In a pulsating game, in which both teams produced moments of brilliance, it will be Manchester City who most celebrated this enthralling 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge. Meanwhile, for Liverpool, who’ve now dropped nine points in the capital this season, their London woes continue.
With Covid denying Liverpool not only the boss, but Alisson, Roberto Firmino and Joel Matip too, it was Sadio Mane, perhaps fortunate not to have been red-carded inside the first sixty seconds, who put Liverpool ahead inside ten minutes. A defensive error presenting him with the sort of chance he’s often spurned this season, and the lead was soon doubled by the imperious Mo Salah.
In truth, Chelsea were unfortunate to be behind by one goal, let alone two. They’d started the brighter, and the impressive Kelleher had already rescued Liverpool once when Trent had presented the home team with a golden opportunity after just five minutes. Alexander-Arnold though later produced the sublime pass to Salah that put Liverpool two up, and with a further half-chance for Mo Salah, who this time, couldn’t quite sort his feet out, Klopp’s men could easily have found themselves three up inside thirty minutes.
Then came five minutes that defined just why Premier League football is so admired worldwide, and perhaps just why both Chelsea and Liverpool will find it so difficult to chase down Manchester City.
James Milner, who along with captain Jordan Henderson, had a poor game in midfield, gave away a needless free-kick with just five minutes to go before half-time. Kelleher punched the free-kick clear, where it dropped twenty yards out, to the impressive Kovacic, who volleyed a worldly into the top corner. The momentum of the game changed, as did the atmosphere in the stadium, an atmosphere significantly enhanced by the newly installed safe standing areas, which were being trialled at Stamford Bridge.
So close to half-time, and with Chelsea’s tails up, Liverpool appeared to lack the grit and mastery of the dark arts to ensure they maintained their lead until the break. Rather than slow the game down, disrupt the flow, and frustrate the desire of Chelsea to maintain a hectic pace in the game, they again lost possession. Kante, superb again for the home side, put Pulisic through on goal, and this time Kelleher couldn’t rescue Liverpool, and the sides went in all square at the break.
For the most part, the game’s relentless speed continued in the second half, though the standard of football, so high in the first half, fell away. Neither side created clear opportunities, with the final pass not quite good enough, but both Chelsea and Liverpool went all out for the three points. Chelsea took more risks, and with Klopp no doubt instructing makeshift manager Pep Lijnders from home via telephone, both Ox and Keita were introduced, though both failed to make an impression on a game that surprisingly failed to see more goals in the second half.
So Manchester City have a double-digit lead at the top of the league. Meanwhile, Liverpool now have to cope without their African superstars, who left for AFCON straight after the game. Chelsea, also guilty of dropping points in the last month, are now left with the issue of how to address the Lukaku debacle, that almost overshadowed this game. It’s City’s to lose from here.