Chelsea 1 Costa 61’
Liverpool 2 Lovren 17’, Henderson 36’
Both sides entered this game on the back of very different results last weekend, but without European football, this was an opportunity to set the tone until the next international break and beyond. That Liverpool emerged deservedly victorious at a funereal Stamford Bridge is credit to Jürgen Klopp and his particular brand of management.
Question. Before the start of the season, would three wins, a draw, and a defeat represent a good start from the first five games of the season? Seven points from nine at the trio of daunting away fixtures should soften the bitter loss at Turf Moor.
After a convincing victory over Leicester City, Liverpool consolidated those gains with another win to add to the growing belief that Klopp's side will be a difficult and dangerous opponent in domestic competitions this season. Heading into the game, however, two passionate managers had difficult decisions made for them through injury.
John Terry (ankle) and Roberto Firmino (groin) both missed the game, but the contesting sides could call upon Brazilian internationals to replace them. David Luiz stepped in for Terry while Philippe Coutinho replaced Firmino. Judging by the goals conceded in the first half, Chelsea may have missed Terry's organisation, but Liverpool lacked a little in energy in the second half without the furious Firmino.
Liverpool made the early running, pushing forward and closing down Chelsea whenever they managed to gain possession. The away side zipped the ball around with confidence in possession and were determined to unsettle Chelsea's defenders into hurried passes. This approach managed to stun the Stamford Bridge crowd into silence as Chelsea struggled to keep up with Liverpool's vim, intent, and combination play.
Nathaniel Clyne particularly pushed up on the right with James Milner—who would play a more prominent attacking role in the second half—a little more reserved on the opposite side as Liverpool attacked down the flanks. Liverpool's 4-3-3 formation was operating to Klopp's design, but Antonio Conte's 4-1-4-1 formation was flattened into two deep banks of a defensive four and a midfield five. Eden Hazard had to drop deeper to help out instead of pushing on into space, and for those familiar with Willian, the Brazilian tends to be defensively responsible in his approach to the game.
Chelsea's build up play was generally slower than Liverpool's more snappy and studied approach, giving the Reds plenty of opportunity to reset whenever a move broke down. Liverpool seemed to have more options as Coutinho dropped deeper on the left, linking with James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum. He would make a decisive attacking contribution of his own, but was important in helping Liverpool to dominate midfield areas.
Liverpool deservedly took the lead through Dejan Lovren. Branislav Ivanović, who was clearly having a poor game, gave away a free kick down Chelsea's right side. A quick exchange of passes from the free kick before Coutinho's cross was met on the far post by an unmarked Lovren. A fine side-footed volley to give the away side the lead. One, two, three, four. Four players were unmarked at the back post, and although one was offside, Lovren was not among their number.
Approaching the half hour mark, Chelsea showed signs of foraging forward more by switching balls to Willian and Hazard. Just as a dazed Chelsea side began to show a flicker of resistance, Jordan Henderson struck a thunderbolt to double Liverpool's lead. Stamford Bridge was gently put to sleep by Liverpool's sweet lullaby. The rangy Thibaut Courtois had no chance as Gary Cahill's clearance from the hard-working Sadio Mané was returned with vociferous interest in the top right corner from thirty yards.
There weren't many clear cut chances, Liverpool weren't cutting Chelsea to ribbons, and Courtois didn't have many saves to make in the first half. Yet the gulf was clear. A two-goal lead didn't flatter Liverpool at all, and it was remarkable to witness how consummate Liverpool's superiority was. The usually unflappable N’Golo Kanté looked rattled, Diego Costa was starved of the ball, and Chelsea's centre backs lacked protection from midfield.
Chelsea needed the interval to find some inspiration or instruction from Conte, but the West London side had never won a Premier League game after being two-nil down at half time. Liverpool looked relatively confident in the opening stages of the second half with some hints that Chelsea could actually start to be involved in the contest.
Chelsea started to show some cohesion down their flanks, and Liverpool began to lack intensity in pressing from the front. To remedy this and help Liverpool regain some momentum, Klopp rightly took Daniel Sturridge off for Divock Origi a couple of minutes before the hour mark. Yet Chelsea struck within a matter of minutes through the in-form Diego Costa. It was a poor goal to concede, but its story should be told.
Nemanja Matić turned creator by powering in the area from the left without a worthy challenge from any player in a Liverpool shirt. Joël Matip—one of the stars of the show—attempted to hold Matić up to no avail, and the rangy midfielder added Adam Lallana to his list of victims before laying the ball off to Diego Costa for a simple goal from six yards. It was fine byline play, but Liverpool's marking was absent. Players seemed confused about identifying the right players to pick up along with some uninspiring challenges. A messy goal to concede, but Liverpool were still ahead.
A few minutes later, Costa—unsure whether he was onside or not—shot straight at Mignolet. That was about it. Liverpool looked a little tired with 25 minutes to go, but found some confidence and composure again to try to find a third. Chelsea anxiously fought far harder as Liverpool had to dig in—the late appearances of Kevin Stewart and Lucas Leiva reflected this. There would be a couple of opportunities to finish the game off, one in particular arrived with under ten minutes to go. Divock Origi, though, wasn't at his best. Late on he passed to Mané instead of going alone for possible one-on-one with Courtois on 81 minutes. He also seemed out of step with a game that was becoming increasingly tense, but Sturridge seemed off the pace in the second half, necessitating a natural change in Origi.
Chelsea caught a break to pull a goal back, but bar the Costa chance shortly after his goal, Liverpool were impressive defensively. It was similar to how Liverpool managed to see out the game against Arsenal. When Liverpool hold a single-goal lead with ten or fifteen minutes to go, the overwhelming feeling is that Liverpool need to score one more to be absolutely safe. This side can't be trusted to hold onto the ball at the right times. This side can't be trusted to be stout in the last five minutes plus injury time to repel hopeful balls and desperate attacks. This side can't wrestle control of a game for a five minute spell to release pressure. No more.
Liverpool can attack and play some exhilarating football under Jürgen Klopp, that much is clear. After silencing Stamford Bridge, however, this Liverpool team seems capable of much more. A clean sheet will arrive at some stage, but inflicting Chelsea's first defeat of the season carries its own merit. Adam Lallana never stopped in a display full of intelligence, determination, and skill. Jordan Henderson controlled, led, and scored. Georginio Wijnaldum worked himself to the substitutes' bench. Joël Matip looked like the new Liverpool libero and could be building an important partnership with Dejan Lovren.
Most of all, Liverpool won. Liverpool won at Stamford Bridge with players in positions that we think they shouldn't really be in. That Jürgen Klopp, eh? He really knows a thing or two about the world's most popular sport.