ONCE again Liverpool left the big-spenders feeling short-changed in West London. It was only a point but it felt like more.
For three-quarters of the afternoon Brendan Rodgers could only sit and watch as his side were comprehensively outplayed.
Second best in all departments, the Reds appeared to be heading for a chastening defeat following John Terry’s first-half header.
However, Chelsea failed to deliver the killer blow and the visitors dug deep to summon a gutsy fightback to extend their unbeaten league run to six games.
The transformation after Luis Suarez headed home the equaliser was remarkable as Liverpool finished with a flourish. They could have won it late on but a fourth successive victory at Stamford Bridge narrowly eluded them.
Once again Suarez walked away with the plaudits as the Uruguayan claimed his 11th goal of the season and his eighth strike in his past 10 league outings.
There was only one winner in the battle between Kop idols past and present. Suarez enjoyed a smooch with the camera after continuing his hot streak, while Fernando Torres was hauled off late on with that familiar scowl etched across his face.
Five times Torres has faced Liverpool since he turned his back on the club in January 2011 and on each occasion the £50million man has reinforced the fact that he’s a pale imitation of his former self.
In Suarez, Liverpool have someone who cost less than half of Torres but is twice the player. The striker is in the form of his life and his value to the Reds is huge – but this was no one-man show.
Just as deserving of praise was the back three of Jamie Carragher, Andre Wisdom and Daniel Agger who put their bodies on the line to repel Chelsea’s advances.
It was Carragher’s first league start of the season but the veteran defender, facing the Londoners for the 44th time in his career, slotted in seamlessly to help keep Torres under wraps and played a starring role in helping Suarez restore parity.
Jose Enrique epitomised Liverpool’s fighting spirit down the left flank. The Spaniard started badly but blossomed as the afternoon went on and so nearly capped his tireless display with a dramatic winner.
Further forward, Raheem Sterling demonstrated that he has the temperament as well as the talent to succeed at the highest level. He refused to be bullied and a first England cap now awaits the talented teenager against Sweden on Wednesday night.
Delight at the Reds’ comeback should be tempered today by a glance at the Premier League table which shows Liverpool remain in the bottom half with 12 points from 11 matches.
Their day in the capital showcased the character Rodgers has installed in his squad but it also highlighted the urgent need to strengthen in January.
The size of the task facing the Northern Irishman to restore the Reds back to the elite group is underlined by the fact that fresh from winning the FA Cup and Champions League, Chelsea spent £80million this summer.
The front four they fielded yesterday of Torres, Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard cost an eye-watering £130million.
You can have a style and a philosophy but ultimately success comes down to the quality of players and Liverpool are in need of a sizeable injection. A show of ambition is required to convince the likes of Suarez that the Reds are serious about reclaiming their top four status.
For a long time it looked like Chelsea’s riches would pay dividends as Rodgers’ men were on the back foot.
The boss opted to go with 3-5-2 in a bid to combat that attacking threat with Carragher replacing Martin Skrtel, who missed out due to illness, and Glen Johnson returning from injury in place of Suso.
There was a major let-off early on as Joe Allen left Liverpool exposed after losing possession. Hazard’s pass left Oscar with just Brad Jones to beat but the Brazilian lifted his shot over the bar.
The manner in which the Reds fell behind in the 20th minute was galling. Terry was granted the freedom of the penalty box to meet Mata’s corner and power a header past Jones.
The visitors were getting over-run in midfield and too often possession was thrown away cheaply.
They were lucky not to fall further behind just before the half hour mark. Allen allowed Hazard to burst away from him and he laid the ball into Torres’ path. The Spaniard’s low strike was parried away by Jones and Hazard failed to convert the rebound.
Ten minutes before half-time Suarez inadvertently ended Terry’s afternoon. A tackle from Ramires sent Suarez flying into the centre-back who went down in a heap. After lengthy treatment, he was stretchered off with Gary Cahill replacing him.
Chelsea should have made it 2-0 in stoppage time when Oscar nodded into the path of Mata but he blazed wastefully over.
In the second half Liverpool continued to cling on as Mata fired wide before Torres’ header was kept out by Jones, who once again impressed in the absence of Pepe Reina.
Rodgers took action on the hour as the ineffective Nuri Sahin made way for Suso. The youngster was played in the central role where he had caught the eye after coming off the bench against Anzhi in midweek.
Sterling went out to the right in a 4-2-3-1 and finally Liverpool began to secure a foothold in the contest.
Petr Cech hadn’t had a save to make but he was forced to pick the ball out of his net when the equaliser arrived out of nowhere in the 73rd minute. Liverpool have turned wasting corners into an art form of late – hitting the first defender with remarkable regularity. But they made this one count in glorious fashion.
Suso delivered from the right, Carragher provided the flick and Suarez nodded in at the back post. It was Carragher’s first league assist for three and a half years.
The travelling Kop erupted and the sight of Torres being dragged off only increased their sense of satisfaction.
Rodgers’ decision to rest so many of his star names for the midweek trip to Russia was vindicated as while Chelsea flagged, Liverpool grew in strength in the later stages.
With six minutes to go Steven Gerrard sent Sterling scampering down the right. The winger picked out Suso but he scuffed his shot wide.
Suarez was inspired after his goal, forcing Cech to save with an opportunist strike from the halfway line before the keeper raced out to prevent him from converting Enrique’s through ball.
Deep into stoppage time the Reds had a glorious chance to clinch maximum points. Sterling and Suarez combined to tee up Enrique, whose low drive was clawed behind by Cech as Chelsea survived. It was a rarity for Liverpool this season. A day when the result was better than the performance.