After the chasing duo of Arsenal and Manchester City both winning their games by two-goal scorelines to close the gap on league-leading Liverpool, the Reds one-upped their competitors by demolishing a bloodless Chelsea at Anfield, restoring their five-point lead in the table and improving their superior goal difference.
It was Liverpool’s first regulation time win over Chelsea since 2020, and it was a comprehensive and comfortable one that could quite easily have had a wider margin.
Below the fold, then, we take a look at some of the winners and losers on the night.
The Pride of Killen: There is simply no way of getting around it: tonight belongs to Conor Bradley, and Conor Bradley alone. The 20-year old had received rave reviews following some promising appearances — notching assists against both Bournemouth and Norwich — in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s injury absence, but tonight Bradley put on a masterclass.
A pair of assists, where the second was a perfect cross onto the head of an onrushing Dominik Szoboszlai, and goal taken like a seasoned poacher, breaking into the box from the right and slotting the ball across the keeper and into the bottom corner, are the easy top-line stats, but — a few jelly-legged moments immediately following his goal aside — the Northern Irish international was essentially flawless on both sides of the ball.
Chelsea threw €200m worth of wingers and wingbacks at the Castlederg youngster on the night but none of Raheem Sterling, Mykhailo Mudryk or Ben Chilwell could get anything going against Bradley, as he finished the game with three tackles at a 100% success rate and three blocked crosses to go with his goal contributions.
With the match wrapped up, Bradley was replaced by Trent Alexander-Arnold on 69 minutes, and with a visit to Arsenal coming up on Sunday, a debate must be had about whether the Englishman will be shunted inside to midfield to make way for the man in form.
Woodwork Enthusiasts: If you like the sound of ball on metal, this was the game for you. Darwin Núñez, who simply cannot catch a break in front of goal even with a double in his last league game, hit the post four times tonight — a Premier League record — including once from the penalty spot, as he took 11 shots without scoring.
He then got an assists with his first and only key pass on the night. Because that’s how it works for the Uruguayan this season.
Sending a Message: Questions have been asked to the point of tedium over the past few days about whether Liverpool will be able to maintain focus on the task at hand following Jürgen Klopp’s announcement that he’s stepping down at the end of the season, and for now, it appears the team has given their answer, emphatically. This was not a closely contested game, and very much looked like 1st vs 10th for the entirety.
The Reds now have the most points, the most goals scored, the fewest goals conceded, and the best expected goals difference in the league, while their best player who’s also the league top scorer and the top assister hasn’t featured for a month.
They might be good.
Boehly’s Blues: Goodness me that was dreadful from Chelsea. The 28 shots the Blues faced tonight was the joint-highest they have conceded since records began in 2003 and the 13 shots on target was an outright record. While the teams shared nearly equal possession, passing volume and pass success, the match took place almost entirely in the Chelsea half — to illustrate, right-back Conor Bradley took 78% of his touches in Chelsea territory — and a few spoiled breaks aside, the visitors simply didn’t create anything of substances, generating a total of four shots, while also failing to shut down the Reds at all.
Certainly, Christopher Nkunku reduced the deficit through a terrific piece of skill with 20 minutes to go, and Mauricio Pochettino will be angered neither of the Blues’ penalty shouts — both entirely legitimate, in the category of ‘seen them given’ — were heeded, but on the balance of play, Chelsea deserved to lose and lose big tonight.
Having spent literally a billion pounds on players in the last 18 months, Chelsea appear entirely unable to climb their way out of mid-table, and with the sort of away form they’re displaying these days — six losses in their last seven — leapfrogging teams ahead of them in an increasingly competitive upper-mid tier of the league might prove a tall task for the Argentinian lemon enthusiast.
What Happens Next
A potentially significant event in the title race is coming up on Sunday, as Liverpool travel to London to take on title hopefuls and handball aficionados Arsenal, in a match that could see the Gunners either close the gap or get left dangerously far behind, before the Reds have a full week of recovery ahead of their visit from 19th-placed Burnley the following weekend.
Up the best in every category Reds!