Liverpool started the new year with a cracker of a match and a show of talent at times, but ultimately only took a point having been two up at Chelsea.
Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool
Stamford Bridge, Premier League
2 January, 2022
Goals: Kovacic 41′, Pulisic 45+1′; Mane 8′, Salah 25′
Caoimhin Kelleher – 8 (out of 10) – Man of the Match
The biggest match of the young Irishman’s career and he certainly stood up to it.
Massive early one-on-one save at the feet of Pulisic that was very Alisson-like.
Made a great punch clear from a dangerous free-kick, which somehow turned into an assist for an absolute worldie struck past him. Talk about unlucky.
No chance for goal number two, but a top stop from close range just after the hour mark.
Really composed and moved his feet well to make the difficult turn out to be routine – Kweev was the anti-Ramsdale, basically.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7
Gifted the early Chelsea chance but it was, in fairness, after a moment of great defensive cover.
Was repeatedly informed he was “just a sh*t Reece James” so responded with one sublime assist, another unstoppable pass which should have been an assist and some outrageously good switches of play.
After the break was less of a forward threat and had to be more diligent defensively, which was hit and miss against overlapping wing-backs. An important block and another clearance at the far post late on.
Ibrahima Konate – 6
Not going to lie, have absolutely no idea if he played well or not – there was just too much going on. Seemed to win a few important challenges and clearances but also loads of runs went in behind him.
There’s also a regular thing where he steps about 10 yards up to engage an incoming pass but doesn’t get there and leaves a huge, massive gap between Trent and Virgil – look out for that.
Needed a concussion check after a late clash; all appeared to be good.
Virgil van Dijk – 6
Definitely won a lot of aerials which were important and did cover across a few times, but some of his big sprayed passes were wayward, too.
Kostas Tsimikas – 7
Poor old Kostas just wanted to have a good time and everyone made mad things happen around him. Got hit in the face and (softly) kicked in the shoulder by Mount, neither punished. Stopped a load of crosses and launched some counters in fairly typical style.
Some crosses were somewhat overhit, but often at speed and under pressure.
Fabinho – 7
Class defensively, as ever, but bypassed a lot once they started whacking it down the wings and taking the second balls from there.
Was harassed at times in dangerous areas but pretty much always emerged with the ball. Tried to drive the team on at times but to limited effect.
Must be hard being a one-man midfield against Chelsea though…
Jordan Henderson – 4
He appears to have a case of the Momo Sissokos, post-eye injury. In other words, the intent is there, but it’s all a bit reactionary and the first touch is basically a clearance.
Really poor on the ball again and, yet again, was caught doing absolutely nothing and appealing a vague offside instead of tracking the runner as Pulisic ran past him for 2-2.
The captain needs to rediscover his form in possession at the very least.
James Milner – 6
Really good for the opening 25 minutes when Chelsea dominated possession and attacked down their right with frequency. Lots and lots of tackles and interceptions in that defensive channel, including one in the box when a dangerous cut-back was on.
However, that was that – the second half of the first half, so to speak, was largely a midfield abomination, starting with Milly’s very silly (double) foul for their first goal. Subbed in the double change after being a bit better after the break again.
He turns 36 this week, yet gets picked ahead of Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain, which might be saying more about them than him. Our midfield needs refreshing, badly.
Mohamed Salah – 8
And it’s 150 goals in English football! Magic Mo had barely a touch for 25 minutes, but still had one shot saved, another offside one saved – and then rattled in a Messi-type near-post finish.
Unbelievable effort from 35 yards or so almost resulted in a third for the Reds. We’re going to miss him this next month. A lot.
Diogo Jota – 5
A busy and bustling game in which he seemed to do absolutely nothing yet be absolutely everywhere.
Basically, he was a massive pain in the arse for Chelsea‘s defensive players and gave about 70 fouls away.
Sadio Mane – 6
Booked before he’d had a touch, or even before all the fans were sat. Was he lucky? They thought so but surely with eyes on the ball it was nothing more than a yellow.
Then two errors fell his way; he teed up a chance with the first and buried the second himself. Stumbled a little in a few attacking moves afterwards, but then was involved in a brilliant move on the hour which he almost scored from. Spoiled it a few minutes later by running straight into five defenders by himself.
Ended his goal drought, but still looks a country mile off his best. Perhaps the Afcon will give him a nice chance of scenery and he can come back more like his old self. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (on for Jota, 68′) – 6 – Didn’t have lots of the ball but actually did a really good number on sticking to fellow sub Jorginho and making sure he couldn’t dictate the game.
Never going to be a centre forward is he.
Naby Keita (on for Milner, 68′) – 6 – Not much of anything other than a flick on the run and a foul on the edge of the box.
Curtis Jones (on for Mane, 89′) – n/a – A return after an eye injury and Covid. Will be needed this month.
Subs not used: Adrian, Pitaluga, Gomez, Williams, Beck, Morton
Jurgen Klopp/Pepijn Lijnders – 6
Options reduced once more, Klopp (presumably?!) went for experience in midfield and had basically nothing to decide in goal, defence or up front.
The subs were fairly standard replacements for the positions we’ve seen this term, though, honestly, we’re going to go with the assumption that the assistant boss didn’t want to make the call to replace the captain with Klopp not at the game.
We’ll have at least one more game without Jurgen in place so Lijnders will be taking charge not just on matchdays, but on the training ground too.
The Reds never really had outright control of this game and not winning after being two goals ahead is always disappointing, even if it was on the road against one of the strongest teams in the league.
We really had to go for the win late on and didn’t really do enough to push for it.