A piece of Daniel Sturridge magic earned Liverpool a deserved draw at Chelsea, with plenty of talking points from the match.
Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool
Premier League, Stamford Bridge
September 29, 2018
Goals: Hazard (25′), Sturridge (89′)
Klopp’s Substitutions Pay Off
Jurgen Klopp isn’t always lauded for his use of substitutes, with some feeling the Reds boss occasionally leaves it too late to make changes.
He passed with flying colours in that respect on Saturday, however, with all three of those introduced making a positive impact.
Sturridge was the obvious standout, with the 29-year-old continuing his pleasing return to form with a stunning late equaliser that could be so important moving forward.
Xherdan Shaqiri was also a lively presence, despite a glaring miss before Sturridge struck, making things happen and cutting a more confident figure than an out-of-form Mohamed Salah.
Meanwhile, Naby Keita brought fresh impetus to a midfield that looked its one-dimensional worst for much of proceedings, breaking the lines and always looking to make things happen.
Improving squad depth and having great options from the bench is something Liverpool have lacked for years – that has changed now.
What Is Wrong With Salah?
Salah is a wonderful footballer who will continue to be a priceless player for Liverpool, but he is going through a poor spell by his high standards.
Sure, the goals are still going in at a respectable rate, but his all-around influence and general demeanour are sometimes well short of what we witnessed in his debut campaign.
The Egyptian endured arguably his worst performance in a Reds shirt at Stamford Bridge, even though he looked a threat and managed the odd moment of quality.
His touch was rusty, he was too easily bundled off the ball, and most negatively for the visitors, his finishing again let him down.
Salah does not look a happy player right now, with off-field issues potentially not helping, and it has reached a stage where Klopp may be considering using Shaqiri instead.
He will come good again, inspiring his side to great things in the coming weeks, months and years, but he is off the boil at the moment.
End Product Not Good Enough
Liverpool have been wasteful in the opening weeks of the Premier League season, but they had not yet paid the price before Saturday’s game, despite a few scares.
In a match that the Reds so often played well in, though, their profligacy in key attacking areas was their biggest weakness, and Klopp must have been tearing his hair out on the touchline.
Time and time again, they got themselves into dangerous positions, only for the finish to be weak or the final pass to be off-target.
Salah was perhaps the most culpable, but Roberto Firmino had a great opportunity that was cleared off the line by David Luiz, and Sadio Mane frustrated.
Fortunately, Sturridge came on and showed his teammates how it is done, but this is an area of Liverpool’s game that must improve.
Their clinical nature was a joy to watch last season – hopefully it will return as soon as possible, with a rustiness still evident in the final third.
Who thought the front three would almost feel like the main issue right now?
Towering Centre-Backs Excel
Chelsea may have been moments from earning a hard-fought 1-0 victory, but had Liverpool lost the game, no blame could have been put on Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.
The centre-back pair were superb again, helping thwart the link-up of Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud, and rarely putting a foot wrong.
There is no better central defender in Europe than Van Dijk at the moment, whose presence in the team is now unrivalled.
He wins everything in the air, is smooth in possession and has transformed a back-line that looked so leaky prior to his arrival in January.
Gomez, meanwhile, looks a footballer of unbelievable promise, with his quality on the ball, pace and positional awareness all catching the eye.
The duo weren’t absolutely perfect, with Gomez almost caught out in stoppage time after switching off, but it was another testing fixture that they excelled in.
This looks like Liverpool’s centre-back partnership for years to come.
A Massive Point For The Reds
As the minutes agonisingly ticked by in west London, you could almost feel the meltdown starting to occur among Liverpool supporters.
Two defeats against Chelsea in the space of four days does that to a fanbase, but losing would have been no disaster given the quality of opposition and start to the season the Reds have made.
As it was, Sturridge’s inch-perfect strike earned Klopp’s men a point that felt like three in a lot of ways, and it had a pivotal feel to it.
The celebrations on the pitch, in the stands and on the sidelines told you how big it felt – whisper is quietly, but it’s the kind of things champions do.
It is another major test hurdled in what is a touch run of fixtures, and to remain undefeated in the league after such a tricky start speaks volumes about the character of this team.
Napoli up next, then Man City arrive at Anfield next Sunday level on points at the top of the table. A massive week ahead before the international break.