Chelsea have survived an early scare to take maximum points from a pivotal Premier League clash with Liverpool this afternoon, moving up to third place and two points from the top with a 2-1 win that that had steel and style in potent patches.
Both Liverpool and the Blues came into the match attempting to keep pace in a wide-open, rollercoaster ride of a title race, particularly after Arsenal reclaimed top spot earlier this afternoon by winning away at Newcastle United.
Blues boss Jose Mourinho made four changes in an effort to keep his side's hard-earned run of festive from on track, but his plans were rendered redundant when Liverpool broke the deadlock inside three minutes.
Alarming defensive frailties were once again evident from set pieces for the home side, as Luis Suarez got the better of old nemesis Branislav Ivanovic in the six-yard box to meet a Philippe Coutinho free-kick.
His flick towards goal was pounced upon quickly by Martin Srktel, who had free reign to pick his spot from close range and put the Reds ahead.
Chelsea continued to look vulnerable on the counter as Liverpool fleetingly threatened with pace and purpose through Suarez and Raheem Sterling, who danced past Oscar and Willian with one brilliant burst down the line.
After taking some time to come alive Chelsea roared back into the match on 17 minutes courtesy of an equaliser from Eden Hazard, who profited from fine Oscar approach play before slamming past Simon Mignolet from just inside the penalty area.
From there Chelsea largely took control of possession and territory, with the attacking midfield trio of Hazard, Oscar and Willian interchanging to cause problems throughout the first half.
Hazard in particular was a threat all afternoon, regularly driving Chelsea forward and having the presence of mind to make the right decisions regularly in advanced areas.
The Blues still had Samuel Eto'o left largely anonymous in attack though, until the 11 minutes before half-time when the Cameroon hitman sprung into life with only his sixth touch of the match.
Eto'o seized upon a low Oscar cross as Liverpool were made to pay a heavy price for not clearing their lines, as a low strike wriggled beyond a despairing Mignolet, who probably should have done better.
The veteran striker was in actual fact very fortunate to still be on the pitch when he netted what proved to be the winner, after lunging into a early horror challenge on Jordan Henderson in the opening exchanges that saw studs connect with shin.
Chelsea had lost both Ivanovic and Frank Lampard to injury by the time the second half began, with Liverpool soon coming within inches of parity as Mamadou Sakho's looping header collided with the crossbar before bouncing to safety.
Liverpool then had their own misfortune with injury as Joe Allen limped off, with their threadbare squad evident as academy starlet Brad Smith was introduced.
Chelsea dug deep and ultimately held on to a slender but precious narrow advantage in the closing stages, but Liverpool had every right to be aggrieved late on as a highly contentious penalty shout went against them.
Surprise surprise it was Suarez who was involved but this time the injured party, clearly caught by Eto'o as he attempted to chase down Cesar Azpilicueta inside the box.
That decision went against the Reds as they were left to rue not building on a bright start, with a second defeat in three days to a genuine title rival the end result.
Brendan Rodgers will definitely want words with referee Howard Webb after a fiery encounter full of contentious decisions, with a hectic festive fixture list and injuries in key areas eventually taking their toll against his former employers.
For Chelsea there is a lot to be positive about this afternoon, earning only their third Premier League win over Liverpool in 13 attempts and proving that they mean business at the halfway stage of an enthralling campaign that shows no sign of slowing down.
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