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Chelsea sleep through Liverpool match, draw anyway

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

It's been nine years since we've been in a position like this. The league is won with plenty of time to spare, and there's nothing else to play for. All that remains is the trophy lift, the victory parade and 270 minutes of utterly irrelevant football. And sure, it might matter to other teams -- Liverpool needed a victory to have even a vague hope of challenging Manchester United for the top four -- but, well, Chelsea are champions. Nobody else's opinions need count.

Which is why Jose Mourinho opted to rotate heavily. Out of the core team that won the Premier League, only six started in the 1-1 draw. In came a bunch of bit-part players. Loic Remy returned from injury to lead the line. Filipe Luis and Kurt Zouma were deployed at the back. John Obi Mikel made a rare appearance in the centre. But the story, at least as far as the lineup was concerned, was the presence of Ruben Loftus-Cheek alongside the Nigerian. The 19-year-old has been mentioned frequently as part of the plans for next season, here he had a chance to show us what he could do.

Which was probably all that made the match worth watching. That it wasn't going to be friendly was evidenced in the first minute, when Cesc Fabregas attempted to cut off Raheem Sterling's leg at the ankle and received a yellow card for his troubles. And any sense that this might just be a dull affair was put to bed four minutes later with the first goal of the match.

Filipe Luis produced an extraordinary crossfield pass to free up Willian, whose cross was put behind for a corner by Martin Skrtel. From that corner, the Blues took the lead, with John Terry losing Ricky Lambert to power Fabregas's delivery in for the opener. With his header, the skipper became the highest scoring defender in Premier League history -- not a bad milestone.

Liverpool had a strong spell after the goal, but didn't seriously trouble the defence, and soon Chelsea were imposing themselves on the match once again. But there was no need to make a serious effort to extend the lead, and it was clear that everyone was in first gear, with the possible exception of Eden Hazard, who was in zeroeth -- forgivable for a man who did so much to secure our first title in five years, of course.

Meanwhile, Fabregas, apparently unkeen on the idea of playing in a meaningless match, might have been sent off for another strange tackle on Sterling, and the visitors decided to get in on the fun with a slew of silly challenges, the worst of which came when Lambert decided he would kick Thibaut Courtois with the ball going out of play. But it was a yellow at the end of the half which changed the game -- Branislav Ivanovic got himself into a pickle trying to prevent a corner and was forced to haul down Adam Lallana, and from the resulting free kick neither Gary Cahill* nor Mikel bothered to stop Steven Gerrard scoring at the far post.

*Kurt Zouma had been forced off with an injury earlier.

Whoops. Not that it mattered much. I suspect Chelsea fans were more entertained by the fact that Diego Costa was seen mingling with supporters in the Upper East than by anything on the pitch. In normal conditions conceding against Gerrard would have been calamitous. Here it was met with a shrug and perhaps a vaguely annoyed laugh.

Much of the second half was spent in our end, with Liverpool trying to get the three points (and Philippe Coutinho came close early on with a cracking drive) and us looking vaguely arsed about denying them. Stoppable force was, however, dealt with by not-very-bothered-about-moving object, it was Chelsea who seemed more likely to score on the break. Not that that happened either.

Stamford Bridge was given the chance to give Gerrard the sendoff he deserved midway through the half, the Liverpool skipper departing to a mix of laminated derision and grudging respect. And that, more or less, was that. Juan Cuadrado came on and got poked in the eye, which I suppose was mildly exciting, and an annoying deflection right at the death might have won it for the visitors (and therefore given them hope in the top four race), but all in all everything felt entirely bereft of any consequence.

22 players ran around with a football for a while. One team can be happy with their season, the other cannot. The end.

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