The Reds were robbed of a win over Chelsea by a completely inadequate performance by Rob Styles as referee. A woeful decision to award Chelsea a second half penalty brought them an equaliser they scarcely deserved. Pepe Reina had done virtually nothing all afternoon. The penalty turned the game on it's head and along with some other bizarre decisions Styles ruined what could and should have been a decent game.
The Reds had been 1-0 up at the time of the penalty and were more than comfortable in the game but Styles changed all that when he gave the spot kick for a reason only known to him. Not even the Chelsea players appealed for the kick he awarded and Drogba stopped in the box wondering why he had been halted in his shot on goal. The spot kick dominates opinion on the game but quite frankly Styles never had any control over the game. He clearly seemed to book Essien twice but didn't send him off. Some bumbling excuse later said he was showing it to John Terry. He'd clearly already shown that card in the same incident so why he was throwing it around again I have no idea.
The Reds had a decent start to the game and they were trying to build up play down the left in the main. This was to get past Essien who as good a player as he is, he isn't a right back.
On eleven minutes Arbeloa skipped past Essien only to be hacked down and the first yellow card of the day followed. The Reds were getting joy from going down the wings in the game and both Riise and Finnan got crosses in. It helped to stretch the game out a little bit as well.
The Reds took the lead after fifteen minutes. Gerrard played the ball through the inside left channel and Torres raced after it. He slowed as he got to the ball and when Ben Haim got near he simply sped past him before shooting across Cech and in to the Anfield Road end goal.
The Reds had a penalty claim a few minutes later when Torres was grabbed by Ben Haim but the ref waved play on. On twenty four minutes Torres pulled wide right and put in a great cross which Riise managed to head on target but he couldn't generate much power and it sailed straight to Cech.
Dirk Kuyt was booked just short of the half hour for an innocuous challenge. Kuyt couldn't understand the card and debated it for a few minutes afterwards as well. It was a nothing challenge but he had fouled a few times up to that point.
The game got really heated up late in the first half after a woeful sliding challenge from Drogba went un punished by the ref. Not a word from Styles despite the fact that the challenge had both teams at each other's throats. This got the tackles going in at 100 miles an hour. Ashley Cole went off on one at the kop end goal line when he thought he had won a corner but the ref gave a goal kick. Cole blasted the ref but was just told to go away. A couple of minutes later and Jermaine Pennant went mad up the touchline in the same way as Cole did except Pennant got booked. The booking was probably fair but you must be consistent. Not something Styles did for either side.
John Terry should have scored for the away side five minutes before half time but somehow he missed the ball from an excellent free kick. Any touch and the ball would surely have ended in the net. Carragher and Gerrard were going mad at the marking which the Reds really needed to sort out.
Gerrard picked up a booking three minutes before the interval when he went in late on Mikel. As half time came closer the Reds were still on top but had let Chelsea take some of the possession too far up the pitch. Torres left the pitch just before the interval looking injured but thankfully he returned for the second half.
Chelsea made a switch for the second half as Pizzaro replaced Kalou who had been quiet in the first half. Two minutes in to the half and a Chelsea corner nearly brought an equaliser for them. Mikel somehow headed just over the bar when un-challenged in the box.
On fifty eight minutes Ashley Cole picked up a booking when he brought Torres down. Both full backs were now booked and the Reds needed to use the flanks more. Straight away they attacked Cole again. Kuyt passed to Alonso but his shot went wide.
Then came the controversial moment that ruined the rest of the game as Rob Styles stole the show. Chelsea built down their right but a cross field ball towards Malouda was too weak and Malouda had gone past the ball before it reached him. He fell over after hitting Finnan but the ball fell to Drogba on the far side of the box. The whistle went though and Drogba stopped with the ball at his feet. No-one quite knew what was going on until the ref's arm pointed to the spot. No-one had appealed for anything. Carragher took his protests too far in his opinion and he was booked. Torres and Agger both tried to put Lampard off but the midfielder slotted the kick home.
Riise went close with a volley just after as the Reds went in search of a goal again to restore their deserved lead. Ryan Babel came on for his debut in place of Pennant down the right. More controversy followed on seventy one minutes when Torres was given a free kick. I've only worked this one out after the events unfolded because I'm sure the original free kick was given to Chelsea. I expected that as Torres seemed to foul Ben Haim. However John Terry raced over to square up to Torres and intimidate him as is so typical of Chelsea. He was followed by a couple of others but Rob Styles brandished the yellow card at Terry. As everyone was standing around and players seemed to retreat away up field Essien and Torres were around the ref who then showed the yellow again in Essien's direction. He then gave Torres the ball and gave the free kick to the Reds which just confused everyone. He took an age getting the wall back ten yards and then turned his back on the ball. Alonso took the free kick but it was charged down by two Chelsea players who were about five yards from the ball. Styles was looking the other way though and let the game go on.
On eighty two minutes Riise had a chance at the far post as Babel fired a shot across the area but Cech saved well to push the ball out for a corner. Peter Crouch then arrived for Riise which pushed Babel left and Kuyt right side. Finnan put a cross in shortly after which Kuyt headed goalwards only for Cech to tip over the bar. A goal kick was awarded by the linesman though somehow. Just typical of the way both sides were treated on the day.
Ryan Babel came close to a winner two minutes from time when he struck a superb strike on goal but it went just wide. Anything on target at the speed he hit the ball would have beaten Cech. However as time ticked on and the four minutes of stoppage time went the ref blew up and the teams were left all square.
There are a number of positives to take from the game. Kuyt and Torres look a partnership gelling very quickly. Pennant has upped his game to keep his place and were are looking a lot more solid. It's just a shame the game will only ever be remembered for a disgraceful referee.
MotM : Steven Gerrard - bossed the whole midfield and set up the Reds' goal superbly well.