Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
Premier League (3), Anfield
August 28, 2021
Goals: Salah pen 45+4′; Havertz 22′
Elliott repays Klopp’s faith
It may not have been an evening in which Elliott produced a masterclass, but the manner in which he shone on such a high-profile occasion proved he belongs at this level.
An early shot almost found the bottom corner, while his general use of the ball, from keeping it simple to threading thoughtful passes, caught the eye.
Not only that, but Elliott was relentless out of possession, pressing tirelessly and not allowing himself to be dominated physically.
This is a special talent Liverpool have on their hands.
Andy Robertson made a welcome return to the side, but ultimately, this proved to be a rare off-day for the left-back.
Making his first appearance of the season, the 27-year-old didn’t manage to make attacking inroads, lacking his usual spark.
Robertson was replaced by Kostas Tsimikas late on – in hindsight, the latter should have started – and while we are accustomed to seeing him never look tired, he wearily traipsed back to the dugout.
As each minute ticked by, the more erratic the Senegalese became, falling over, running into trouble and never getting the best out of Cesar Azpilicueta.
The hope is that this was just a poor performance rather than a case of Mane edging past his absolute peak, but there were worrying similarities to 2020/21.
In fairness, Robertson’s display didn’t help him, with the pair unable to dovetail in the manner we are so used to.
Credit to Chelsea
While it is easy to look at things from a biased perspective, credit must be given to Liverpool‘s opponents this time out.
The opening half-hour was the Premier League at its absolute best, with two top-class sides locking horns and playing at a stunning level on and off the ball.
The Blues’ performance was even better in the second half, as they defended resolutely with 10 men and still carried the odd threat on the break.
The Frank Lampard era is a distant memory now and Klopp will know that his compatriot Thomas Tuchel is an exceptionally strong rival.
Special Anfield atmosphere
If last weekend’s win over Burnley gave us all a taster of a full Anfield for the first time in nearly 18 months, Saturday’s game was on another level.
The atmosphere was ferocious long before kickoff and it rarely let up, barring a lull after Havertz’s well-taken opener.
Frankly, it is hard to envisage such a passionate, high-octane game taking place last year.
This was what proper football feels like and it made for captivating viewing – a polar opposite of last season’s 1-0 loss in front of an empty stadium, which looked like a completely different sport was being played.
It does feel as though the world is slowly nearing some sort of normality again and this was the most normal a Liverpool game has felt since Atletico Madrid in March 2020.
Disappointing, but not a disaster
So, Liverpool have dropped their first points of the season.
The manner in which the result occurred may sting for a little while, given the Reds’ numerical advantage, but this was still no disaster.
Arguably the most important thing in any title race is not allowing your rivals to beat you and Liverpool managed that, even if the performance died a little towards the end.
Granted, Klopp cut an angry figure on the touchline and will rue his team not winning – the woeful Anthony Taylor didn’t help his mood – but a draw is still perfectly adequate against a superb opponent.
It’s now time for the tedious international break, but this has been a strong opening to the campaign by Liverpool, who should continue to go up the gears as the season progresses.
More negative transfer hysteria may be on the way as deadline day approaches, but the Reds look well-equipped to compete, regardless of whether new signings come in.