In an occasionally bad tempered, but always pulsating match, that ultimately, Chelsea will be the happier with, it was honours even, for two teams, who will surely be there or thereabouts when the league title is decided in May.
Though Lukaku proved little bother to the supreme Van Dijk in Liverpool’s back line, it was Chelsea who struck first. An unmarked Havertz guiding in a header, that looped over Alisson from an acute angle following a corner, and whilst questions may be asked of the positioning of the goalkeeper, just how the Chelsea forward quite had so much time and space at the Kop end is a mystery.
Liverpool had then fallen behind, despite dominating the early stages. Indeed, the home team should have gone ahead, when a glorious chance was created for Henderson, who bearing down on goal from a quite glorious pass from Trent, volleyed wide with his left foot, when surely a header was the better option for Liverpool’s captain.
That spurned opportunity sparked Chelsea into some attacking verve, and though goal scoring chances were few, once the away team took the lead, they began to play on the counter attack. The headed goal gave them something to defend, and Liverpool were finding it difficult to open up the Chelsea defence.
Then came the defining moment of the match.
A scramble, several ricochets, and Matip heading against the bar, eventually led to the ball breaking to Jota just yards from goal. The Portuguese international, who’d only minutes earlier replaced Bobby, appeared to miss a sitter, only for every player in red to implore referee Anthony Taylor to take a walk to the VAR monitor. Frankly, most home fans would have been happy to see Taylor, who had his customary poor game at Anfield, to walk as far away from the game as possible, but were grateful when he rightly signalled a penalty. Reece James had clearly and deliberately handled the ball on the goal line, and though some might believe the ensuing red card to be double punishment, the penalty award was surely the correct decision, and Mo Salah despatched his fourteenth consecutive successful spot kick, as Mendy went the wrong way.
With a raucous Kop to defend in the second half, Chelsea then faced Liverpool with ten men. Harvey Elliott, belying his tender years, was probing and always a threat, whilst the width being offered by a strangely ineffective Robertson, and his partner in crime on the right, TAA, had Chelsea back peddling time after time. But for all Liverpool’s possession and no little patience, clear chances were scarce. Mendy wasn’t nearly busy enough, and the away side had some dangerous moments of their own, on the rare occasions they ventured past the half way line.
With Chelsea’s mastery of the dark arts of time wasting, the clock ran down to 90 minutes. Klopp replaced Robertson with Tsimikas, and Thiago came on for Henderson, but to no avail. Half chances and corners came and went, without it ever looking likely that Liverpool would score again, and Tuchel embraced his players on the pitch as full-time was signalled.
So a game that promised much, delivered a little less. The points were shared, and if Manchester City were looking on, they’ll know to expect both of these teams snapping at their heals, chasing after the Premiership crown.