Thiago made his Liverpool debut as a half-time substitute in a win defined by the relentless quality of Sadio Mane, as the Reds emerged 2-0 victors at Chelsea.
Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool
Premier League (2), Stamford Bridge
September 20, 2020
Mane 50′ (assist – Firmino)
Mane 54′ (assist – Kepa)
The Reds arrived at Stamford Bridge without two of their senior centre-backs, with Fabinho deployed alongside Virgil van Dijk against a Chelsea attack that featured two former targets, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.
Jurgen Klopp‘s side began with intensity, suffocating the Blues whenever they took the ball, and unsurprisingly the visitors had the best of the early chances, with Roberto Firmino almost benefiting from another Kepa Arrizabalaga error, only for his goalbound shot to be blocked.
The early signs from Fabinho were strong, with the Brazilian twice snuffing out Werner when one-on-one, showing his calm and expertise in the tackle, ably supported by Van Dijk.
As the half wore on, though, Werner did find a few opportunities, but twice he missed the target, including one real miscue when found by Havertz in the box, though the pair were rightly flagged offside regardless.
Chelsea were down to 10 men before the end of the half, with Andreas Christensen bringing Mane down with a rugby tackle and, after a VAR review, the Dane was rightly sent off to give the Reds a big advantage for the rest of the game.
HT: Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool
- Fabinho shines at centre-back with Gomez and Matip injured
- Mane takes reins from Salah with impressive brace
- Thiago replaces injured Henderson to make second-half debut
- Alisson saves first penalty for Liverpool, vital stop to keep clean sheet
- Liverpool make it two wins from two in perfect start to title defence
Both sides made changes at the break, and for Liverpool it was particularly exciting as Thiago was sent on to make his debut, replacing an injured Jordan Henderson.
Not long after, Liverpool were ahead, with Firmino and Mohamed Salah combining brilliantly to see the No. 9 overlap into the box and loft a perfect cross on for Mane to head past the hapless Kepa.
Kepa furthered his claim for the title of worst goalkeeper in the Premier League as he gifted Mane another just minutes later, with the Spaniard’s awkward pass out closed down by the winger and tapped in for a simple brace.
Thiago slotted in seamlessly and impressed from the off, with his ability to dictate the tempo and pick unexpected passes giving an early sign of how Liverpool’s midfield could evolve with their new No. 6 in a regular starting role.
The Spaniard was, however, guilty of tripping Werner as the Chelsea striker won a second penalty in as many games, but Alisson was on hand to make a strong save to keep Jorginho out and the score at 2-0.
Liverpool dropped the pace from there and Chelsea responded in kind, not offering anything in the way of a response as the Premier League champions cantered to another win.
TIA Man of the Match: Sadio Mane
Referee: Paul Tierney
Chelsea: Kepa; James, Christensen, Zouma, Alonso; Jorginho (Abraham 79′), Kante, Kovacic (Barkley 79′); Havertz (Tomori 46′), Mount, Werner
Subs not used: Willy, Azpilicueta, Hudson-Odoi, Giroud
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson (Thiago 46′), Keita (Milner 64′), Wijnaldum; Salah, Mane, Firmino (Minamino 86′)
Subs not used: Adrian, Tsimikas, Jones, Origi
Next Match: Lincoln (A) – League Cup – Thursday, September 24, 7.45pm (BST)