Johnson goal sinks Chelsea
Liverpool v Chelsea (Getty)
London - Glen Johnson's brilliant 87th minute goal secured Liverpool's 2-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and increased the pressure on Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas.
Defeat was Chelsea's second successive home loss and came after it looked as if they had secured a point when Daniel Sturridge cancelled out Maxi Rodriguez’s first half opener with an equaliser ten minutes after the restart.
But Johnson's late strike ensured his former club suffered a third defeat in four Premier League games and moved Liverpool up to sixth, level on points with the Blues.
Chelsea are now 12 points behind table-toppers Manchester City and Villas-Boas said: "It's a bad blow for us in the Premiership. It's a big blow.
"We have a home game with Wolves next, before Newcastle and then the leaders and we have to try and win those games, as difficult as they are.
"There are lots of points on offer in November and December. The calendar gets tight and maybe we can get some extra points.
"But this is one step closer to an even more difficult situation."
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish was delighted by his side's endurance, saying: "To their credit, they kept going and at that stage, to have your right full-back up there is of great credit to the players.
"It was a good day for us."
Villas-Boas sprang a surprise before kick-off, omitting Fernando Torres from his starting line-up, denying the striker the chance to face the club he left for 50 million during January's transfer window.
Dalglish mirrored his opposite number's move by leaving Andy Carroll, Torres's 35 million replacement, on the bench.
But it was Dalglish who had more cause to be satisfied during a first half when the defensive lapses that had marred Chelsea's last home outing, the 5-3 defeat by Arsenal, resurfaced with alarming regularity.
Liverpool were impressive from the start.
But while they chased and harried, Chelsea were surprisingly lethargic and repeatedly conceded possession in dangerous areas.
A 22nd minute Didier Drogba free kick almost gave the home side the lead but it was Liverpool who were in the ascendancy with striker Luis Suarez apparently unaffected by facing an FA charge following allegations he racially abused Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
Both Suarez and Chelsea's John Terry, accused of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, wore 'Kick it Out' T-shirts during the warm-up, as did their team-mates with Sunday's match being dedicated in support of the anti-racism campaign.
The pace of Suarez and Craig Bellamy caused Chelsea's ponderous defence repeated problems and it was no surprise that Liverpool 33rd minute opening goal came from a home mistake.
John Obi Mikel was caught in possession by Charlie Adam as he collected a ball from keeper Petr Cech and Bellamy took up the baton, exchanging passes with Suarez before picking out Rodriguez who finished right footed.
The pressure was on Villas-Boas to act decisively and to the manager’s credit, he withdrew Mikel at half time, introducing Sturridge.
Chelsea didn't have to wait long for the equaliser, however, with Florent Malouda carving out the 55th minute opening with a powerful run and cross from the left that Sturridge turned home from close range at the far post.
Moments later Chelsea almost took the lead when Branislav Ivanovic's header was superbly saved by Pepe Reina.
Torres and Raul Meireles, another former Liverpool player, were finally introduced in the 84th minute but the decisive late act came from Johnson who collected Adam's crossfield pass with an excellent first touch, cut into the box from the right and slotted the ball home left footed.