Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

Last updated : 20 January 2007 By Footymad Previewer
Rafa Benitez celebrated his 100th game in charge of Liverpool with a thrilling victory over the only team he had never previously beaten in the Premiership.

Liverpool have built up a rivalry against Chelsea with fierce Champions League clashes in the last two seasons which added an extra air of excitement to Anfield.

The Reds were eager to prove their mettle early on attacking through Chelsea's weakened midfield and taking advantage of John Terry's absence at the heart of defence.

Jermaine Pennant and Steven Gerrard linked up early on, with the captain's curling header a test for Petr Cech, who was making his return from a fractured skull.

But the visitors were left reeling by an early goal which showed the shocking hole in Chelsea's defence after just four minutes.

Jamie Carragher launched a lofted ball straight through the middle towards Peter Crouch's towering frame and he deftly laid it off to Dirk Kuyt.

The Dutchman headed it down and overpowered two defenders to drive it low into the net, leaving Cech scratching his protective headgear.

Benitez had said before the game that Liverpool needed an early goal to take control off the champions, but never in his wildest dreams could he have predicted they would have a two-goal buffer within 20 minutes.

Pennant netted a fantastic 30-yard strike from a Michael Essien rebound which glanced the underside of the crossbar on its way in, leaving Cech helpless yet again.

It was the Anfield new boy's first goal for the club and one which would surely win him a place in the Kop's heart.

Chelsea struggled to produce any build-up play and repeatedly coughed up possession and a disgruntled Jose Mourinho quickly replaced Arjen Robben with Shaun Wright-Phillips to try and inject some pace into their lacklustre attack after just 21 minutes.

But even when Xabi Alonso left the field for treatment for a bloody mouth and the Reds were reduced to just ten men, Chelsea failed to capitalise.

Mourinho's harsh half-time teamtalk managed to stir Chelsea out of their slumber and into some sort of attacking play.

With only one shot on target in the first half, any change was welcome for the travelling fans, but despite some well threaded play from Wright-Phillips and Essien, Liverpool's counter-attack was always a threat.

John Arne Riise tried to outdo Pennant's first-half strike and unleashed a thunderous 45-yard effort, but the shot ricocheted off the bar and came back towards Crouch, but Cech easily collected his weak header.

Chelsea seemed to wave the white flag for the last ten minutes, backing off from challenges and being content to sit in their own half.

Anfield erupted at the final whistle, despite the Reds having done deadly rivals Manchester United a massive favour in the race for the Premiership title.