Thursday 8 December 2016

Henderson's stunning strike proves the difference

Chelsea 1 Liverpool 2

Sam Wallace

Published 17/09/2016 | 02:30

Thibaut Courtois fails to prevent Jordan Henderson from scoring Liverpool’s crucial second goal. Photo: Getty
Thibaut Courtois fails to prevent Jordan Henderson from scoring Liverpool’s crucial second goal. Photo: Getty

Jurgen Klopp had been to Stamford Bridge before and won in the early days of his Anfield reign when he was still trying to construct a team according to the principles that had served him so well, and now that he has done that Liverpool look a formidable force indeed.

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Six days earlier Klopp's Liverpool had dispatched the Premier League champions 4-1 and on a warm Friday night in south-west London they gave Antonio Conte's team a lesson in what it takes to succeed in the modern English elite game.

Liverpool's Croatian defender Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring his team's first goal. Photo: Getty
Liverpool's Croatian defender Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring his team's first goal. Photo: Getty

This is the new season when legs are still fresh and hearts still willing and Klopp's high-tempo game ran Chelsea into the ground, Liverpool scoring two goals before the break that proved decisive.

Vision

Conte reorganised at half-time and Diego Costa's second-half goal made it more of a contest after the hour, but even so Conte's vision for the future looks a long way from being realised for now.

The home team were blown away in the first half by goals from Dejan Lovren (right) and a strike of a lifetime from captain Jordan Henderson as Liverpool played at a tempo way higher than that of their opponents.

They did so with no Roberto Firmino, who did not travel with the squad having suffered a groin strain in training the previous day.

Oscar of Chelsea makes a spectacular attempt to reach the ball. Photo: Getty
Oscar of Chelsea makes a spectacular attempt to reach the ball. Photo: Getty

Nevertheless, Klopp's side were dominant in midfield and, as Manchester City did last weekend, showed that those teams who are confident enough to press opposition high up the pitch are certainly having the best of these early league months.

There were more times than Jose Mourinho would care to remember that he suffered a first half like this at Stamford Bridge in the first five months of last season and this time it was Conte's turn to contemplate the pain of a struggling team. In fact, Chelsea were struggling in all the ways they did last season with the small consolation at least that they were up against a Liverpool side right at the top of their game.

Roman Abramovich can choose to spend his Friday nights anywhere he likes in London but he was in the house to see his new manager all at sea for the first 45 minutes.

Klopp's team set a pace that Chelsea could not live with although the home side contributed to their own problems as well. Oscar and Nemanja Matic scarcely affected the game and Eden Hazard was just a distant presence prowling up and down the left touchline, wondering for the most part when he was going to be allowed to join in.

Winning goalscorer Jordan Henderson (14) celebrates victory with Adam Lallana (L) and Kevin Stewart. Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Winning goalscorer Jordan Henderson (14) celebrates victory with Adam Lallana (L) and Kevin Stewart. Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Beforehand, David Luiz was reintroduced to the home crowd for his second spell at the club, a low-key return. Luiz was not at fault alone for the first Liverpool goal although it hardly inspired confidence in any of the Chelsea defence.

These are the kind of soft ones that Conte must hate most of all. Philippe Coutinho took a short free-kick to James Milner, got the ball back on the left wing and swept it to the back post where approximately four red shirts were unmarked and Lovren steered his first Premier League goal for the club past Thibaut Courtois' right hand.

Most of the Chelsea defenders had headed to the near post as the ball went back to Coutinho and Lovren came from an onside position to finish nicely.

The goal jolted Chelsea's confidence and it was not for another 10 minutes that they got a foothold in the game.

By then, Daniel Sturridge had cut in from the left and launched a couple of stepovers before shooting across goal. Of all the Chelsea players it was N'Golo Kante who got closest to imposing some order on the game for the home side, and he has quickly become a critical figure for Chelsea, but at the other end nothing was sticking.

Costa could barely get more than one touch on the ball and Willian was isolated on the opposite side to Hazard. The second goal was a major blow and although it was one of those perfect hits that come around only once in a while, there were still things that Chelsea did wrong.

It was a weak clearance from Gary Cahill that fell to Henderson around 25 yards out although the Chelsea defender would have hoped that the Liverpool captain would not have had so much time. Henderson's strike beat Courtois with its flight rather than its power and you could not help but think that the Chelsea goalkeeper had not got back into position quick enough from the original attack.

This was a Liverpool team that snapped into the tackle quicker and moved the ball faster and too few of the Chelsea team could live with the pace.

Branislav Ivanovic, who had conceded the free-kick for the first goal, looked badly off the pace, especially just before the hour when he lingered too long in addressing the ball and Coutinho pinched it away. Before then Klopp had replaced Sturridge who looked like he might have been struggling with an injury.

Chelsea finally broke through just after the hour and, for all the poor individual performances, this was a goal that seemed to awaken the distant memories of the 2014-2015 title-winning team. Matic picked the ball up from Kante in midfield, spread it wide to Hazard on the left and carried on his run through the inside left channel. The Serb took the ball back and headed for the byline, slipping past the cautious challenges of Joel Matip and Adam Lallana.

Once there, Matic lifted a ball back into the path of Costa who crashed it in from close range and suddenly Chelsea started to feel more like themselves again. Oscar was able to push up closer to his fellow Brazilian-born team-mate and a knockdown from the former a couple of minutes later opened up another shot on goal for Costa.

Liverpool rode out that threat and Conte's refusal to make substitutions until Pedro and Cesc Fabregas came on with 10 minutes left frustrated the home crowd. Another unbeaten record is gone in the Premier League, leaving just City, Everton and Tottenham undefeated. Liverpool are well and truly up and running. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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