Luis Suarez grabbed the headlines after a late, late equaliser put a dent into Chelsea’s Champions League hopes.
The Uruguayan scored on 34 seconds after the six minutes of added time were up, in a hugely controversial game which will be remembered for non-footballing reasons.
The Liverpool striker did concede a penalty that looked to be the decisive goal once Eden Hazard had dispatched the spot-kick, but the 26-year-old will be remembered as both hero and villain, appearing to bite Branislav Ivanovic after a tussle.
It means the Blues are now just one point away from fifth-placed Tottenham, who beat Manchester City earlier in the day, meaning it is now tiny margins separating the Champions League or Europa League qualification.
The stats were delicately poised for this one. On paper, a side in mid-table mediocrity and a top-four side should be a mis-match, but Liverpool versus Chelsea always conjure up something special. Overall, Liverpool lead the Premier League head-to-head by 17 wins to Chelsea’s 16, but it was too close to call leading up to the match.
Ba had widely been expected to start given Torres needs to start mid-week, but the squad rotation policy seems to work only for Benitez’s favourite players, and so John Terry and Frank Lampard had to sit out alongside Ba.
It was a scrappy opening in which both sides had opportunities. Johnson surged forward for the hosts, but Torres and Ramires all had chances to break the deadlock.
Ramires’ compatriot, Oscar, showed his team how to score in the 25th minute. Similar to Drogba’s Munich equaliser, Mata’s inswinging corner was met by the leaping Chelsea Number 11, and Reina’s hand was, like Neuer’s, incapable of stopping the ball.
Liverpool’s response was tepid as Chelsea looked to double their advantage through Luiz, but Brendan Rodgers’ half-time team-talk serves to much-galvanise his side.
Sturridge’s introduction sparked new life, with Gerrard the first to have a chance just 15 seconds into the restart. Another inviting cross and two more glorious opportunities in as many minutes later, and Chelsea were on the back foot.
Sturridge hit the post from a long-range drive, but did get his goal as Liverpool’s pressure told in the 51st minute. A fantastic cut back by Enrique, followed by a sweeping ball found Sturridge to tap in. The forward’s celebration was muted.
His strike partner was making a mess of things at the other end however, as Suarez’s handball when defending a corner looked set to undo all the hard work in Liverpool’s equaliser. Eden Hazard, with Lampard not on the field of play, duly dispatched.
The rash challenges kept flooding in: Carragher, Suarez, Shelvey all booked.
Benayoun came on as Benitez looked to give his former side some advantage, with the Israeli apparently more capable of helping the side out than other alternatives like Lampard, and Benitez’s substitution worked wonders, as Chelsea were practically playing with 10 men: Benayoun was anonymous.
Shelvey missed a sitter as the grand finale was about to come. Suarez has just bitten Ivanovic when he lost the tussle — the desire for the Serbian’s meaty flesh must have been too much — but he got his moment in injury time. The attention-sapped striker headed home from close range after a Sturridge assist.