Chelsea were outclassed by a rampant Liverpool as the FA Cup holders were hammered 4-1 at Anfield tonight.
A goal from Ramires early in the second half was the only bright spot in a game for the Blues but by then they were three goals down.
A fourth, a beautiful strike by JonJo Shelvey, was no more than the home side deserved – in truth it could have been more.
With the Champions League final firmly in Roberto Di Matteo’s mind, the interim manager decided to play just three players from the side that won the FA Cup on Saturday.
John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and Ramires were the starters; all three are suspended for the showpiece match in Munich against Bayern Munich on May 19.
As for the match, Chelsea looked like a bunch of individuals who have never played together, while Liverpool were in no mood to be turned over as they were at Wembley when they went down 2-1 to the Londoners.
But it was the visitors who went closest when Branislav Ivanovic hit the Liverpool crossbar on 17 minutes as a Florent Malouda’s corner was met by the unmarked centre-back.
But the home side edged into the lead two minutes later when Michael Essien scored an own goal after an excellent run by Luis Suarez saw the striker try and cross to a Liverpool team mate. But Essien could not get out of the way and the ball zipped past Ross Turnbull.
John Terry entered the ref’s book by cynically hacking down Andy Carroll three minutes after the goal. But the second was soon coming and it went to Jordan Henderson who dispossessed Terry and shot past Turnbull to double Liverpool’s lead on 25 minutes.
The third came on 28 minutes when Daniel Agar stooping to head home past Turnbull after a corner was knocked on by Carroll.
Suarez then set up Maxi Rodriguez with a brilliant through ball, but Turnbull managed to parry the ball away for a corner.
Ex-Liverpool striker found himself free in the area and blasts fierce shot which rattled Pepe Reina’s crossbar and out to safety.
With Liverpool threatening to run riot, Ivanovic inexplicably decided to elbow Carroll in the Chelsea penalty area seconds before the break.
Stuart Downing, who has not scored a goal this season, sent Turnbull the wrong way, but smacked the post. Carroll could not put away the rebound.
Completely against the run of play, Chelsea got a goal back five minutes after the restart.
Brazil midfielder Ramires found the ball ram off his midriff in the Liverpool area after a curling free-kick by Malouda went through a melee of players.
But if there was any sense of a comeback for Chelsea, it was all but ended on 60 minutes when following a poor kick by Turnbull, JonJo Shelvey rammed home into an empty net from 35 yards with a piece of sublime technique with a beautiful right-footed cushioned half volley.
Di Matteo decided he had seen enough of ineffectual Daniel Sturridge; he replaced the Englishman with Belgium teenager, Romelu Lukaku on 65 minutes.
The 18-year-old almost struck gold when, after good play by Malouda and Ramires the ball went straight to the head of Lukaku, but from point blank range, Reina saved well.
Suarez should have been sent off with 12 minutes remaining for swinging his arm round and smacking Ivanovic in the face after the two clashed in the corner of the pitch.
Ivanovic naturally refused to shake Suarez’s hand in a feigned act of contrition, and it’s possible the FA may use video evidence to sanction the striker as referee Friend did not even signal a free-kick.
With his first touch wonderkid, 17-year-old Raheem , a substitute had a great chance to make it 5-1, but he volley high over Turnbull’s goal.
That was the last real action action of the game which means the Blues will finish 6th in the Premier League and will now have to win the Champions League if they are to be in Europe’s top competition next season.
Teams: Ross Turnbull, Paulo Ferreira, Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry (c), Ryan Bertrand, Michael Essien, Oriol Romeu, Florent Malouda, Ramires, Fernando Torres Daniel Sturridge
Subs: Hilario, Sam Hutchinson, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Juan Mata. Salomon Kalou, Romelu Lukaku.
Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Agger; Downing, Henderson, Shelvey, Maxi Rodriguez; Suarez. Carroll.
Subs: Doni, Kelly, Coates, Spearing, Sterling, Kuyt, Bellamy.
Referee: Kevin Friend.