Chelsea miss chance to close on leaders with 0-0 draw against Liverpool
Chelsea missed the chance to close to within a point of second-place Manchester United in the Premier League when it drew 0-0 with Liverpool on Sunday.
Chelsea enjoyed more possession at Stamford Bridge than its injury-plagued opponent, which fell out of the title race long ago, but could not create enough scoring opportunities to force a victory.
The Blues did extend their unbeaten home run _ which was already the longest in English topflight soccer history _ to 76 games over four years, but they are still three points behind defending champion United.
They could have trimmed the gap further, but Michael Ballack volleyed his side's best chance wide in the 82nd minute. Chelsea has 55 points from 26 matches, five fewer than Arsenal, which hosts Blackburn on Monday. Liverpool is fifth with 44. Knowing that United had lost 2-1 at home to rival Manchester City earlier in the day, Chelsea dominated possession in the opening 15 minutes, with deep-lying midfielder Claude Makelele protecting the defense behind a diamond of Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips and the advanced Ballack.
Ballack's tackling and passing dictated play without creating clear chances but Liverpool responded by beginning to interchange positions more fluidly.
Ryan Babel started drifting in from the left to provide more attacking threat, which led to three chances in five minutes for Peter Crouch, who was playing because Fernando Torres was absent with a hamstring injury.
The England striker headed wide in the 15th, shot wide from an exchange with Babel on the edge of the area, and headed Gerrard's right-wing cross straight at goalkeeper Petr Cech. Chelsea looked unlucky not to get a penalty in the 25th when Javier Mascherano brought down Joe Cole just inside the left side of the area, but Liverpool continued to fashion the clearer chances. Kuyt had a fierce shot blocked by Ashley Cole and Ricardo Carvalho headed wide a similar effort by Lucas Leiva.
Nicolas Anelka forced two corners in quick succession at the other end when he had shots blocked but neither side could break through.
Gerrard was awarded a free kick at the start of the second half when, surrounded by Chelsea players, he fell to the ground after missing the ball with a swing of his leg. Jeered by the majority of the 41,788 crowd, the England captain smashed the kick into the defensive wall.
The biggest cheer in a quiet match came in the 62nd when referee Mike Riley was knocked to the ground by a firm pass from Mascherano, and when Chelsea substituted Florent Malouda for Wright-Phillips and John Obi Mikel, back from playing with Nigeria at the African Cup of Nations, for the tiring Lampard.
Liverpool responded by bringing on Jermaine Pennant for Babel, but it was Ballack who had the clearest chance when he shot just wide with his right boot.