Moments transcends everything in sport and none more so than in football especially the good ones. Welcome to 'Throwback Thursday', where we take a look at a moment in time, and in this week’s edition, we look at the 2013 Premier League season and a moment that Liverpool fans will never forget.
It’s Sunday, April 21st 2013 and we’re at Anfield in Anfield, Liverpool, Merseyside beyond midnight Indian Standard Time (IST). Chelsea face Liverpool at Anfield and the crowd is buzzing with anticipation over what has already been an action-packed and dramatic game. The Blues currently lead 2-1 and a win that would ensure a third-place finish for them while commending Liverpool to no European football for the first time in years. It’s smooth sailing for Rafael Benitez and his boys in blue but the game ticks on and we’re well past the six given minutes of added time.
Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers, with the hopes of trying to steal something out of it, have pushed most of their team forward. Daniel Agger has the ball and the commandments dictate that he leathers it down-field, something the Reds man duly obliges with. He finds Luis Suarez with an absolutely majestic 50 plus yarder pass inside Petr Cech’s box. The Uruguayan, in between David Luiz and Ryan Bertrand, wins the header rather easily and it falls out to the right-wing where Daniel Sturridge is waiting. He knows what to do and Chelsea know what he’s about to do and yet, they can’t stop it.
The defenders pounce, surround the forward with him but still, he somehow manages to fire off a cross towards the box. The crowd waits in anticipation, there are three men in Red standing inside the box, who is Sturridge targeting? Time has now slowed down as the ball flies through the air but before we dive into the climax and reach the end, let’s roll it back and figure out how we got here in the first place.
Because as luck would have it, this wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen. This, whether they’d like to admit it or not, was Liverpool trying to transition from a bang average mid-table side into someone who could challenge for more. Their last trophy had been the 2011/12 League Cup with the Reds struggling to get into the Europa League, let alone the Champions League. Sir Kenny Daglish, who had dominated England all those years ago, returned to try and help restore his side to their former glory but he struggled to do it.
Which meant that by the time a swashing buckling, former Swansea City manager was appointed, he had not just a lot of work to do improving the team but a lot of work to do improving the team. It certainly wasn’t going to be an easy job but given the way Brendan Rodgers did it for the Swans, Liverpool were convinced that he could do it for them. But he struggled, losing six games in the first half of the season and that means the Reds won only six out of their first nineteen games under Rodgers.
Not a great start but going into late April, the Reds had turned things around with them losing just three games in the run-up to the clash against the Blues. Chelsea, however, themselves had their own problems as they walked into the season with a lot of hope. On the back of their first-ever Champions League trophy, the Blues had a lot planned for the 2012/13 season but nothing had worked out for them, until that point. They finished third in their Champions League group, which meant defending their title was not possible.
That saw Roberto Di Mateo sacked and he was replaced by former Liverpool man Rafael Benitez although the Spaniard struggled initially. He had found his groove by the time a trip to Anfield was needed but even then, the Blues walked into the game with two big losses on their mind. The FA Cup semi-final to Manchester City, a 2-1 loss, and the second leg loss to Rubin Kazan in the Europa League quarter-finals, although Chelsea progressed on away goals.
It meant that Liverpool, who by now, were already out of the FA Cup, EFL Cup and the Europa League had all their focus on the Premier League. They signed Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge in January and the two men proved to be real turning points. It transformed Brendan Rodgers’ side, at least in England, as they would lose only three games between January and late April. But even then, their struggles in the first half of the season meant that European football was as good as gone but they still had their pride left.
Well, that and super Luis Suarez. Somehow, despite losing Fernando Torres and watching their panic buy in the form of Andy Carroll not pan out, Liverpool had another star thrive. Suarez used his first six months to adjust to the league and then absolutely exploded in his second. He scored a large majority of Liverpool’s goals in the first half of the season, with 10 goals and 3 assists, before hitting another hot streak in the second half of the season.
