In what proved to be a hard fought battle for both sides, it was Willian’s late strike that secured Chelsea a point at Merseyside.
Liverpool and Chelsea Play Out An Absorbing 1-1 Draw
Fans could be forgiven for feeling upset with some of the starting line ups. Chelsea were to start with Danny Drinkwater rather than Cesc Fabregas and Liverpool were missing Mane and Firmino. Despite the eyebrow raising decisions on both sides there was no shortage of talent on show at Anfield.
The game began as many would expect with Liverpool dominating the ball in the first 10 minutes and carving the early openings. They found lots of opportunities down their right with Milner, Salah and Gomez linking up wonderfully. Despite this there was little quality in the final third as Chelsea were resolute in and around their own box.
Regardless of Liverpool’s dominance over the ball Chelsea posed a constant threat when in possession. For all of Salah’s impressionable play Hazard was every bit his match and his grew into the game as the minutes ticked on.
In the 20th minute Hazard sparked into full life displaying every ounce of what makes him a joy to watch. He was unplayable. Players stuck close and he breezed past them with technical brilliance. They stood off and he attacked the space and powered past. He was clearly the difference in the two sides, or at least trying to be.
Hazard’s brilliance was impressive but there must have been a deep sense at half time that Liverpool were still the dominant force in the game. They had the ball, they had the openings and they were far more threatening across the field. In fact apart from Morata, Chelsea had offered little other threat around the pitch.
HT: Liverpool 0-0 Chelsea.
The second half began in a frantic fashion, Liverpool looked charged up, energetic and dangerous. Chelsea lacked the cutting edge going forward from the first half. Hazard had been kicked, perhaps one time too many, clearly disheartened with his solo efforts with little help.
in the 65th minute Liverpool put together a good passing move which found Salah inside the box with acres of space. He duly powered forward and slotted home with a casual ease that belied the mental pressure the situation must have created. Question marks will surround Bakayoko who seemed to poke the ball into Salah’s pass and perhaps create the space.
The original response was good by Chelsea, pressing high and forcing Liverpool deeper – an easy tendency to fall into when you are 1-0 up. But it didn’t last long. The game became more scrappy with Conte introducing substitutes that boded well but affected the fluidity of the away team. Liverpool looked lightning in their breaks and dangerous in and around the Chelsea box.
Eventually the substitutes settled and Chelsea looked the fresher of the two sides. They were more inventive and moved forward with a comfortable assurance in their ability. Fabregas began to find time and space on the ball allowing him to dictate the pace of the game.
In the 85th minute Conte’s substitutions paid great dividends as Wilian looped a ball over Mignolet and into the back of the net. A stunning effort although more than one person will question whether it was a cross or a shot.
FT: Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
An absorbing fixture between two genuinely strong sides played out to be a draw. Neither manager could have too many complaints about a 1-1 draw, with both fairly rewarded for their efforts. Chelsea fans will point to Hazard’s unquestionable brilliance whilst Liverpool will note Salah’s scything pace. Many will wonder what could have been with Firmino and Mane starting on the bench but the result doesn’t really favour either side.
Liverpool and Chelsea will likely lose ground to Arsenal and Man City respectively as both will be expected to win tomorrow whilst Man Utd’s victory at Brighton puts them 3 points further away from both. There is still work to do for both manager’s if they hope to take a title challenge to the end of the season.
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