Football Features

What happened to the Chelsea team that refused to be ‘clowns’ and scarred Steven Gerrard for life?

By Harry Edwards

Published: 18:45, 26 April 2022

At around 2pm on Sunday April 27, 2014, Liverpool were top of the Premier League with three games remaining, knowing seven points would secure them their first league title in almost four decades.

They had reached that stage thanks to a dramatic 3-2 win over Norwich City the previous week, in which captain Steven Gerrard used that unfortunate turn of phrase as he implored his teammates to not let the lead they had established slip. Second-placed Chelsea were the next opponents.

The Blues arrived at Anfield as underdogs and looked to be favouring their Champions League semi-final clash with Atletico Madrid that week. But it was still a Jose Mourinho side, and so the Portuguese set up to frustrate and strike a killer blow, refusing to – as he put it – be the ‘clowns at the circus’.

‘I used the word with my players. I said – we are going to be the clowns, they want us to be the clowns in the circus. The circus is here. Liverpool are to be champions.’

Jose Mourinho in 2014

The Reds dominated the game but fell behind just before half-time. Everyone knows how, but for the sake of clarity: Demba Ba capitalised when Gerrard slipped after receiving the ball from Mamadou Sakho, racing in on goal and coolly slotted the ball underneath Simon Mignolet, The moment still haunts the former Liverpool captain, and he doesn’t expect that will ever change.

“This wound has been open since my experience. I’m not sure it’ll close because I can’t change that experience,” Gerrard said in 2019.

Liverpool continued to push in the second half, but Chelsea struck again late in injury time. This time after Willian broke away, trading passes around Mignolet with Fernando Torres  – and that the Spaniard choose not to go for goal himself was perhaps a small psychological mercy to fans of his former club – before wrapping up the win and putting the title in Manchester City’s hands.

Another crushing result followed for Liverpool. This one even more spectacular, as Crystal Palace came from three goals down to draw 3-3. The draw is know to rival fans as Crystanbul, but the damage was already done by Chelsea. An unusual Chelsea side, at that, because Mourinho had not exactly at full-strength ahead of their Atletico Madrid.

Goalkeeper: Mark Schwarzer

Age: 49
Chelsea appearances: 12
Current club: Retired

Starting in goal following Petr Cech’s injury in the first leg against Atletico Madrid, Mark Schwarzer was given just his second Premier League start of the season at Anfield. The Australian was excellent in keeping Liverpool’s attackers at bay, making eight saves.

Schwarzer remained at Chelsea until January 2015, moving to Leicester and becoming a part of their Premier League-winning side in the 2015/16 campaign (although he did not feature) before retiring.

Right-back: Cesar Azpilicueta

Age: 32
Chelsea appearances: 469
Current club: Chelsea

Having spent most of the season at left-back, Cesar Azpilicueta returned to the right as part of a slightly rotated defence and was tasked with keeping Jon Flanagan and Philippe Coutinho quiet.

The Spaniard largely remained a left-back until Antonio Conte’s arrival, when he became a centre-back, then once again reprised his role on the right side of defence under Maurizio Sarri. Azpilicueta has been official Chelsea captain since the start of the 2019/20 campaign and led the team to the 2021 Champions League and Club World Cup, completing his set of trophies. A bonafide club legend, Azpilicueta could be on his way out of Chelsea this summer.


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Centre-back: Tomas Kalas

Age: 28
Chelsea appearances: 4
Current club: Bristol City

Injuries and rotation saw Tomas Kalas handed his Premier League debut against Liverpool and it was one to remember; he helped keep a clean sheet and almost opened the scoring from a corner.

Unfortunately for the Czech international, Kalas’ career stagnated as he became another victor of Chelsea’s loan cycle, eventually leaving the club permanently for Bristol City in 2019 where he has become a mainstay.

Centre-back: Branislav Ivanovic

Age: 38
Chelsea appearances: 377
Current club: Free agent

Ordinarily Chelsea’s right-back, Branislav Ivanovic made the switch to centre-back with John Terry injured and Gary Cahill on the bench. The Serbian was the experienced man alongside Kalas and helped keep the defence firm up against Luis Suarez, who would end the season with 31 goals and the Premier League Player of the Year award.

Ivanovic helped Chelsea win the 2014/15 Premier League title but that was the beginning of the end for his Blues career, eventually leaving in January 2017. After three years with Zenit, Ivanovic returned to England with West Bromwich Albion but has been without a club since leaving the Baggies last summer.

Left-back: Ashley Cole

Age: 41
Chelsea appearances: 338
Current club: Retired

In what would be his final season as a Chelsea player, Ashley Cole was brought back into the side by Mourinho, who gave him the job of dealing with a young Raheem Sterling.

The former England international left Chelsea for Roma that summer and, after an unsuccessful spell in Italy, made the move to MLS with LA Galaxy. Cole spent three seasons in LA before returning to England and Derby County, ending his very successful playing career in 2019 – now trying his hand a coaching with one of his teammates from this match.

Central midfielder: Nemanja Matic

Age: 33
Chelsea appearances: 154
Current club: Manchester United

Nemanja Matic was a January arrival for Chelsea in the 2013/14, re-signing for the club after a previous spell in west London. He was widely praised for a previous performance against Manchester City and put in another excellent display at Anfield, shielding the Chelsea defence.

The Serbian midfielder remained key to Chelsea’s next two Premier League title wins but left the club in 2017 to reunite with Mourinho at Manchester United. After being a key midfielder at Old Trafford, Matic is set to leave Man Utd in the summer.


