Paul Parker

Hail the have-a-go heroes

Paul Parker

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Even though Liverpool went into Sunday's match against Chelsea on the back of three straight wins, not many people could have envisaged they would run out 2-0 winners at Anfield.

In those three games, Bolton and Blackburn could just as easily have won, and it took a Roy of the Rovers-style cameo from Steven Gerrard to overturn Napoli in the Europa League. But their first half performance against the champions was their best of the season by far.  

It's the first time in a while that Fernando Torres has looked up for it from the off, and with Dirk Kuyt back in the team Roy Hodgson played two up front and went at Chelsea, a bold tactical move considering the supposedly precarious position he is currently in at the club.

Of course, it was a major plus to know that Michael Essien was missing and then to find out that Didier Drogba was on the bench. I have to admit that I can't see Carlo Ancelotti's logic in bringing him on as a substitute. If he is well enough to play some part, then why not start him and see how he goes? Instead, by the time he came on, Chelsea were already two goals down, and Liverpool did a great job on closing out the result.

I said on Friday that, although I expected Chelsea to win, a convincing showing from Liverpool would show promising signs that things were starting to come together for them under Hodgson, so the fact they took all three points is very encouraging for them.

Now, however, they have to remember that it is not just the big games that they have to get themselves up for. They cannot afford to take their upcoming away trips to Wigan and Stoke lightly.

A few good results for Liverpool, and suddenly they are back in the hunt for a European place. It shows just how competitive the Premier League is this season. Even the champions, the mighty Chelsea, have already lost twice.

The fact that some of the teams around the upper reaches of the table are the likes of West Brom, Newcastle and Bolton is a great credit to the league, especially the two promoted sides.

Rather than panic and overhaul their squads as soon as they were sent down last year, they have come back up with a lot of the same players they went down with. That speaks volumes for the management of Roberto di Matteo and Chris Hughton, as well as the importance of consistency within a club, rather than starting from scratch every time something goes against you.

The other thing that deserves recognition is the fact that these teams are not afraid to go out and attack their opposition, whoever they may be. Both Newcastle and West Brom took on Arsenal and beat them, rather than being negative and thinking only of damage limitation.

Even Blackpool are determined to have a go at top-flight teams. It's worth noting that when they lost at Chelsea in September, they played a defensive system in the first half and conceded four goals. In the second half they reverted to the style that got them into the Premier League and subsequently gave a much better account of themselves.

I'm not saying that every side should throw everything they have at the top teams all the time and completely abandon defensive tactics - there is a time and a place for them too - but it is refreshing to see these sides willing to play football rather than merely grind their way through to survival on the final day of the season. For the moment, at least, they are reaping the benefits.

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