Liverpool secured a fantastic and thoroughly deserved victory over Antonio Conte’s Chelsea on Friday night with a performance that was full of positives for the Reds.
Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool
Premier League, Stamford Bridge
Friday 16th September, 2016
Goals: Costa 62’; Lovren 17’, Henderson 36’
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds earned a delightful three points at Stamford Bridge to continue their promising opening to the season despite an unforgiving fixture list.
Dejan Lovren’s composed finish from a magnificent Philippe Coutinho cross put the Reds ahead, before a 30-yard wonder goal from Jordan Henderson gave Klopp’s men the lead their dominant first-half display deserved.
Diego Costa’s close-range finish halved the lead to ensure of a nervy final half-hour for the Reds, but Klopp’s side dug in with a tireless display to claim a fantastic victory on return to the scene of Klopp’s first Premier League win.
Here are the talking points from the clash.
Magnificent Matip and Lovren Impress
The build up to the game centred on how Liverpool’s back-line would contain Diego Costa, and while the in-form forward netted on the night, that it proved to be nothing more than a consolation is a testament to the work of the central pair.
After a nervy start, Lovren settled brilliantly alongside the composed Matip to largely nullify Costa’s threat, and an aggressive display from the Croatian fully deserved the opening goal he grabbed with a finish any forward would have been proud of.
Alongside him, Matip too was absolutely magnificent in almost every aspect of his game, winning vital headers, timing tackles to perfection and reading the game superbly to cut-out developing danger; the duo making a commendable seven tackles and 11 clearances between them.
One error of judgement proved costly from the summer signing when he went to ground too easily allowing Nemanja Matic to find Costa who finished, but overall it was another hugely impressive performance from Matip, whose distribution in starting moves from the back is also a crucial attribute.
Liverpool’s defensive vulnerability is still too readily seen, but largely unfazed by the big-game pressure, the central duo continue to build a promising partnership to help this Achilles heel.
A first league clean sheet of the season will surely arrive soon!
Reds rise to the big game stage again
Liverpool had become notorious strugglers against the big sides in recent seasons, but Klopp has overseen a magnificent transformation on such stages, evidenced once again in the capital.
The Reds produced the “brave football” their manager called for pre-match, turning in a fearless display in which they took the game to the home side from the first whistle to earn a thoroughly deserved and significant three points.
Liverpool took no time in feeling their way into the game, instantly grabbing possession and carrying the fight, probing to find a way through Conte’s team and in doing so, signalling their belief and intention to return to Merseyside with the full rewards.
There was a no-nonsense approach to the Reds’ play, with the team knowing exactly what was required to add to the increasing list of big wins claimed away from home at Man City, Arsenal last month and again at the very venue of Klopp’s first Premier League win almost a year ago.
Previously all too vulnerable on such occasions, collapsing to defeat and failing to pick up many big victories, the Reds have now lost only once against direct rivals under Klopp’s guidance – that coming on home soil against Man United.
It was somewhat fitting the transformed mentality and belief was displayed for the watching world to see once again at the ground where the transition started last October.
Jordan Henderson produces captain’s performance
After a slow start to the campaign adapting to a new role, Liverpool’s skipper has really begun to find form – none more so than at Stamford Bridge where he produced a real leading display.
A dominating presence in midfield, Henderson patrolled the middle of the park looking like a class act which he showed he really can be, despite popular belief outside of Anfield to the contrary, with an absolutely magnificent strike that doubled Liverpool’s lead.
The goal was one factor in an extremely impressive overall performance from the No.14, who was reliable in his tidy use of the ball that proved key to keeping Liverpool in control for large parts, and his break-up play – making more interceptions than any Red on the night (4) – was efficient.
And when up against it and facing a battle to hold on – partly after his own error in failing to track Matic’s run to set up Costa – Henderson lead by example, getting his side regrouped and resettled by instructing teammates – including screaming at James Milner for failing to react on one occasion – and making some vital interceptions and clearances.
Failing to produce telling moments in the crunch clashes on the biggest stages has become a regular criticism of the Reds skipper, but at Stamford Bridge he produced exactly what is called for with a captain’s performance.
Georginio Wijnaldum Shines at Stamford Bridge
Wijnaldum spoke in the build up to the game about his desire to net his first Liverpool goal, and while his wait goes on for that maiden strike, the Dutchman’s increasingly important role continues to grow.
The summer signing is slowly developing into an important player in Klopp’s side, and he proved it in west London, where another selfless performance in the heart of midfield proved crucial to Liverpool’s efforts defensively and going forward.
A relentless worker – undoubtedly part of the reason Klopp brought him to Anfield – Wijnaldum ran his socks off, making key contributions to breaking up play and springing attacks with some crucial one touch passing to set and keep moves in motion.
Though his stats on the night may be modest – posting three tackles and a tidy 83% pass compeltion – the importance of such contributions and Wijnaldum’s all-round unnoticed work cannot be underestimated, with the 25-year-old a key factor behind Liverpool’s slick and dogged display.
Reds show character with resilient effort
A long standing criticism of this current Liverpool team has been their defensive vulnerability and ability to capitulate when the going gets tough.
When Costa pulled one back you could be forgiven for thinking ‘here we go again’ but the Reds gave a fantastic and welcome display to the contrary, battling, scrapping and fighting when it mattered most to hold on for victory.
Up against it for most of the second half, and particularly after Chelsea pulled one back, every man in a red shirt from front to back worked tirelessly, showing a resilience and sheer determination too often missing to dig in and claim the rewards.
At the back Matip and Lovren threw their bodies in the way of everything, with Milner and Nathaniel Clyne’s contribution worthy of a mention, while in midfield, the unrelenting work from Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana ahead of Henderson was huge to keep the Reds in front.
It was a monstrous team effort from the resilient Reds and long may it continue. Seeing out the game is almost as big as the result itself, and should provide confidence in future similar situations.