Life has a habit of subjecting Fernando Torres to fresh indignities. The plotline, of a 27 year old slaloming through his former employers' defence before calmly dispatching the winning goal, seemed the script the Spaniard had been waiting nine months for.
Instead, it was Glen Johnson who wheeled away in celebration. The right-back provided the ex-factor in a reunion with a twist in the tale.
Named the third best player in the world in 2008, he is now ranked the third best striker at Stamford Bridge. Didier Drogba started, Daniel Sturridge was summoned from the bench to score. Torres was the afterthought, sent on with six minutes remaining in the search for a winner. It duly came, too, but at the other end. Another Torres decision backfired.
In the sort of minor misfortune that has become par for the course, he was sent to warm up in front of the travelling Liverpool supporters. "Are you happy on the bench?" came the chorus from the fans who used to idolise him.
Yet such is the strikers' lot. They do not normally elicit sympathy when they are not scoring. As often as not they command the biggest transfer fees and most sizeable salaries, making headlines and fortunes. The figures are eye-catching, but so are their failures.
Andre Villas-Boas and Kenny Dalglish adopted similar approaches, putting the record buy on the bench. Torres and Andy Carroll - combined cost: £85 million (Dh497.3m) - got a combined seven minutes. Yet the Scot's selection was the key to victory. It was an overdue display of revisionist thinking, Dalglish changing his own policy.
Some £71m of his signings were among the substitutes - even if Dalglish is imaginatively attempting to rebrand Carroll as the minus £15m man and thus the cheapest signing of all time - while a duo acquired without transfer fees started.
Craig Bellamy and Maxi Rodriguez duly combined for Liverpool's first goal, proof that the Argentine has a predatory streak that neither Stewart Downing nor Jordan Henderson exhibits. Each of the wide men had an impact in a hugely assured first-half display marked by counter-attacking menace and fluent interchanging.
The Welshman was indefatigable. Indeed, man-marking the study in perpetual motion that is Bellamy would be among the most exhausting jobs imaginable. He can seem the antithesis of the static, expensive Carroll. In the process Liverpool's new analytical approach was given a different slant.
Because football managers have long begged to disagree with the theory that the best things in life are free. In the constant clamour for cash, money is seen as a prerequisite. Especially, of course, at Chelsea.
Yet price tags can be a burden. If Torres has appeared weighed down, the cheaper Sturridge looks liberated. His arrival revived Chelsea. So did a rethink. A game of two halves - Liverpool in complete control before the break, Chelsea arguably the better thereafter - was also one of two game plans.
For Dalglish, the initial approach paid dividends; high energy in attack, solid at the back. For Villas-Boas, Plan B proved a marked improvement. Trailing and failing, he traded 4-3-3 for 4-2-3-1, restoring Juan Mata to a central role and dispensing with his unimpressive anchorman, John Obi Mikel.
But for Johnson's intervention, the rethink may have brought plaudits. Instead, Chelsea are left 12 points behind Manchester City, the league leaders, threatening to revert from the ranks of the best to the rest.
The sense of deja vu is unwelcome. For the first time since 2002, they have lost successive home league games. Fortress Stamford Bridge has been dismantled, in very different ways, by first Arsenal and now Liverpool.
The latter benefit from a little inside knowledge. Aided by the presence of Chelsea's long-time assistant manager Steve Clarke on his back room staff, Dalglish has two hugely significant wins against the Londoners.
With one former Chelsea right-back on the bench and another on the pitch, it was a day for old boys to savour. Just not Torres.
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