Chelsea 2 - 2 Liverpool
Chelsea: Kovačić 42’, Pulisic 46’’
Liverpool: Mané 9’, Salah 26’
The line-ups were in part constrained by the COVID and injury situation. Given this, almost all of the released line-up was what was expected, bar the midfield: while debates rolled over whether Jürgen Klopp would go with Naby Keïta, who put in two extremely different performances in the last two matches against Leicester, or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has himself been something of a mixed bag. Instead, James Milner was given the nod to start alongside Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, who avoided picking up a yellow card last time out.
While this midfield seems to favor no-nonsense stability, it will place all the more emphasis on the fullbacks to be the source of Liverpool’s attack. Trent Alexander-Arnold is on his 200th appearance, and will look to cap it off with a bright performance.
For their part, Chelsea are stymied somewhat by injury to wingbacks and drama around Romelu Lukaku, but the Blues have the type of depth that papers over any gaps in the squad.
The opening minutes were horrific, as Chelsea capitalized on an electric atmosphere: the midfield was disjointed and won almost entirely by the Blues; when a Liverpool player did pick up the ball in the middle of the park, he found himself isolated. Then Sadio Mané found Mohamed Salah on a break and probably should have scored. It required some Caoimhín Kelleher heroics, but Liverpool were 0-1 up within 10 minutes, as Sadio Mané calmly took advantage of some calamitous defending by Chelsea. He’s missed some chances of late and will have needed that. The first 10 minutes felt like a game’s worth of events.
We’ve looked frankly terrible — can’t retain possession and are playing passes as though no one is where they’re expected to be in support — and yet we’re up 0-2 at Stamford Bridge through two very, very good goals. Turns out having world class footballers does make a difference, as I don’t see many players not named Mo Salah scoring from that angle. It was his first goal for Liverpool at Stamford Bridge (he has previously scored here for Basel).
While the half seemed to have calmed down after the second goal, with the Reds managing to be smarter on the ball, a Milner foul led to a Mateo Kovačić wonder-strike, which Christian Pulisic adding a second goal following a breakdown in transition in stoppage time. The two goals came in a particularly poor period for the Reds, and were scored four minutes apart. Regardless of scoreline, it wasn’t good watching for the Reds, with mistakes and poor positioning giving Chelsea chances that could have been avoided.
Hard to be coherent about the second half. Up through 75’ my stomach was in absolute bits. We had the chances to regain the lead, but Edouard Mendy showed why he’s so important to this Chelsea side. The intensity was such that it felt like we were playing against Liverpool: in large spells they were constantly first to any second balls.
It felt at times throughout the match that certain Liverpool players were ever so slightly off from their highest standard, which does impact a game of this quality. Both Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, in different ways, looked slightly off their normal levels of decision-making both on and off the ball.
In the final 10 minutes Chelsea seemed to be given free kicks from any slight contact, which was clearly frustrating the Liverpool defense. At the same time, our attacking impetus was a bit mooted, as Chelsea dominated the ball as we tried to hit runs long. Frustrating watching. It took until stoppage time for a Liverpool winner to look possible.
Final Thoughts and Man of the Match
I did not enjoy that. That was not good for my health. The Reds were not at their best in a game where the tempo made it clear that both sides saw this as crucial to the title race.
Both times we’ve played Chelsea they’ve scored ridiculous goals that you know wouldn’t be in the net 99% of the time. Beautiful game and that.
Another match where Liverpool didn’t play particularly well (in no spell, in my opinion, did they look as good as in the first half against Leicester, and that match was roundly dismissed as awful) — and yet the chances were there.
Man of the Match is a tough one, as no one was perfect. I would lean toward Sadio Mané, if only because he felt like he had the strongest impact on the match as a whole. Honorable mention to the bright Curtis Jones cameo at the death. He looked a player who wanted to make something happen.
Manchester City will be delighted.
Who was Liverpool’s Man of the Match vs. Chelsea?
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