By Wayne Veysey at Stamford Bridge
An unconvincing Liverpool made Chelsea pay for their profligacy by coming from behind to steal a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.
The home side’s pain at letting two points slip was augmented by a serious injury to Chelsea goalscorer John Terry, who faces an uncertain future after being stretchered off in the 40thminute with suspected knee ligament damage.
Terry’s 20th minute header and a series of dangerous counter-attacks had given Chelsea hope they could climb to within a point of the Premier League leaders Manchester United.
But Roberto Di Matteo’s team failed to finish off their visitors and Luis Suarez made them pay 17 minutes from the end with his eighth league goal of the season.
It leaves Chelsea third in the table, three points behind United, while Liverpool remain in a distant 13th position.
To add to the home side’s agony, Terry left the pitch with his head in his hands and a look of rare vulnerability on his face after receiving five minutes of treatment in the wake of his accidental collision with Suarez.
Predictably, Liverpool made eight changes from the side that lost 1-0 in Russia against Anzhi on Thursday. With Pepe Reina failing to make the match-day 18, Brad Jones remained in goal, while Jamie Carragher replaced the ill Martin Skrtel.
Andre Wisdom kept his place despite the return of Glen Johnson, as Brendan Rodgers opted to start with three central defenders flanked by wing-backs Johnson and Jose Enrique.
For Chelsea, Terry returned to the starting X1 after being overlooked in midweek. He was paired with Branislav Ivanovic rather than Gary Cahill or David Luiz, who had tonsillitis.
With the injured Ashley Cole replaced by his understudy Ryan Bertrand and Cesar Azpilicueta making only his second league start, there was an even fresher feel to the new-look Chelsea.
It was another exciting addition to the home team, Oscar, who came close to giving Chelsea a sixth-minute lead after Joe Allen lost possession but the Brazilian lifted his shot over the bar from 15 yards out.
Just when Rodgers’ 3-5-2 formation appeared to be bearing fruit, with his team dominating possession, simple human error gifted Chelsea the opening goal midway through the opening period.
Juan Mata curled in a corner from the right and Liverpool’s zonal system, most notably Daniel Agger, failed to track the run of Terry, who gleefully bulleted a free header into the top corner for his 50th Chelsea goal in his 558th appearance.
It was one of Terry’s last acts of the afternoon. The captain was stretchered off, in severe pain, after Suarez’s full body weight landed on his knee. Judging by the agonised look on the Englishman’s face, subsequent tests in the Stamford Bridge medical room could reveal ligament damage.
Despite Liverpool having 64 per cent of the first-half possession, Chelsea were far more dangerous and Mata’s brilliant run shortly before the whistle ended with a wild finish rather than the second goal.
It was the same theme after the break, with Petr Cech little more than an interested spectator as all the action hummed around the opposing goalmouth. Mata arrowed a shot narrowly wide and Jones saved smartly from Torres’ flashed header.
Chelsea should have been out of sight by the time Liverpool made them pay for their profligacy with a smartly worked corner in the 73rd minute.
Substitute Suso curled the ball into the near post, Carragher met it with a neat flick-on and an unchallenged Suarez applied the headed finish with his 11th goal of the season.
Indeed, the visitors finished strongly and Suarez could have gone on to win the game for Liverpool had last man Petr Cech not timed his charge perfectly late on.