In Mourinhos' defence, it worked

In Mourinhos' defence, it worked
Mourinho (above) and his players deserve credit for putting up a defensive masterclass which actually left me mesmerised.

Liverpool fans may be calling Chelsea's Sunday display negative football. Even Reds' manager Brendan Rodgers moaned that the visitors "parked two buses" at Anfield.

Ultra-defensive. A display which killed the spirit of sport. Call it what you want, but Jose Mourinho's game plan was ultimately best described it one word: Effective. It gave them a 2-0 win, three points and, more crucially, it hauled them back into the title race.

Although Rodgers' side had 73 per cent of possession to Chelsea's 27 and conjured 26 goal attempts to the Blues' 11, the Reds were unable to find a way past the Great Blue Wall.

As a player, I can tell you it is not easy for a defensive-minded team to stay compact and chase after the ball for 90 minutes.

They can usually stick to such a plan for one half, but then they lose concentration and make mistakes after fatigue sets in.

None of that happened to Chelsea on Sunday, and Mourinho and his players deserve credit for putting up a defensive masterclass which actually left me mesmerised.

Personally, I don't think Sunday's game plan was Mourinho's preferred way of playing the game. If you recall, his Chelsea sides in the 2004-06 seasons were full of attacking players like Arjen Robben and Damien Duff. At Real Madrid, he would have been sacked if he was deemed conservative.

Yesterday, as before with his previous sides, Mourinho played to his team's strengths and of course, with their limitations in mind.

Without a prolific striker, he knew it would be risky to play an attacking game that creates chances without a finisher to put them away. Such a system will also leave gaps.

Being the top scorers in the league with 96 goals, Liverpool would have been happy to exploit the extra space, and Mourinho knew he could not let that happen.

I felt Rodgers was a bit naive in his approach.

Having worked for three years under Mourinho at Chelsea, he should have known that the Portuguese tactician favours a compact defensive system when going up against attacking-minded teams.

If not, then he would have at least seen how Mourinho employed the same system to perfection in the 1-0 win over Manchester City in February, and prepared for a similar approach.

On a day when a cautious approach to earn a draw was the wiser choice, Rodgers instead gambled on a bold attacking plan which backfired.

Football is a results-oriented business, and no one remembers how a title was won, only who the victors were.

If Liverpool had got a draw, they would still be in the drivers' seat in the title race.

Now, it is blown wide open once again, and Rodgers will hope his gamble does not come back to haunt him, his team and Kopites all over the world at the end of the season.

This article was published on April 29 in The Straits Times.

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