Jordan Henderson’s stunning strike sees Liverpool take win at the Bridge

Jürgen Klopp’s attacking gameplan hands Antonio Conte a first defeat as Chelsea boss

Chelsea 1 Liverpool 2

A statement of intent was delivered here by a team who aspire to play an active part in the title race, but it was not offered up by Chelsea. Liverpool, for the second season in succession, prevailed in this corner of south-west London to cast the locals into grisly retrospection with Antonio Conte shuddering at his first loss in charge. This will have served as a reality check.

For all that Diego Costa offered the hosts hope, Jürgen Klopp's visitors were the slicker, more coherent team throughout to merit an eye-catching success. Their wave of first-half attacks had left Chelsea wounded and wheezing. There was resilience when required late on to choke any hope of a comeback even if the management seemed so jittery in their technical area.

Liverpool have now claimed seven points from trips to Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea this term, and thumped four past the champions, Leicester. That renders their loss at Burnley all the more perplexing, but this is a team clearly on the rise.

As promising a start as Chelsea had mustered under Conte, results over the first month of his tenure having hinted at a recovery from last season’s traumas, this had always felt like the first proper test of his stewardship.

No team had scored more than Liverpool’s half-century of league goals since the turn of the year and the pace and invention of their forward thinkers had the potential to expose the hosts’ rejigged back line.

Conte had prepared all week for life without the injured John Terry, but here he was reintegrating David Luiz into his rearguard. The Brazilian returned to these parts with his curriculum vitae six trophies better off after two years in Paris, but quelling Liverpool's vibrant attack was a daunting early ask.

The absence of Roberto Firmino, resting a minor groin complaint, might have offered encouragement but, even without their leading scorer, the energy was all Liverpudlian.

There was such zest and conviction to the visitors’ forays upfield, players instinctively aware of each other’s movement off the ball with Chelsea left dizzied by the pace of the attacks. This was not just brutal for David Luiz to endure. The hosts’ entire rearguard, and even the previously unflappable N’Golo Kante, seemed panicked by the ease at which Liverpool established their lead. By the interval, Chelsea’s pursuit of the contest had been left feeling rather forlorn.

They had been punctured just after the quarter-hour mark after Branislav Ivanovic's crude, yet unsanctioned, challenge on Georginio Wijnaldum near the touchline. The free-kick seemed innocuous enough, Philippe Coutinho exchanging passes with James Milner, but that little interplay seemed to disorientate a quartet of Chelsea players in the penalty area. While they ball-watched without an opponent anywhere close, only David Luiz and Gary Cahill seemed to sense the danger as three Liverpool players loitered expectantly at the far post. Coutinho's delivery was whipped deliciously over the clutter and, while Daniel Sturridge retreated from an offside position, Dejan Lovren was onside to guide his finish back and across the exposed Thibaut Courtois.

The goalkeeper had dropped an earlier Sturridge shot, which actually proved a sign of the sloppiness to come. Everything was awkward about Chelsea’s defending, their back four offered next to no respite by the rather sluggish nature of their own forwards, who were utterly unable to relieve the pressure.

That inability to clear their lines would cost them again before the break. Cahill could only scuff a clearance from Adam Lallana's touch after a throw-in, with the ball landing with Jordan Henderson 25 yards out. The England midfielder's first touch was magnificent, his second just as sumptuous as his shot curled gloriously and dipped late. Courtois summoned a dive but was despairing long before the ball careered into the net.

Conte, the frustration mounting in the technical area, had not witnessed a display this soporific up to now and must have been tempted to fling on replacements. When Liverpool had prevailed here last October, providing Klopp with his first Premier League victory in the process, the Londoners had already entered the nosedive which would eventually see Jose Mourinho dismissed. This was supposed to be different. Yet even this team, with its sprinkling of Champions League winners, can still look leaderless at times when Ivanovic labours, Costa is isolated and there are only sporadic glimpses of quality from the midfield line.

The sight of Milner, a makeshift left back, stealing possession from Costa with a perfectly executed tackle just as the forward threatened still summed it up. Yet at least Chelsea were starting to draw their lone striker into the contest. He would provide them with hope on the hour. Nemanja Matic, so becalmed up to then, glided to the byline beyond a sliding Joel Matip and clipped his pull-back towards the striker. Costa, adjusting his body shape, poked his shot through Milner's legs on the line and the deficit was halved.

Simon Mignolet calmly choked another effort from the Spain international moments later yet, after that flurry of pressure, it was actually the visitors who should have extended their lead. Courtois did wonderfully well to block Divock Origi's downward header on his line from Milner's deflected cross while a trio of Chelsea substitutes prepared to make their entry.

Yet the visitors’ anxiety at the death did not bring Conte respite. His unbeaten record has gone, shattered by the first fellow contender his team have confronted.

(Guardian service)

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