• We’ve played every three days over the last eight weeks
• Kenny Dalglish: ‘It was an excellent performance’
Roberto Di Matteo said he had no regrets over his selection policy against Liverpool as Chelsea suffered their heaviest defeat of the season and saw their faint hopes of a top-four finish expire at Anfield.
Chelsea’s interim manager made eight changes to the team that beat Liverpool in the FA Cup final on Saturday and paid an emphatic price as Kenny Dalglish’s team produced a rampant first-half display to record their biggest league win of the season. Michael Essien, with an own-goal, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Agger all scored in nine first-half minutes as the visitors produced a calamitous defensive performance. Stewart Downing also missed a penalty in first-half stoppage time – the seventh time Liverpool have failed from the spot this season, a club record.
Di Matteo absolved his makeshift team and said the lowest league finish of the Roman Abramovich era was the product of an underwhelming campaign rather than one off-night. “Liverpool were the better side. They were inspired and scored goals at the right time,” he said. “I don’t think it was the team [I picked]. Liverpool were better than us and we have to given them credit. We’ve played with these players all season and they’ve carried us so far. It’s been demanding for us and I thought that by putting a fresh team out would give us a better chance. We have been using the strength that we have in the squad to be able to be here but we’ve lost many points during the whole season and you can’t just look at tonight. We’ve played every three days over eight weeks and we’ve had to utilise the strength in the squad to reach the finals and to be as close as we were with two games left.”
Chelsea had only an outside chance of finishing above Tottenham and Newcastle in the table before kick-off and must now now beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League on 19 May to return to the European elite next term. i Matteo added: “The final is a one off game. It was always going to be a high pressure game. But we have to be objective as well because we’ve played 37 games and I don’t think it’s the point we lost today that cost us. We hit the post and then the crossbar and that could have changed the game a little bit.”Victory ensured Liverpool avoided equalling the club’s lowest return of home wins in a top flight campaign at Anfield and left Kenny Dalglish enthused at the reaction to the FA Cup final defeat.
“It was an excellent performance, one that we’ve seen a few times before but without the result being as positive as that,” he said. “It’s pleasing the result was matched by the performance and so the supporters go away with a smile on their face. There is no other place in the Premier League where supporters would show appreciation like that.
“I have a feeling of ‘what a result and what a performance’ not ‘what if’. The last half hour at Wembley and that performance there was fantastic. Everyone played their part. Jonjo and Jordan, Luis was fantastic for the first goal and big Andy was unplayable. The old boy at the back [Jamie Carragher] didn’t do so bad, either. Everyone played their part.”