a pop at goal from range, with a deflection rendering Thibaut Courtois totally helpless to stop the ball should it have decided to drift in. Fortunately, it didn't, looping behind for a corner, but we weren't so lucky the next time. With the midfield essentially vacant because of our high press, the defence stood off Can once more ... and he fired a shot off Gary Cahill and into the bottom corner. Oops.
No matter. Although their delusions of granduer will, I suspect, linger yet, Liverpool aren't actually very good this year. Chelsea's response to going behind was to step up even further, pushing the hosts deep into their own half and cutting their play off at the source. It ended up taking all of five minutes for the Blues to go back to level pegging.
Unsurprisingly, considering the Reds' issues with set pieces and our height, it was a corner kick that got us back in the game. Diego Costa won the header, nodding down for John Terry to flick goalwards. The skipper was denied by a quite spectacular block from Simon Mignolet, but the second-best Belgian goalkeeper on the pitch could only parry the ball out to Cahill.
Which, from the Liverpool perspective, was not a good plan.
Cahill had enough time to settle the ball with his first touch before rifling towards goal from all of six yards, and although the effort was hit straight at Mignolet he carried the ball over the line in trying to secure it rather than releasing it back into the melee that was developing around him. The goal decision system confirmed the goal, and Anthony Taylor pointed to the centre circle. Game on.
From this point, Chelsea rarely looked like losing, and the only reason that a draw felt even remotely possible was our poor shooting. Eden Hazard was particularly wasteful, especially when you consider that he roasted Glen Johnson on the left flank so frequently that he might as well not have been a right back at all. But whenever Hazard pulled the trigger, Johnson re-appeared in exactly the spot that Hazard wanted to put the ball. The blocks were deeply irritating, and could easily have cost us the game.
That they didn't was mostly down to some excellent work from Cesar Azpilicueta and Diego Costa. Ramires, who started despite injury, had been hauled off for Willian around the hour mark, and the substitute played a lovely through ball for Azpilicueta steaming down the left. Johnson was nowhere to be seen, so the left back kept going forward, leaving Philippe Coutinho in a heap and forcing Mignolet to push away a fizzing cross.
The parry nicked off Alberto Moreno and straight onto the feet of the last person that Anfield wanted to see getting a free shot in the box. Half a second later and a gaggle of Liverpool defenders were looking in despair as Costa's shot blasted its way between them all and in for the 2-1 lead.
It was just reward for the striker's efforts. Obviously rusty against QPR, Costa was far sharper this time around, and he was key in Chelsea's efforts to win the ball high up the pitch. He was also engaged in a titanic personal duel with Martin Skrtel and whomever else happened to be in reach, even managing to play for 10 minutes with a huge tear in his shirt from his tussles against Liverpool's back line. The Blues are a much better team with Costa firing on all cylinders, and he was back to something like his best this time around.
At 2-1, Brendan Rodgers decided to change his team shape, going from an ineffective 4-3-3-ish-thing to an ineffective 4-4-2ish thing. That they managed to put enough pressure on Chelsea to force a good save or two (one from Cahill which looked like a definite handball and therefore makes the win all the sweeter) was adorable, but there was never really the feeling of ratcheting pressure like we had against, say, Manchester United.
Instead, Chelsea broke up momentum when they needed to and took enough time off the clock to keep Liverpool from finding a second goal. It wasn't necessarily pretty, but it was enough to earn the three points. Unlike last year, our win matters more than their loss.
November can bite me.