Liverpool 0 – 1 Chelsea
The question at full-time that hung over an empty Anfield echoing to the whoops and shrieks of celebrating Chelsea players is whether a home defeat any longer counts as a shock for the team still known as defending champions by convention alone.
Currently they are defending nothing of what they won last season – beaten again, for the seventh time in 13 league games, and this the unprecedented fifth in a row at home. A game that was lost to a Thomas Tuchel team that is resurgent under their new German manager, while in the other the technical area the greatest German manager that the English game has known seemed to be running out of options.
His team looks crushed. They cannot dominate opponents as they did and the goals that once rained in from the Premier League’s most dangerous forward line feel like a faint memory.
Sadio Mane missed a first half bouncing ball in front of Chelsea’s goal by such a considerable margin that it was hard to call it a shot. Mohamed Salah was replaced with barely an hour played with his team desperate for a goal. The club’s top goalscorer of the last three seasons, performed his frustration for the cameras that followed him back to his seat.
In five home defeats, Liverpool have scored once, from the penalty spot against Manchester City. In the meantime this was the stage for the biggest win of Tuchel’s Chelsea career.
Ten games so far and no defeats yet with this one sealed by a moment of exceptional skill at the end of the first half by Mason Mount, the most effective player on the pitch.
Tuchel still has his problems, primarily the frazzled confidence of Timo Werner who started this game instead of Olivier Giroud and found many ways not to get the goal he so badly needs, including falling foul of a VAR review.
Chelsea did not take all their chances, but they took the one they needed to and the system, incorporating three centre-halves once again felt solid in the face of a desperate last push from Liverpool in the game’s closing stages. It was a spectacular effort from the likes of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen and while not yet a fully formed side, this transition is proving successful. Chelsea are up to fourth at the expense of Liverpool in seventh and four points behind.
A brilliant goal to complete a half in which two occasionally shaky teams had to work through their problems with varying degrees of success. For Chelsea, pinned back in the early stages by the Liverpool press and unable to get out of trouble, it was a case of their confidence growing - and in none more than Mount.
The young Englishman makes things happen, and such is the high quality of the things he does that when half chances present themselves he can make finishing them look a very simple task indeed.
His goal three minutes before the end of the half was by no means the only first half chance but others saw their moments come and go. Mount seized upon his. It was the kind of goal that his team-mate Timo Werner, two years older, could really have benefited from but it just refused to happen for him.
The German had one chance on 16 minutes that he lobbed feebly into the arms of Alisson, back in goal for Liverpool, and a later one in which he was ruled offside by Var by the thickness of a cuff.
In the race for Jorginho’s long ball the Chelsea striker had beaten Alisson, rushing unwisely out of goal on 24 minutes.
Werner nicked it past the goalkeeper and got to it in time to steer it into the Liverpool goal under pressure. It was perhaps a moment of redemption after the earlier miss, and then he was obliged to wait on the Anfield pitch while VAR decided it was offside. It felt like Werner had never believed the goal would be given and with one in the league since the end of October you can understand why.
Not much better at the other end where Sadio Mane unaccountably failed to make any meaningful contact on the ball when Mohamed Salah’s pass through found him. The front three were doing very little for Klopp and behind them the latest central defensive pairing of Fabinho and Ozan Kabak always looked likely to make a mistake.
It was the young Turkish defender who had played Werner on for the better of his two chances, an accidental hooked ball from Cesar Azpilicueta which the German striker just lifted weakly into Alisson’s arms.
Mount’s goal, however, was splendid. A Liverpool attack broke down and N’Golo Kante had time in midfield to look up and send the ball long out to the left. Mount was wide but Fabinho and Trent Alexander-Arnold were neither tight nor aggressive.
The 22-year-old moved the ball back right on his right foot and by the time Fabinho had recognised what was going on, Mount had spied the opportunity, shaping a lovely shot round Alisson’s left hand.
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