Once more Liverpool failed to beat Chelsea at their home ground, as Antonio Conte’s side were again able to grab a point essentially out of nowhere, just at the moment where Liverpool were starting to feel comfortable with what seemed a big derby victory.
Whether Willian wanted to cross or shoot, the substance is that Liverpool were again unable to finish a match that seemed theirs and a late equalizer by the Brazilian was enough to deny them the three points that would have sent them into the top 4 of the table.
Chamberlain and Sturridge – both connected with Chelsea in one way or another – got one of their rare starts this season along with Liverpool’s best player so far, Mohamed Salah.
Chelsea used three defensive midfielders – Kante, Bakayoko and Drinkwater, for the first time in the starting eleven – and it was clear that their main target was to keep their opponents from scoring. Hazard and Morata would be responsible for whatever good could come offensively. Especially the Belgian is used to be the target-man in the more difficult matches for the Blues.
Chelsea’s plan was to deny any space for Salah to run forward and exploit any gap Liverpool’s defenders might leave, by targeting Hazard more often than their lone striker, Alvaro Morata.
It was a surprise that Klopp left both Firmino and Mane on the bench. It was maybe an attempt to have some game-changing quality players for the latter stages of the game, but it definitely had some great risk in it.
Liverpool dominated possession easily at the first minutes of the game, which was something that Chelsea didn’t mind letting happen, but they couldn’t create anything good out of it.
Salah tried to run behind Marcos Alonso and Cahill from the right flank, but it was a difficult task, considering that many times the wing-backs of Chelsea formed a solid and narrow five-man defence.
As we mentioned earlier, Hazard was the obvious target for Chelsea’s players, as they tried to find him from every part of the pitch and waited for him to create something good.
Mignolet had a good save against the Belgian and generally, the Reds seemed to handle nicely the pressure from Chelsea, since none of the chances fell to the feet of a skilled finisher, such as Morata. It was Drinkwater who wasted his team’s biggest chance of the first half instead, again one created from Hazard.
Salah was the main source of danger for Conte’s side, but he had little impact, as he was trying to create for himself, which is a style of play that Chelsea’s players fancy stopping.
Surprisingly enough, the game became more open as time passed, which became clear in Salah’s opener, after a mess in Chelsea’s defence and a Bakayoko – maybe the worst player for the Blues – crucial mistake.
Morata was essentially cut from his teammates, which made Liverpool’s defenders hold him easily out of danger, although having again some sloppy moments.
Liverpool were holding the lead in relatively easy fashion, until the cross-shot from Willian underlined for yet another time their major inability of securing victories when in front.
Mane was introduced in the match by Klopp right after Willian’s equalizer, but with less than five minutes of play remaining there was practically very little he could do to turn things around.
Klopp’s decision to leave him and Firmino on the bench was wrong, judging strictly from the outcome, but the truth is that his team produced the few chances that a team needs to outscore a team like Chelsea who will hardly score more than once in a match like this. The thing is that they failed to convert more than once too.