CHELSEA paid a heavy price for a poor first half showing – losing out to a late goal just when they looked to have rescued a deserved draw.
A long pass from Charlie Adam out to the right was seized upon by Glen Johnson, who cut inside Ashley Cole with ease and rolled the ball into the far corner, with a back-tracking John Terry unable to get a toe to deflect it wide.
That goal was rough on the Blues, who had awoken from their first half slumbers to look the likeliest winners. But that goal with three minutes remaining made it another painful defeat against one of the Premier League's top sides. It is an unwelcome habit the Blues are developing.
Also worrying is that even Chelsea's best spell in the match came with Fernando Torres on the bench. The former Liverpool striker only came on for the finale – just in time to watch his former club score the winner.
The vulnerability which dogged Chelsea in their previous home game against Arsenal was in evidence again during a strangely lacklustre first 45 minutes, which left home fans fearing the worst.
The sea-change after the break was probably as much to do with a shift in attitude and likely stern words from the boss as much as because of a switch in personnel and formation.
But there is little doubt that the introduction of Daniel Sturridge for holding midfielder John Obi Mikel, to play alongside Didier Drogba, played a huge part.
Sturridge it was who got the Blues back on level terms 10 minutes into the second half – arriving at the far post to tuck home a cross-shot from Florent Malouda on the left which, maybe more by luck than judgement, was at just the right angle to defeat Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal.
That inspired Chelsea to up their game even more and Malouda went close twice to grabbing the winner – once with an overhead kick and once when he half-volley wide after getting on the end of a deep cross from the right by Branislav Ivanovic.
John Terry also went agonisingly close when he glanced a Drogba free-kick goalwards from close-range, only to See Reina pull off a great save.
Andre Villas-Boas' determination to persevere with an aggressive approach to games is admirable, but exploitable and the Blues again paid for their desire to press high up the pitch.
Time and again – during a troubling first half at least – lost possession quickly left the Blues in danger, especially with the pace of the opposition, who had Luis Suarez and Craig Bellamy in the ranks.
Maxi Rodriguez opened the scoring for Liverpool with a goal verging on the comical, were it not more than just an isolated mishap.
A careless goal-kick from Petr Cech to Mikel left the Nigerian in trouble and Adam nipped in to steal the ball. After a quick exchange of passes along the edge of the area between Bellamy and Suarez, the ball was rolled out to an unmarked Maxi, who tucked home.
It suggested there would be more to come for the Reds, but they mounted few real attacks in the second half, although Dirk Kuyt might have snatched a winner when he put wide after sub Jordan Henderson had embarrassed both Ashley Cole and Terry down the right flank.
That should have been that, but there was still a sting in the tail to come.
Line-up: Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole; Lampard, Mikel (Sturrdige h/t), Ramires (Meireles 84); Mata, Drogba (Torres 84), Malouda. Subs not used: Turnbull, Romeu, Bosingwa, Anelka.
Attendance: 41, 581