Premier League

Johnson earns Liverpool late victory

Liverpool defender Glen Johnson nets stunner against former club Chelsea.
Liverpool defender Glen Johnson nets stunner against former club Chelsea.
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LONDON

Glen Johnson scored a sensational late winner to earn Liverpool a vital 2-1 victory at his old club Chelsea.

Former Blues full-back Johnson netted a brilliant solo effort to inflict his old club's third defeat in four league matches and leave both teams 12 points behind Manchester City.

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Each side committed bad defensive errors to concede earlier goals, with Maxi Rodriguez giving Liverpool a half-time lead on his first league start of the season and substitute Daniel Sturridge equalising shortly after the break.

A draw was arguably a fair result but that had also been the case in Chelsea's games against Manchester United and Arsenal this season when they also ended up on the losing side.

Today's loss cast further doubt on manager Andre Villas-Boas' Stamford Bridge revolution, with the Blues now looking set to drop out of the top four, something billionaire owner Roman Abramovich is unlikely to tolerate for long.

The Russian watched his prize asset left on the bench this afternoon as Fernando Torres and Liverpool's Andy Carroll both failed to start.

The game did bring together the two players accused of racially abusing an opponent in recent weeks.

Both John Terry and Luis Suarez, who strenuously deny the allegations made against them, were both spared the kind of hostile reception from rival fans they might expect against other opponents.

Liverpool made the more impressive start, almost exploiting Chelsea's now notoriously high defensive line by twice Rodriguez getting beyond Suarez and Bellamy.

It took 10 minutes for the home side to seriously threaten, Juan Mata drilling Florent Malouda's cross dangerously back across goal.

At the other end, Branislav Ivanovic got a vital touch on Bellamy's cross before Johnson wasted a great opportunity to tee up a team-mate after a barnstorming run.

Liverpool, wearing black armbands in memory of the son of goalkeeper Brad Jones, who died of leukaemia on Friday, were looking more than comfortable, although Drogba hit the stanchion with a free-kick some supporters thought had gone in.

Terry, whose error cost Chelsea dearly against Arsenal in their last home game, made another gaffe in the 28th minute when he was robbed by Kuyt but David Luiz snuffed out the Liverpool attack.

Lucas was booked for clattering into the defender but the visitors' pressure was beginning to tell and they took the lead five minutes later after more horrendous defending.

John Obi Mikel dwelt on Petr Cech's pass and Charlie Adam robbed him, fed Craig Bellamy, who played a one-two with Suarez before feeding Rodriguez to clip over the goalkeeper.

An angry exchange between Terry and Bellamy, who have had more than one run in down the years, was calmed by referee Lee Probert.

With Chelsea's title bid threatening to unravel entirely, Villas-Boas hauled off Mikel for Daniel Sturridge at half-time.

It almost paid off four minutes in when Frank Lampard and Mata combined to find Drogba, who curled over from a good position.

The home side still looked uncertain whenever Liverpool broke but their pressure told in the 55th minute thanks to some rotten defending from the visitors.

Malouda was allowed to advance into the box and his cross-cum-shot was tapped home by Sturridge.

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A wonder-save from Jose Reina stopped Ivanovic glancing home Drogba's free-kick two minutes later as Chelsea continued to dominate.

Ramires was booked for a late tackle on Martin Skrtel, with Kuyt following suit after hauling back Malouda.

Liverpool threw on Jordan Henderson for Bellamy in a bid to stem the tide, although Malouda went close with an audacious overhead kick.

The winger then sent a half-volley from Ivanovic's cross back across the face of goal and over the heads of waiting team-mates as Torres and Carroll both warmed up on the touchline.

They were made to wait even longer as the next change saw Stewart Downing replace Rodriguez before Ivanovic was cautioned for a nasty tackle on Suarez.

With just six minutes remaining, Torres finally arrived - along with fellow Liverpool old boy Raul Meireles - with Drogba and Ramires making way.

The visitors missed a great chance when Kuyt dragged wide after great work down the right from Henderson before Johnson produced one of the goals of the season to win it three minutes from time.

The full-back brought down Adam's pinpoint crossfield ball superbly, nutmegged Ashley Cole, and drove goalward before slotting into the corner.

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