Liverpool – Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho taunted Liverpool about their ineffective tactics after his side handed Manchester City the initiative in the Premier League title race with victory at Anfield.
Chelsea's 2-0 success on Sunday effectively means that City can claim the title by winning their three remaining games.
Manuel Pellegrini's team trail Liverpool, the leaders, by three points, but they have a match in hand Ä at home to struggling Aston Villa Ä and an eight-goal advantage in terms of goal difference.
Liverpool had been on a run of 11 straight wins prior to facing Chelsea, but the visitors' spoiling tactics successfully prevented the hosts from building momentum, quietening the Anfield crowd.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, who previously worked beneath Mourinho at Chelsea, expressed frustration at his old mentor's tactics, describing them as “defensive” and “not difficult to coach”.
The home side laboured in front of goal, however, with Chelsea's stand-in goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer only called upon to make two saves of note, and Mourinho boasted that his side had kept Liverpool at bay with ease.
“Defensive display? I am a bit confused what the media thinks about defensive displays,” he told reporters.
“When a team defends well, you call it a defensive display. When a team defends badly and concedes two or three goals, you don't consider it a defensive display.
“When Liverpool start putting long balls in the area for Mark and (Gary) Cahill and (Branislav) Ivanovic, they were like in fish in water, (because it was) so easy for them.
“The team played brilliantly. Every player was magnificent. No mistakes. I think it was a fantastic performance by my players.”
Although Chelsea are now only two points from the summit with two games to play, Mourinho declared that they have “no chance” of pipping Liverpool and City to the title.
In any case, his immediate focus will now be on Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg at home to Atletico Madrid, with the tie in the balance after a 0-0 draw in the first leg.
Chelsea will be without injured goalkeeper Petr Cech, but Mourinho says that captain and centre-back John Terry has a chance of playing despite hobbling out of the first leg with a foot injury.
Eden Hazard could also feature after returning to training following a calf complaint.
Striker Samuel Eto'o is a doubt with a knee problem, however, while midfielders John Mikel Obi and Frank Lampard Ä both of whom completed the full 90 minutes at Anfield Ä are suspended.
A slip by Steven Gerrard gave Demba Ba an opportunity to run clear and put Chelsea ahead in first-half stoppage time on Sunday, with Chelsea substitute Willian adding a second goal in injury time at the end of the second period.
Rodgers aimed another subtle dig at Mourinho by claiming that Sunday's game was ideal preparation for Liverpool's next fixture, which is against Tony Pulis's well-drilled Crystal Palace.
Liverpool could have fallen below both Chelsea and City by the time they take to the field at Selhurst Park on May 5, but Rodgers has urged his players to finish the season with a flourish.
“Like I did say afterwards, I'm so proud of them,” said the Northern Irishman, whose side's final game is at home to Newcastle United.
“The position that we find ourselves in, the money that's been spent at the top end of the table, for us to still be two points clear of Chelsea...
“If we finish off the season now, win these two games, we'll finish above them and maybe Manchester City. There's still a way to go. Obviously Manchester City now will feel they can go on and win their games.
“We'll just recover now, we'll focus on the next game, and continue with that positive mentality that we've had throughout the season. That's the reason why we are where we are.” – Sapa-AFP