A thrilling, basketball-like game of football saw Liverpool concede a two-goal lead and up sharing the spoils at Chelsea to start the New Year.
Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool
Premier League (20), Stamford Bridge
January 2, 2022
Salah 26′ (Alexander-Arnold)
Ahead of the game, all the talk was about those who wouldn’t be involved; for Liverpool it was manager Jurgen Klopp plus Joel Matip, Alisson and Roberto Firmino; for Chelsea it was record-signing Romelu Lukaku.
But it was those who were involved who soon made us forget about the absences, with a breathless first 45 minutes.
With Klopp absent due to testing positive with covid, it was Pepijn Lijnders overseeing the Reds and he spoke pre-match about arriving with “no excuses – we come here to attack the game.”
Within a minute it was Trevor Chalobah making the mistake at the other end and Sadio Mane profiting to open the scoring and end his goal drought of 10 games without a goal.
It was a fast-paced opening 10 minutes, to say the least!
The Reds doubled their lead with an absolutely sensational goal from Mo Salah before the half-hour mark.
The Egyptian received the ball down the right, cut past Marcos Alonso, then as he got into the six-yard box and it looked like the chance for a shot was lost, he fired in at the near post from an almost impossible angle.
It perhaps should have been 3-0 before the break, with Liverpool breaking three vs. one but Salah unable to get the shot away initially and then the follow up being blocked for a corner.
It proved a costly miss as the game turned on its head in the five minutes before half time.
James Milner – who turns 36 this week and was named in midfield ahead of Naby Keita or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – had done okay but he started to fade and gave away a silly free-kick that started Chelsea‘s comeback.
Mateo Kovacic scored an absolute worldie for the home side with an incredibly controlled volley from 20 yards, then Pulisic equalised in stoppage time after some poor defending – and it was almost 3-2 as Mason Mount’s shot bobbled just wide.
It was like a basketball match, but Liverpool needed the break like a boxer on the ropes.
Half time: Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool
Liverpool needed to manage the game better in the second half, having so sloppily given away a two-goal lead before the break, but the game continued at such a quick pace, which exposed Liverpool’s deficiencies in midfield and their high defensive line.
This was the first match in England to have safe standing and that added to the atmosphere and feel of the proper throwback encounter. Lijnders said pre-match that they were almost approaching this like a Cup final and it was played as such.
Salah almost lobbed Eduoard Mendy, Mane stung the Chelsea keeper’s palms a minute later, then Kelleher made a superb point-blank save to deny Pulisic shortly after. It was frenetic, chaotic and end-to-end with little sense of control.
Both sides pushed for a winner in the closing stages, but neither could conjure a clear cut chance to take the three points.
In isolation, a result that isn’t so bad. But it’s now two points from the last nine and 11 points behind Man City.
TIA Man of the Match: Caoimhin Kelleher
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Chelsea: Mendy; Chalobah, Silva, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Kante, Kovacic, Alonso; Pulisic, Mount, Havertz
Subs: Kepa, Sarr, Hall, Jorginho, Saul, Barkley, Hudson-Odoi, Vale, Ziyech
Liverpool: Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Fabinho, Henderson, Milner (Keita 69′); Salah, Mane (Jones 90′), Jota (Oxlade-Chamberlain 69′)
Subs not used: Adrian, Pitaluga, Gomez, Beck, Williams, Morton