A tale of two halves as Liverpool held on in the second half to beat Chelsea 2-1 yesterday.
The Premier League leaders faced a difficult trip south to London. Visiting a ground which The Reds’ failed to win at since a Jordan Henderson inspired victory on a Friday night in September 2016.
Liverpool were well-versed for the game as they had met the Londoners in the UEFA Super Cup final last month.
Jurgen Klopp being the pragmatic character that he is, altered the defensive tactics. Van Dijk and Matip sat 10 to 15 metres deeper as the Blues had sprung the offside trap with regularity in Turkey.Embed from Getty Images
Lampard Aimed to Nullify Liverpool’s Front Three
Frank Lampard engaged in some tactical tinkering of his own. Roberto Firmino – criminally underrated by most has seen his stocks rise since the domineering performance against Newcastle at Anfield last week.
The Chelsea gaffer had given Jorginho the task of trying to mark the Reds’ number nine out of the game in the hope that it would disrupt Klopp’s ferocious front three.
Clearly, Liverpool’s backroom staff had reviewed match videos as attacks bombarded the right-side of Chelsea’s defence.
This led to the first major chance of the game as Andreas Christensen brought Sadio Mané down on the edge of the area.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s Thunderbolt
What followed was a thing of dreams. Liverpool had Mohammed Salah, Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold over the ball.
The lads had obviously been practicing a routine on the training ground because a well-rehearsed move teed the ball up for Alexander-Arnold and he unleashed an absolute crackerjack.
Belting the ball into the top corner of Kepa Arizzabalaga’s net to give the Away end something to scream about. Alexander-Arnold registered his first goal since Watford last November.Embed from Getty Images
VAR Took Centre Stage Once Again
Chelsea reacted well to going behind. Expansive in possession, creating space and opportunities with the likes of Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham being very lively.
Lampard recognised that Liverpool wanted to exploit Caesar Azpilicueta’s lack of pace. He pushed the Spanish right-back further upfield, hoping to force Mané into defensive work.
This approach appeared to bear fruit almost immediately, as Abraham made a run between Van Dijk, and Matip as Alexander-Arnold played him onside.
He went eye-to-eye with stand-in keeper Adrian – but the Spaniard stood tall and denied Chelsea’s top scorer.
Moments later, the Bridge erupted in joy as Azpilicueta squeezed the ball under Liverpool’s number 13 after some ping-pong ensued within the Reds’ 18-yard box. The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) sparked controversy just as it had at the King Power Stadium 24 hours earlier.
The goal was chalked off due to Mount being offside in the build-up. Klopp’s men breathed a deep sigh of relief, but before the Chelsea faithful had rubbed the dust from their eyes Liverpool were two to the good.
Azpilicueta was drawn into a needless foul on Gini Wijnaldum. Andrew Robertson delivered a peach, which Firmino met with a thumping header. Chelsea falling victim to football’s new decision-making system.
Liverpool’s Energy Levels Dipped & Chelsea Smelt Blood.
The second 45 minutes were possibly the toughest that Liverpool have faced in the past nine months.
Lampard’s young Blues pushed Klopp’s chargers to the wire. The Reds’ struggled to co-ordinate their midfield and Chelsea began to steal a march on the lads, which made for a nervy final thirty minutes.
Fabinho, praised as the best defensive midfielder in England saw his contemporary spark a change in momentum.Embed from Getty Images
Ngolo Kante’ finished off a jinxing run by striking the ball into the top corner. Something which the likes of Salah would have been proud of.
Unfortunately, Salah was blunted at the Bridge with the tumultuous atmosphere getting the better of the Egyptian King – snatching at chances and lacking the sharpness that has characterised his second spell in English football.
Liverpool found it difficult to relieve the pressure. The midfield had gone on a sabbatical and Chelsea dominated possession.
Klopp and Ljinders recognised the warning signs and withdrew Mané. Bringing Milner on to act as an auxiliary left-back aiming to ease Robertson’s defensive workload.
The Scotsman lacked the usual composure that we have become accustomed to. Chelsea were fuelled with spirit and the exuberance of youth. Fortunately, the confidence and swagger that comes from a winning run was evident and Liverpool saw the challenge off.
A Look Ahead to the Carabao Cup
Liverpool march into gameweek six with their perfect record intact becoming the first side in English football history to record six straight wins in the opening fixtures of consecutive seasons.
Despite supporters being forced to watch the remainder of the fixture from behind their couches – Klopp’s men got to the finish line and will take three points back to Anfield.
Championship-winning sides have the capability to accumulate points, even when the performance falls short. Now we await a visit from Milton Keynes Dons with a host of men getting a well-earned rest.