Eden Hazard was running menacingly at the Liverpool defense, Jordan Henderson was bombing forward in attack and there was even a slip. Once again, Liverpool welcomed Chelsea at Anfield as they infamously did at about this stage of that Premier League title chase five years ago and The Narrative was nigh near unbearable for the supporters in red.
But as has been the hallmark of a Liverpool squad that has been molded in the image of their indomitable manager, Jürgen Klopp, this Reds side embraced the pressure and banished their ghosts on their way to a 2-0 victory with massive title implications. An enormous second half opener from Sadio Mané quickly followed by a stunning long range strike from Mohamed Salah a mere 2 minutes and 22 seconds later blew the lid of an Anfield crowd that to that point had oscillated between deafeningly boisterous support and nervy anxiety.
However, what turned out to be a major difference between today and the last time these two teams met with such weighty implications was the presence of Jordan Henderson, who had been unavailable in the crushing 2014 loss due to suspension. Back as captain and given license to roam further forward, the much-maligned midfielder was the one to find Mané at the back post in the 51st minute and the 28-year-old was buzzing in the post-match interview:
“There was a period in the second half where we blew them away a little bit,” the England international said speaking to Sky Sports. “We were on top, we could have scored a few more but they have a couple of good chances as well so we have to be careful of that. Overall, it is a good performance because Chelsea are a good side.
“It’s really big for us and it’s another big game we’ve won. It’s an important game but we have just got to concentrate on ourselves like we have been all season, keep working hard, doing the work on the training pitch and then doing the business on the Saturday or in midweek in the Champions League.
“The focus is on the next game, which is another big game and we’ve got a few of those coming over the next few weeks. We’re enjoying it and that’s the main thing and we need to keep doing that.”
Liverpool couldn’t have picked a better time to register just their third win over the Londoners in their last 17 meetings between the two, including their first home victory against the Blues since May 2012. With a kinder run-in than their rivals for the title, the Reds placed the pressure back onto Pep Guardiola and City to respond when the Citizens take on Tottenham in the league next weekend.