10-man Chelsea hold on for draw against Liverpool
|(Mohamed Salah 45+5 pen)||(Kai Havertz 22)|
Ten-man Chelsea delivered a fine defensive display as they held on for a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday morning (Aug 29, Singapore time) after defender Reece James was sent off just before half-time of the English Premier League clash.
Having gone in at the break at 1-1 and down a man, European champions Chelsea were pleased at picking up a point against title-chasing rivals as they maintained their unbeaten start.
Second-placed Chelsea are level with Liverpool on seven points from three games, with both teams having identical goal difference.
The dismissal of James, after a handball on the goalline, turned what had been a high-tempo and entertaining game into a more tactical affair following Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel’s double substitutions at the interval.
The first clash of the season between two title-contenders brought expectation and noise to Anfield, with the Kop back in full voice and with Juergen Klopp’s side starting off on the front foot, Chelsea struggled to contain them.
Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson should have scored in the 10th minute when he was picked out by a wonderful Trent Alexander-Arnold cross but made a mess of his attempted side-foot volley which drifted harmlessly wide.
It was against the run of play, when Chelsea took the lead in the 22nd minute, Kai Havertz meeting a James corner at the near post and his glancing header looping into the far corner past the helpless Alisson.
Chelsea, Champions League victors over Manchester City in May, were buzzing and Mason Mount should have doubled their lead when he was put in by Romelu Lukaku.
But then came the incident which transformed the game.
Joel Matip’s header came out off the bar and Sadio Mane’s attempt bounced in front of James who stopped it from crossing the line.
But referee Anthony Taylor was called over to the pitchside monitor where he saw images showing the ball had struck James’ arm after it bounced up off his thigh.
Taylor not only awarded the penalty but sent off James – a harsh outcome for the right-back and one which was strongly protested by his teammates.
But despite the delay, Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah kept calm and beat Edouard Mendy with a textbook penalty kick to level the score.
Chelsea were anything but calm with Mendy clashing with Henderson in the aftermath of the penalty and the goalkeeper and defender Antonio Ruediger both getting booked for their role in the resulting fracas.
German manager Tuchel not only calmed his team down at the interval but made two changes with Havertz and the injured N’Golo Kante making way for defender Thiago Silva and midfielder Mateo Kovacic.
That meant a switch to a five-man defence and while Lukaku was more isolated in attack, the Londonders coped well with the inevitable pressure from Liverpool.
There were long-range efforts from Virgil van Dijk and Henderson but the home side gradually ran out of ideas and energy against the resilient Chelsea defence.
Chelsea even threatened to sneak a winner when Kovacic burst in from the left, six minutes from the end, but was denied by Alisson.
“We got the double punishment, red card and a penalty – and two yellow cards in the same action. We were angry. But you have to calm down and find a way to fight together as a team,” said Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta.
TUCHEL PRAISES TEAM
Chelsea manager Tuchel said: “I cannot praise the team enough. I do not know if there is a harder stadium than City and Anfield to go one man down.
“Because of Liverpool’s quality and energy, for the first 10 minutes (after the break) it felt like it was never going to end.
“Then, the next half an hour it was like maybe we will create a chance and score one and make it harder for them.
“For the last five minutes hopefully we survive and take a well-deserved point. Our resilience and team-work was absolutely fantastic.
“With pure will, we took the heat out of the game. That was team effort at its very best."
Tuchel said James had been unlucky to be penalised and sent off and the Chelsea boss was disappointed that the referee appeared to make the decision from a still image.
“I don’t know what happens and what doesn’t happen any more. I was worried the referee looked at one photo and decided it was a red card,” he said.
“I would have liked a longer check. I can remember referees that explained if it is a deflection and it is not a very unnatural arm position it is not a penalty."
While Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp felt it was a clear handball, he said the double punishment of a red card as well as a penalty had spoilt the game.
“I never liked double punishment but if somebody ever listened to me about rule changes or rules, a lot of things would look completely different,” said Klopp.
“It was absolutely harsh. Spoils the game? Yeah probably. It changed everything, I liked our first half, we were really good, caused Chelsea a lot of problems. It was an incredible intense game from Chelsea as well.
“I would have loved to have seen the game in an 11 v 11 situation and see who comes through better but it’s the way it is."
While disappointed his team could not go on to win the game, Klopp said that there was no longer a “huge advantage” in having an extra man in the modern game.
“Everything was enjoyable apart from the result. I saw two very good football teams. It was a great first half from us and actually a good second one because it’s so tricky when you play against nine defenders and have to create and create.
“Second half everyone thinks ‘come on’. There is a definite advantage in possession, you have to out-number them and defend them really high, but the defensive structure changes in that case that they are only defending slightly deeper but they have eight players defending that area around the box so we couldn’t use that.
“We had our shots from distance, I would have loved to have been a bit closer for the rebound but it was a good game.”
Klopp said Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino, who went off just before the break, had felt a problem in his hamstring.
“Bobby felt his hamstring, came and told us so we had to prepare the change. Bobby is not one who raises the hand when he doesn’t feel anything,” he said.
“It doesn’t look too serious but you never know before you have a scan, which will happen tomorrow.” – REUTERS