Chelsea picked up a valuable point in their pursuit of Champions League football as they came from behind to stay in touch with all of their top four rivals. Chelsea are now unbeaten in their last seven visits to Anfield in all competitions – a run stretching back to 2013.
Antonio Conte’s team selection alluded to the importance of the game as the Italian named three defensive midfielders in his starting XI in an attempt to nullify Liverpool’s attacking threats. N’Golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko were joined in the middle of the park by Danny Drinkwater – who was handed his first Premier League start for the Blues. David Luiz once again missed out in a big game, with Andreas Christensen preferred in central defence, giving Chelsea a very resolute look.
Opening stanza plays out as stalemate
The first half was a cagey affair, with both teams relying heavily on one player for their creative outlets. Former Chelsea man Mohamed Salah has been in fine form for Liverpool this term and his direct running caused the Blues multiple problems, whilst at the other end of the pitch, Eden Hazard was integral to Chelsea’s attacking endeavours.
The Blues began to create more opportunities with Hazard central once more; his dinked through-ball to Danny Drinkwater was cut out by an onrushing Mignolet before Hazard teed up Davide Zappacosta, whose rasping drive was tipped over the bar.
Salah created the biggest chance of the half with an expert turn and shot on the edge of the box, which zipped past the Chelsea post as the Blues started to sit a little deeper at the end of the half and looked to catch Liverpool on the counter-attack.
Chelsea rue missed chances
At the start of the second half, Davide Zappacosta fizzed two excellent balls across the Liverpool box, with Alvaro Morata failing to convert on both occasions; and, in the 65th minute, Chelsea paid the price for their missed opportunities.
Phillipe Coutinho looked to have lost possession but Tiemoue Bakayoko’s indecision in the tackle left the Brazilian able to slide in Salah, who ran on to the ball and slid past Courtois with ease to give Liverpool the lead. It was the Egyptian’s tenth goal of the season and he graciously chose not to celebrate against his former employers.
Chelsea had to ride the storm, with Cesar Azpilicueta making a series of telling blocks and interceptions but in the 82nd minute, the tide began to turn with Zappacosta’s perfectly weighted ball falling for Alonso, who fired over with the goal at his mercy.
Final throw off the dice pays off for Conte
Willian was then substituted onto the field by Conte in what appeared to be a final throw of the dice and 144 seconds later, the gamble had paid off handsomely. The Brazilian took on four men before chipping the ball up towards the back post, in what looked like an attempted cross. The ball, however, drifted over everybody and ended up in the back of the Liverpool net, much to the delight of the Brazilian and his adorning fans camped into the Anfield Road end of the ground.
The Blues were then content to sit back and rest on their well-earned point; exactly what Antonio Conte would have hoped for from his team and he will be impressed with the resilience his side were able to show in a game of such magnitude.
Next up for Chelsea is a home game against Swansea City on Wednesday evening whilst Liverpool have a tricky-looking week, with trips to Stoke (Wednesday) and Brighton (Saturday) on the horizon.