Liverpool make it six of the best as perfect start continues at Chelsea
Goals from Alexander-Arnold and Firmino push advantage back to five points
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold scores his side’s first goal during the Premier League match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Chelsea 1 Liverpool 2
A stirring effort from Chelsea was not enough to stop Liverpool from maintaining their pristine record at the top of the Premier League. Jürgen Klopp’s side restored their five-point lead over Manchester City thanks to goals from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino but they were made to sweat by the hosts, who were a team transformed when N’Golo Kanté turned up the heat in the second half.
Chelsea threw everything at the division’s pacesetters during those dying stages and they almost stole a point from 2-0 down, only for Mason Mount to spurn a glorious opportunity as the minutes ticked away. In the end, Liverpool held on and were able to celebrate a rare and precious win at the home of one their big six rivals. Klopp’s side are made of stern stuff, whereas Chelsea remain a work in progress under Frank Lampard, who is still waiting for his first home win.
In previous years the sight of the fans in the lower tier of the Matthew Harding Stand unfurling a banner bearing Eden Hazards’s image might have send a shiver down the spine of the opposition. Those days have gone, though, and it seemed a strange choice when Hazard’s face appeared behind Kepa Arrizabalaga’s goal shortly before kick-off. As motivational ploys go, all it did was remind Liverpool of a player they would not have to worry about.
With Hazard’s wonderful dribbles down the left consigned to the past, the outstanding Alexander-Arnold had more freedom to get forward from right back in support of Mohamed Salah and it was not long before the visitors exposed one of Chelsea’s biggest weaknesses with a powerful surge through the middle from Fabinho.
Kanté had taken Liverpool on almost single-handedly in the European Super Cup last month and the French midfielder’s recovery from a persistent ankle injury allowed Lampard to switch from a 3-4-2-1 system to a more conventional 4-3-3. Mount had also passed a late fitness test and Chelsea briefly offered the impression that they were capable of denying Liverpool space by maintaining a tight and solid shape during the early stages.
Yet their fragile spine soon started to creak. Liverpool had a pleasing urgency in possession and they spied an opening when Fabinho, charging past weak challenges from Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho, fizzed a pass into Sadio Mané, who lured Andreas Christensen into making a panicky foul.
The position of the free-kick, a couple of yards outside the area, meant power represented the clearest route to goal. Jordan Henderson acted as a decoy, Salah’s backheel teed up Alexander-Arnold and Chelsea froze as the right back crashed a tremendous shot high to Arrizabalaga’s left.
Stamford Bridge was stunned by the venom in Alexander-Arnold’s effort and the opening period quickly became an ordeal for Lampard. His gamble on Emerson Palmieri’s fitness backfired when the left back limped off, Chelsea’s defence was further weakened when Christensen had to make way for Kurt Zouma and on the one occasion Tammy Abraham managed to sprint away from Virgil van Dijk, the young striker lacked the composure to thread the ball past Adrián in the Liverpool goal.
Lampard needed his team to be clinical in those moments, though he must have been encouraged by the way one straight pass from Christensen had sent Abraham clear of Liverpool’s offside trap. Chelsea continued to press and they thought were level moments later, Cesar Azpilicueta bundling Willian’s cross from the left past Adrián after a messy scramble, only for a VAR check to show that Mount had strayed offside during the buildup.
Lampard turned back to his bench with a rueful look and he was feeling even worse when Liverpool doubled their lead with a simple set-piece moments later. Alexander-Arnold touched a free-kick to Andy Robertson and the left back’s cross allowed Firmino to rise above Marcos Alonso, Emerson’s replacement, and head past Arrizabalaga.
This was not a vintage display from Liverpool’s front three, however, and Chelsea earned the approval of the crowd during the second half. Kanté found a second wind and he halved the deficit with 20 minutes remaining, bending a shot high to Adrián’s left from 20 yards.
Liverpool were on the ropes and the home fans roared Chelsea on. Kanté was everywhere, chasing back to stop Salah bursting through on the break, and Lampard was getting ready to celebrate when a cross from the left bobbled to the unmarked Mount in the final minute. Yet the youngster fired over and all that was left was for the crowd to salute a fine effort from Chelsea at full-time. – Guardian