Johnson increases pressure on Villas-Boas

Chelsea 1 Liverpool 2

Glen Johnson netted an 87th-minute winner to heap more misery on his former club, whose defensive shortcomings were evident yet again.

In the wake of the error-strewn 5-3 home defeat to Arsenal in their last match at Stamford Bridge, another loss against one of the Premier League’s heavyweights was the last thing Chelsea needed.

Maxi Rodriguez fired Liverpool ahead after John Mikel Obi had given the ball away, before Chelsea hit back when Sturridge struck at the far post following what seemed like a mis-hit shot by Florent Malouda rather than a cross.

But just as the game looked to be heading for a draw, Johnson gathered Charlie Adam’s pass and burst past Ashley Cole before sending a left-footed shot beyond keeper Petr Cech and into the corner of the net.

Johnson’s goal leaves Chelsea 12 points behind leaders Manchester City and will increase the pressure on Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas, whose team were outplayed in the first half and hit with a sucker punch after dominating the second.

England defender Johnson also managed to upstage ex-Liverpool stars Fernando Torres and Raul Meireles, who were sent on as late substitutes to try and win the game for Chelsea only for Liverpool to regain the lead three minutes later.

Renowned for their their rock-solid defending – particularly at home – prior to Villas-Boas’ appointment, Chelsea’s problems at the back have blighted the opening months of the Portuguese’s reign and were exposed once more.

They were wide open at times, and were punished after Mikel’s careless mistake on 33 minutes.

He was robbed by Adam and after Craig Bellamy and Luis Suarez exchanged passes, Maxi netted from just inside the penalty area.

Mikel was replaced at half-time, with striker Sturridge coming on and Ramires taking up the holding midfield role the Nigerian had performed so poorly in.

Chelsea were overrun in midfield in the opening 45 minutes and, at the back, skipper John Terry had a dismal game.

The change at the interval at least had an effect, with Didier Drogba missing a great chance to equalise before Sturridge levelled 10 minutes into the second half.

After good link-up play between Frank Lampard and Juan Mata, Drogba gathered the ball and bundled his way past two challenges only to blaze hopelessly over.

But Sturridge made no mistake when an opportunity came his way, netting his sixth goal in 11 matches and vindicating Villas-Boas’ decision to bring him on rather than Torres.

The goal galvanised the home side and Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina did brilliantly to tip away Branislav Ivanovic’s header from Drogba’s free-kick, before Ivanovic’s cross was volleyed wide by Malouda from six yards out.

With the Blues continuing to search for a second goal, Torres was finally introduced with six minutes remaining along with Meireles, who scored the winner for Liverpool in the corresponding fixture last season.

But it was Chelsea, not the Merseysiders, who ended up being sunk by one of their former players.

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