CHELSEA WIN WAS HARDLY A MOURINHO MASTERCLASS
One of the many intriguing sub-plots to emerge from Chelsea blowing the title race wide open was the ethics battle sparked by their 2-0 win at Liverpool.
"It was a big performance and a beautiful victory. The team played brilliant," proclaimed Jose Mourinho. "Every player was magnificent. No mistakes. The best team won."
Brendan Rodgers might regard Mourinho as a "friend" but was scathing of the manner in which Chelsea had ended Liverpool's 11-match winning run.
Defensive football is "not difficult to coach" and the "polar opposite of what we do", said Rodgers, adding: "There were probably two buses parked today instead of one ... 10 players on the 18-yard box. Jose will show me his CV and say it works but it's not my way."
Rodgers's use of transport metaphors might be shrugged off as sour grapes by Chelsea supporters but he has a point.
Chelsea went to Anfield to contain, bore, nullify, frustrate, time waste and catch the home side out on the break. It has been the modus operandi of pretty much any Mourinho team in a marquee away match in the last decade. Indeed, the Portuguese took his game-stifling tactics to a new extreme by ordering his players to start time-wasting as early as the second minute.
Rodgers knew what was coming but his team were unable to find the answers to dismantle Chelsea's adeptly organised two blocks of four protecting the admirable Mark Schwarzer in goal.
Sound tactics that paid off handsomely? Absolutely. A tactical masterclass? Pull the other one.
Stopping a team from performing, even one as free-scoring as Liverpool, is far easier than implementing an offensive, eye-catching playing style that is capable of dismantling most opposition. Any top-level coach will tell you that.
Throw in the resources at the two managers' disposals and Mourinho's achievement has slightly less merit.
The Chelsea boss's mighty squad was weakened by injury to key players such as John Terry, Petr Cech and Eden Hazard but he was still able to throw on three substitutes who cost his club £90 million in transfer fees. By contrast, Rodgers could only freshen up his struggling attack in the second half with a patently unfit Daniel Sturridge and the hopeless Iago Aspas.
Liverpool's twin achievement this season has been not only to punch above their weight in terms of results, given the resources at their disposal, but to destroy teams with stylish, attacking football.
For all the plaudits that will come Mourinho's way for nicking a victory at the home of a fellow title challenger, the same could not be said for his team.
PRESSURE BACK ON MAN CITY
Manchester City's destiny is back in their own hands following an afternoon that provided another fascinating twist in the most dramatic of all title races.
With a goal difference of +58, compared to Liverpool's +50, City will likely clinch their second title in three seasons if they win their remaining three matches - a trip to Everton and back-to-back home games against Aston Villa and West Ham.
Yet Manuel Pellegrini's team have not always appeared entirely comfortable leading from the front, or when the expectation is on them to perform.
The 3-2 defeat earlier in April by Liverpool, followed three days later by an unexpected 2-2 home draw with Sunderland, proved that Pellegrini has not been able to iron out the defensive mistakes that were a feature of the early months of his tenure.
Martin Demichelis has often been a City scapegoat but he has progressed smoothly from liability to a byword for reliability in recent weeks. Yet City's open style of play always gives opponents a chance and the Blue Moon has not risen quite yet.
City's visit to Goodison Park next Saturday, coming after six days' rest, now looks the key match in the final fortnight of the league campaign.
Roberto Martinez's team have been formidable on home turf this season, with Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham claiming a combined two points out of a possible 15.
Following Saturday's defeat at Southampton, most observers have written off Everton in the race for the fourth Champions League place.
This makes them even more dangerous opponents for City, whose players will know only too well how poor their record at Goodison was under Roberto Mancini.
It would go against the grain of this rollercoaster season if City were now to steamroller their way to the title. Expect more twists, turns and surprises.
April 28, 2014 via Goal.com