LIVERPOOL 0 - 1 CHELSEA
Chelsea Mount 42’
Back in the autumn, this would have been billed as a title clash. Now, it’s a battle for the top four, with both sides heading into the match knowing that if they win they will rise into the Champions League places.
For Chelsea, who haven’t lost a league game under Thomas Tuchel, it’s a chance to confirm their upward trajectory. For Liverpool, it’s a chance to show that last weekend’s victory over Sheffield United wasn’t just a case of beating the league’s worst team but an actual sign of their season getting back on track.
To that end, Jürgen Klopp doesn’t turn down the chance to reintroduce both Alisson Becker and Fabinho to the starting eleven, and while fellow returnee Diogo Jota can only make the bench, it’s a strong lineup for the Reds and a signal of intent.
Liverpool kick off the match as one might expect with the chosen eleven against this opponent, pushing high up the pitch in possession and trying to close down Chelsea with a heavy press whenever they lose the ball. Meanwhile, Chelsea set up to defend deep and try to spring the counter against Liverpool’s high line.
In the early going the teams’ approaches largely cancel out and only lead to half chances from distance for Robertson on one end and Werner on the other. Both sides likely feel like they’re doing a decent job of executing their gameplan, but neither is causing a great deal of bother in and around the penalty areas.
After the opening fifteen minutes or so, though, the game increasingly begins to lean towards Chelsea and in the 24th minute they get their breakthrough—on the counter, naturally. Only as Timo Werner leaves Alisson stranded and finishes into the empty goal, VAR is looking. It’s offside by an eyelash. No goal.
It’s a break that seems to wake Liverpool up a little, but that can only tile the game back towards being largely even. Then, with the half winding down, another half chance falls to Chelsea as Mason Mount steps inside on Fabinho and curls in a low shot from the edge of the area. It’s hard to say their 1-0 lead at the half isn’t deserved.
The second opens with Liverpool pushing to equalise and Chelsea again looking to hit on the break, and it takes less than five minutes for VAR to in turn come to Chelsea’s aid as N’Golo Kanté’s arm appears raised when the ball hits it in the penalty area but it’s judged there isn’t enough in it for referee Martin Atkinson to take another look.
Similar to in the first half, being let off the hook by VAR seems to wake up the beneficiary—this time Chelsea—with the game evening out and the best chance of the half then going their way and needing Andy Robertson to clear it off the line. Jürgen Klopp’s answer is Jota and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain—for Curtis Jones and Mo Salah, surprisingly.
The changes don’t help, with Liverpool looking less likely to get the breakthrough and the run of play slowly tilting further in their favour again. The introduction of James Milner for the underwhelming Thiago in the 80th minute is the last throw of the dice, but Liverpool continue to play largely uninspired football.
They never quite look like they’ve given up, at least, continuing to push up the pitch, but they also never quite look like creating anything especially dangerous. In the end, stoppage time ticks away and the final whistle blows with the scoreline still a goal in favour of the visitors.
It’s a fifth loss in a row at Anfield for Liverpool, and while the Reds did have some promising stretches, in the end they couldn’t register a single shot on target until the 86th minute and didn’t deserve anything more than they took from the match—nothing.