Even with ten minutes still left to go, players on both teams were hands on knees and sucking air through cheeks in what was an intense, up-and-down, high-stakes matchup at Anfield that saw things end all square at 1-1.
Goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet played a central role in a fixture that had had title implications only a few short weeks ago, failing to hear referee, Mark Clattenburg’s whistle to start play and allowing David Luiz’s free kick to catch him flat-footed; before ultimately turning it around late to make a point-saving stop on a Diego Costa penalty.
Though not a win, the encouraging result will hopefully have the psychological effect of stopping the rot that had seen Jürgen Klopp’s team win only one in seven to start 2017, falling down the table in the process.
“I’m not sure happy is the right word,” Klopp said speaking after the game. “But I’m proud of our performance because the boys did outstandingly good against a really strong side [so] that nobody could see how good [Chelsea] usually are.
“And that’s absolutely because of my team. We did really well and I’m happy about this. The result, we cannot change. We could’ve lost on the penalty.
“All 22 players were of highest quality, but then it was passion, readiness in the red shirt and cleverness, experience in a blue shirt, that’s how they scored the first goal.”
It was a game of two halves, with Chelsea comfortably sitting deep in the first period and scoring while Liverpool dominated the ball as usual but appeared impotent, before the hosts turned the tables in the second half, rising to the challenge and leveling through a Gini Wijnaldum header.
Shades of the Liverpool side that terrified the league in the first third of the season made an appearance, with the Reds snapping into tackles, making late runs into the box from deep and attacking Chelsea at their one weak point, with captain Jordan Henderson lofting in dangerous crosses from just outside the area, one such ball ultimately resulting in the goal.
“In the first half we were really in the game,” Klopp said. “But in the second half we forced them, we forced the goal and we caused them a lot of problems; we could’ve scored a second or a third time.
“I would’ve liked to have seen how [the crowd would’ve reacted] when we scored a second goal, Anfield would’ve been shaking. We gave a very important sign for our fans but especially for us, that we’re still there.”
The point took on added significance in the race for Champions League places as fellow contenders Arsenal lost in a shocking result to Watford while Tottenham dropped points to Sunderland. Klopp used this as evidence that his side were not out of the race yet and still have time to turn it around:
“[This is] what I said at the press conference but nobody probably wanted to hear it. Yes, we’ve lost games [recently], yes, we haven’t played good football; but I really think that this wonderful, powerful club can still keep our nerve. It’s not everything bad because you lose a football game.
“This team is absolutely without a doubt outstanding in attitude....we will fight—everyone saw it tonight—we will fight for each point.”