But going into the Chelsea game, Suarez was on a four-league game drought which had affected Liverpool’s form as they won just one of those four games. It meant that if Suarez found his vein of form, the Reds had a decent chance of beating the Blues. And yet, as the first half proved, neither side was really at the races despite Chelsea going into the break ahead. It was a goal gifted and taken by Oscar who somehow, at a corner managed to sneak a header past Pepe Reina.
It was the second-best moment of the first half and took 25 minutes to arrive, then four minutes later David Luiz unleashed a sensational 40-yard free-kick. The ball swerved, wobbled and then bounced off the ground for what should have been a simple save for Reina. Instead, the Spaniard fumbled the ball and produced, arguably, the best moment of the half as he scrambled back to snatch the ball off his goal-line.
Truly sensational stuff from the keeper and it helped a few fans forget that Fernando Torres was on the field for Chelsea. Well, that and the fact that the former Liverpool cult hero was wearing a mask. Things changed, however, in the second half with Brendan Rodgers taking serious action. He swapped out one Coutinho for Daniel Sturridge, hoping that would work miracles and by god did it. The Englishman proved to be a live-wire from the moment go and created the Reds’ best chance 15 seconds into the second half.
He turned John Obi Mikel and Ryan Bertrand inside out before cutting inside, causing incredible chaos for the Chelsea defense and then slipped Steven Gerrard through. Somehow, the Liverpool captain failed to level things up but credit to Petr Cech who made a great save. A minute later, the former Chelsea man turned Eden Hazard inside out and then beats Cech with a pile driver from 25 yards out only to hit the post. It proves to light a fire under Liverpool and effectively transforms the game for them.
Because, less than five minutes after that, the Reds charge forward and score the equaliser with it all starting at the back. Carragher hands a 40-yard pass to Stuart Downing, he produces arguably the greatest touch of his career and it acts as the perfect pass for Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan had dropped deep all night and this time it was no different but instead of thumping an effort on goal, he dinks a sublime cross for Sturridge to volley home. And yet, Suarez’s part in this play is far from over and it’s not even close.
Four minutes after the equaliser, while Liverpool are defending a corner, the striker leaps into the air with his hand the highest and nudges the ball away from the masked Torres. The referee has no choice but to point to the spot, and Eden Hazard, after a lot of time-wasting and then a subsequent yellow card for Luis Suarez, scores comfortably. Ten minutes later, or thereabouts, after the goal and Liverpool have broken for a counter-attack.
Suarez leads the charge and it’s a flowing move that involves Steven Gerrard and Sturridge in the build-up play before the ball is eventually handed back to Suarez inside the box. He’s pressed by Ivanovic, who nicks the ball away and that’s that although the two men fall down to the floor together. Replays would later show that Suarez bit the Chelsea defender and should have been sent off something that Chelsea screamed at the referee about.
It, unfortunately, fell to deaf ears and the referee instead waved play on. The Uruguayan stayed on the field and the game as we know it moved on. Much to Chelsea’s chagrin, however, Suarez thrived and caused chaos every-time he got the ball but nothing much happened. Well, nearly nothing much happened as Jonjo Shelvey shanked a shot well wide of the goal instead of finding the net. It was a great chance but the midfielder, who failed to get into the game, hit it wide.
Which pushed the game into added time, and thanks to all the time wasting earlier on, it meant that the Blues now had to defend for another six minutes. But still, Liverpool struggled to create, Rafa’s Chelsea held on with them now a defensive force to be reckoned with again. The 95th minute came and went and the game trudged into the 96th minute with Chelsea screaming for the whistle. Into the 96th minute and Daniel Agger has the ball. The commandments dictate that he leathers it down-field, something the Reds man duly obliges with and he finds Suarez inside the box.
The Uruguayan, in between David Luiz and Ryan Bertrand, wins the header and it falls out to the right-wing where Daniel Sturridge is waiting. His first touch is good and it sets him up for what will possibly be the final kick of the ball, and Chelsea know that. They pounce and surround the forward with him triple-teamed nearly almost instantly but still somehow the Englishman manages to fire off a cross towards the box.
Welcome to a moment in Premier League history