Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
Premier League, Anfield
January 31, 2017
Goals: Wijnaldum 57′; Luiz 24′
No Favours From the Refs, Again
Liverpool have been poor throughout January, but at times they haven’t been helped by decisions from the officials.
Handballs not given, goals scored when players have been in offside positions, penalties not awarded and now free kicks being incorrectly given to the opposition in dangerous areas.
The Reds were on top in the early stages of the game, and though Chelsea had begun to threaten with the odd opportunistic counter-attack, they amounted to little more than Diego Costa falling over.
Then referee Mark Clattenberg incorrectly gave a free-kick against Adam Lallana who, if anything, had been fouled by Eden Hazard as the pair battled for the ball.
The team went on to concede from the free kick, and though they didn’t do themselves any favours once the foul had been given against them, it should never have been a free-kick in the first place.
Mignolet Missing Then Making Amends
The Belgian ‘keeper has had inexplicable losses of concentration in the past. Letting balls go out of play before making his clearance, or becoming the only goalkeeper in the history of association football to be penalised for holding onto the ball for more than six seconds.
Here was a new one though. Having organised his wall he decided to continue barking instructions to the team as David Luiz and Willian lined up to take the free-kick.
The referee blew his whistle, and Luiz struck the ball perfectly into the goal off the inside of the post.
Mignolet was still looking the other way as the ball flew past him, and though the wall he assembled didn’t do him any favours—Jordan Henderson ducked and the other players did nothing—the Liverpool ‘keeper should have been in control of the situation and wasn’t.
He turned from villain to hero in the second half, getting down brilliantly to save Costa’s well-hit penalty in front of the Kop. The save was as important as Wijnaldum’s equaliser.
Wijnaldum Uses His Head, Again
Wijnaldum is Liverpool’s best midfielder by some distance at the moment. Despite improved performances from both Henderson and Emre Can in this game, the Dutchman has been the most consistent of the three during this difficult period, and stood out again here.
His speed of passing matches his speed of thought as he moves the ball quickly in midfield, making up for the more sluggish, predictable play which sometimes seeps into the games of some of those around him.
And he scored a goal, which always helps. He’s always looking to drift into the box from midfield and he did so here, generating all the power on an excellent header as it stood up in the area following James Milner‘s deflected cross.
The return of Sadio Mane will please Wijnaldum, as he’ll have a player whose speed across the ground matches the type of passes he wants to make.
Firmino Continues to Struggle, Despite Being Central
Roberto Firmino was one of the bright sparks early on in Liverpool’s season but in recent games he’s found it difficult to maintain a level of consistency.
The reason originally given for his downturn in form was a move out wide, but having played well in those positions previously in his career it still seemed like the cause might lie elsewhere.
Against Chelsea he was back to his centre-forward’s role, but he still couldn’t impact the game as he might have liked.
His work of the ball is without question, and like Lallana he’ll give his all on this side of the game even if his attacking productivity is suffering.
The Brazilian’s touch was uncharacteristically poor on occasions throughout this game, and he missed a great chance to equalise early in the second half, skying the ball into the Anfield Road end when he had all the time in the world to control the ball and pick his spot.
He also had a good chance to win the game with a header in injury time, but he nodded it straight into the hands of Thibaut Courtois.
Liverpool travel to Hull on Saturday for an un-televised 3pm kickoff where they will be hoping to get their first league win of the year.
The Premier League is the only competition left for Klopp’s men to concentrate on, and nothing but a win will do against second-from-bottom Hull.
With Mane and Philippe Coutinho back in the picture, the manager should be able to pick his strongest side for their trip to the east coast, and with Joel Matip back in the defence they’ll be hoping a win comes with a clean sheet.
With games against top-four rivals Spurs and Arsenal to come in the next month or so, the side need to be going into these games with confidence, building on this good performance.