CHELSEA 2-2 LIVERPOOL: MATCH REVIEW
Liverpool blew a two goal lead away to Chelsea last night as they saw their title hopes go up in smoke. Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah had given the Reds the lead before a screamer from Kovacic was quickly followed up by a Pulisic equaliser. We review the game.
You can find player ratings from the match here:
° Absentees. Jürgen Klopp joined Alisson Becker, Joel Matip and Roberto Firmino on the Covid affected list. Also missing were Thiago, Minamino and Origi. This meant Pep Ljinders took charge at Stamford Bridge, with Caoimhin Kelleher and Ibou Konaté standing in for Ali and Joel.
° Mané booking. The Reds usually kick off by sending the ball back to the centre back who will then go long to Mané on the left wing. Mané jumped into Azpilicueta on this occasion and caught the defender with his elbow. He was duly given the earliest booking I can remember. Too much has been made of this incident though.
There was no malice or intent, it was the usual aggressive duel you get at the start of matches like this. Kai Havertz caught Konaté with an elbow second half and he wasn’t even booked, so for Tuchel and Azpilicueta to suggest post game that Mané should have been sent off is ridiculous.
° Kelleher to the rescue. After seven minutes, Trent’s clearance was charged down and it seemed certain Pulisic would score. That was until Kelleher dived at the American’s feet to push the ball to safety. Get that wrong and it’s a penalty and a potential sending off. Two minutes later, we took the lead.
° Mané punishes Chalobah. The young centre back struggled with Mané’s movement all night and it was his error that opened up the game. Sadio showed great composure to round Mendy before firing home to end the longest drought in his Liverpool career.
° Salah strikes. Midway through the first half the Reds doubled their lead through Mo Salah. Trent’s exquisite pass took Rudiger out of the equation and isolated Salah one on one with Alonso. It was a mismatch as the Egyptian just breezed past the full back before beating Mendy at his near post for another golazo to add to the list.
° Midfield woes. Liverpool going 2-0 up was almost against the run of play. That’s because the midfield trio of Fabinho, Henderson and Milner were poor individually and as a unit. They constantly lost possession as they failed to offer any level of control to proceedings. Kanté and Kovacic completely bossed them.
° Throwing away the lead. With five minutes to go till halftime, Milner gave away a needless free kick in a dangerous area and Chelsea pulled a goal back from it. That sparked the comeback, with Pulisic completing it when he peeled off Henderson to latch onto Kanté’s pass before firing past Kelleher.
° That second goal. Pulisic’s goal had similarities to Lookman’s strike last week. The American run off the back of Henderson into the gaping hole in the middle of defence. Konaté pulling wide to confront Kante left that hole, akin to how Matip confronting Dewsbury-Hall out wide gave Lookman time and space in the box.
Henderson on both occasions failed to track the runner, and Van Dijk on both occasions didn’t/couldn’t do enough to cover. Two cheap goals to give away, and something has to be done about the structure of that midfield. There’s not enough protection to counter the lack of control.
° Mendy saves. Edouard Mendy made two great saves to keep the Reds at bay second half. First he backtracked and went full stretch to push away a Salah strike headed for the top corner, before pushing away Mané’s strike from just inside the box. Those two saves within the space of two minutes kept his side level.
° Kelleher again to the rescue. Five minutes after Mendy’s heroics it was Kelleher’s turn. The youngster reacted brilliantly to push away Pulisic’s effort from close range. It was a strong performance from Caoimhin all night, and he’ll be needed again on Thursday night.
° The subs. Keita came on for Milner, Ox came on for Jota, before Jones made his return with a late cameo in place of Mané. None of the subs made an impact though as Liverpool failed to find the winner. That we ended this must win game with a front three of Jones, Ox, Salah sums it up really.
° Missing Thiago. The past three league games has seen us dominated in midfield, with our trio lacking the ability to get on the ball and dictate play. Thiago’s absence in that regard has been keenly felt as we’ve been left exposed in the middle of the park. That we have a 100% win rate with him in the side this season is no fluke.
° Failing to see out games. The Reds have taken the lead in 17 league games this season, only going on to win 12. That’s in contrast to City who’ve managed to win every single game they’ve taken the lead in. It’s an issue that needs to be seriously looked at by Jürgen Klopp and his coaching staff.
Our game management has been poor, we remain way too open even when we are in the lead. We keep giving teams invitation to attack us by failing to control games. We saw it against City, Brighton, Brentford, Spurs etc. Whether it’s a structural issue or a personnel one is not quite clear.
° Title hopes shattered. It was already looking a long shot with Liverpool starting the day 12 points behind leaders Manchester City. A win at Stamford Bridge and a win over Leeds in the outstanding match would have theoretically seen us cut that lead by half. As it stands, we’re still a whopping 11 points behind.
° AFCON is here. Mané, Salah and Keita have now departed for the competition. With Firmino in isolation and Minamino and Origi still out injured, it’s a precarious situation. Much will rest on Jota’s shoulders the next few weeks. Leighton Clarkson returning from loan should offer another body in midfield however.
° What’s next? A trip to Arsenal on Thursday for the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi final. With the league title looking as good as gone, I can’t stress enough how seriously we should be taking the League Cup. Arsenal will be no pushovers, they’re in good form and took City all the way last time out.