Richard Hercock on Football: Liverpool have been left snookered in pursuit of league title

Anyone who watched Monday night’s thrilling World Championship snooker final could be forgiven for thinking it was another night for parking the bus in front of goal.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

Forgive the mixing of sporting metaphors here, but for the flamboyance of Ronnie O’Sullivan against the tactical nous of Mark Selby, this was another Liverpool v Chelsea moment.

What the newly-crowned world No 1 Selby did not need in his corner, though, was Jose Mourinho prancing up and down on the touchline.

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At 3-0 down early on, Selby soon realised he would not win by allowing an open contest, and so used plenty of match-play to slow down the game and prevent O’Sullivan getting into a rhythm.

It worked and, just like the Blues had prevailed at Anfield the week before, Selby won, 18-14.

A Leicester City supporter, the 30-year-old is now £300,000 richer so might be able to afford a decent seat (or box) as the newly-promoted Foxes look forward to the top-flight next season.

But who will be the defending champions when the new season kicks off in August?

While Selby was doing a tactical number on O’Sullivan, down the M1 in south London, Liverpool were once more guilty of showing tactical naivety.

Knowing they needed a win to keep the pressure on Manchester City, it looked perfect for Brendan Rodgers’s team as they led 3-0 against Crystal Palace on Monday night. But then the Reds hit the self-destruct button and failed to kill the game off. Instead, Palace battled back to snatch an unlikely draw.

That point meant Liverpool did return to the top of the Premier League table, but instead of tears of joy, it was simply a wasted opportunity.

When else in footballing history can reaching the top of the Premier League have been greeted with such a sense of under-achievement?

It is a lesson the Anfield club has to learn, and quickly, if they are to become champions of England once again. Playing open, attacking football is great to watch – just like sitting table-side in awe at O’Sullivan’s cuemanship – but you have to possess a Plan B. All the great champion teams possessed that steely edge and it is the soft underbelly of Liverpool which looks like costing them the title.

If that honour does go to Manchester City, it will leave a bit of a sour taste. We all knew that City – and they are not the only ones – would never comply with the new financial fair play rules introduced by UEFA.

Under their FFP rules, clubs can not lose more than £37m over the previous two seasons. City posted combined losses of almost £149m for the past two seasons – £97m in 2012 and £51.6m in 2013.

Now my housekeeping skills are a little slack, but even I could have predicted we might need to cut back on some of the luxury items at Asda this week to watch the pennies. There is talk of a £50m fine for City, and other serious over-spenders like PSG.

Seriously? A £50m fine for these billionaire owners? That is just a slap on the wrists, but it must come with the message do it again and you lose your Champions League spot. Otherwise, the FFP is just a waste of time.