The result was about fair in the end. Liverpool and Chelsea split the points following a match that was scrappy, sloppy, and for the most part, short on quality. In truth, Mohamed Salah’s 65th minute goal from nothing, his 15th of the season, gave this Reds side a 1-0 lead with too much time to hold on, such that the scuffed Willian equalizer six minutes from time had almost a veneer of inevitability to it.
It has been the scourge of these Jürgen Klopp sides of recent years when trying to hold onto a lead: too defensively disorganized to sit deep but also too aggressive in the press to the point of mooring their defense on an island. On this occasion, the former was the case. The abject second half performance in the midweek Champions League clash with Sevilla that saw them throw away a 3-0 halftime lead clearly at the top of mind, the Reds over-corrected after going ahead at Anfield, timidly sitting back before the one-time Liverpool target in Willian broke through after a sustained period of Blue pressure.
Klopp, to his credit, appeared to have been searching for a workaround by way of substitutions. The 50-year-old has often been criticized for having too much faith in his players, oftentimes waiting to make changes until very late when results are needed. The manager fumed post-match due to what he saw as a failure of the fourth official to allow his change of Adam Lallana in place of a tiring Philippe Coutinho in a timely manner in the lead up to the equalizer:
“I was angry because we wanted to change and we wanted to change the system!” Klopp said speaking to BT Sport. “The referee didn’t give us this opportunity.
“We wanted to change to five at the back and I think that could have helped a lot. That’s where Willian popped up with the goal.”
“We need luck, I don’t think we had it today too much. [Willian’s] goal was fantastic even if it was probably a cross!
“Chelsea fought hard and deserved the point, but it doesn’t feel perfect at the moment.”
The personnel at the German manager’s disposal—on the day, including combinations of Gini Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, James Milner and briefly Lallana—seem to lack that essential ability to kill a match, to effortlessly retain possession in the face of pressure and snuff out the opponent’s will to fight back. Liverpool fans can probably expect to see more results like these until Klopp finds that player or system that can make a lead and keep it.
Although the Reds spurned the chance to leapfrog Tottenham, who dropped points to West Bromwich Ablion, into the position of fourth in the league table, the draw now makes it six matches unbeaten as the hectic festive period kicks off.