2021/22 Premier League title odds

Club Chance 888Sport Sky Bet
Manchester City 80.46% 1/7 1/7
Liverpool 19.54% 9/2 9/2
Probability % provided by StatsPerform
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Central midfielder: John Obi Mikel

Age: 35
Chelsea appearances: 372
Current club: Free agent

In his eighth season as a Chelsea player, John Obi Mikel’s role at Anfield was essentially to be the team’s fifth defender, sitting alongside the back line to protect Schwarzer’s goal.

Although the Nigerian did receive criticism for his playing style at times, even among his own fans, he left in 2017 as a club icon for his big part in what was a successful period in Chelsea’s history. Mikel has since played for Tianjin Teda, Middlesbrough and Trabzonspor, leaving the latter in March 2020 when the competition initially tried to play through the coronavirus pandemic.

Central midfielder: Frank Lampard

Age: 43
Chelsea appearances: 648
Current club: Everton (manager)

Like Cole, Frank Lampard was in his final season at Chelsea and had seen his playing time reduced, although he did captain the Blues at Anfield in Terry’s absence.

Lampard would go on to join MLS side New York City FC but not before spending a season with Manchester City. Chelsea’s all-time record goalscorer retired in 2017 and turned to management in 2018, first with Derby County before returning to Stamford Bridge. Lampard spent 18 months in charge of Chelsea, taking them to an FA Cup final but was sacked in January 2021 with the club in danger of completely falling out of the race for the top four. He is now managing another club that Liverpool fans hate so much, taking charge of Everton and currently trying to save them from relegation.

Right-winger: Mohamed Salah

Age: 29
Chelsea appearances: 19
Current club: Liverpool

Another January arrival, Mohamed Salah didn’t have the best time at Chelsea and was handed a start at Anfield due to Mourinho’s rotation. Salah was the first to be taken off when Mourinho looked to his substitutes, and was loaned to Fiorentina the following year.

Salah was then loaned to Roma for the 2015/16 campaign and made that move permanent in the summer of 2016. But the Egyptian spent just a year as a permanent Giallorossi player before Liverpool decided to sign him. Salah has since proven his doubters in England wrong, scoring 155 goals in 246 appearances for Liverpool, helping them become European champions in 2019 and Premier League champions a year later. He’s without a doubt one of the best players in the world right now.


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Mohamed Salah 13/2
Kevin De Bruyne  13/2
Kylian Mbappe 12/1
Robert Lewandowski 14/1
Lionel Messi 20/1
Harry Kane 25/1
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Striker: Demba Ba

Age: 36
Chelsea appearances: 51
Current club: Retired

The man to profit from Gerrard’s slip, Ba showed composure to race through on goal and finish past Mignolet with Martin Skrtel trying to bring him down (even after scoring). It was one of the highlights of Ba’s unfortunate Chelsea career, alongside a winning goal against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

“I didn’t feel sorry for him,” Ba told the Sun in 2019. “I’m not a Steven Gerrard supporter. I’m not a Liverpool supporter. I’m not a Man City supporter or happy that they won the league.

“It’s all part of the game. It’s the same as Crystal Palace last year when they were safe and had nothing to play for, they went and played at Stoke and sent them down by winning. You go and do your job, you go to win.”

The Senegal striker left Chelsea that summer, moving to Turkish side Besiktas (with whom he knocked Liverpool of the Europa League in 2014/15) before signing for Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League. Demba Ba returned to Turkey for another two years with Istanbul Basaksehir, eventually retiring in September 2021.

Left-winger: Andre Schurrle

Age: 31
Chelsea appearances: 65
Current club: Retired

Andre Schurrle’s signing from Bayer Leverkusen at the start of the 2013/14 season was met with excitement, but the German never really settled at Stamford Bridge. At Anfield, his job was more defensive than attacking, and he was taken off late on for Gary Cahill as Mourinho looked to further strengthen at the back.

Schurrle left Chelsea for Wolfsburg in 2015. While it initially seemed he would rebuild his reputation after earning a move to Borussia Dortmund the next year, he was unable to do so after so-so loan spells at Fulham and Spartak Moscow. Schurrle called time on his career in 2020, stating the mental demands of football had stopped his enjoyment.

Substitutes:

Willian

Age: 33
Chelsea appearances: 339
Current club: Corinthians

Mourinho’s first change at Anfield was to bring on Willian, who would eventually land the killing blow by tapping in from close range after a late counter-attack.

The Brazilian was been a key player for Chelsea after, helping them to their two league titles as well as another Europa League in 2019. He left Chelsea in 2020, joining Arsenal’s project under Mikel Arteta but would only last a year in north London before moving back to boyhood club Corinthians.

Gary Cahill

Age: 36
Chelsea appearances: 290
Current club: Bournemouth

Rested from the start and only introduced late on to help secure the win, Cahill was a fine member of Chelsea’s squad from his signing in 2012 to his 2019 departure.

Cahill ensured Chelsea did not miss John Terry too much after he left in 2017, but the Englishman was frozen out by Sarri in his final Blues campaign, making just eight appearances. The centre-back made the short trip across London to Crystal Palace and featured heavily across his first season, eventually dropping out of the team before joining Bournemouth in their push for a return to the Premier League.

Fernando Torres

Age: 38
Chelsea appearances: 172
Current club: Retired

Although Torres had to settle for a late appearance against his former club, the Spaniard did have a role in the win, passing to Willian for Chelsea’s second.

Time was called on Torres’ Chelsea career in 2014 when he was first loaned to AC Milan before making the move permanent. Things didn’t go well for Torres in Italy, but he revived his career briefly in returning to Atletico Madrid, winning the Europa League with his boyhood club. After a year in Japan with Sagan Tosu, Torres retired in 2019.

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