Jurgen Klopp was delighted with his side’s dominant performance as Liverpool ran out 2-0 winners against 10 man Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
After their summer of spending, this early season encounter was billed as an opportunity to assess if Frank Lampard’s side were able to close the gap on last season’s runaway champions.
Liverpool dominated the ball early on, as Chelsea looked to sit back and frustrate the visitors, with new arrival Timo Werner looking to be a threat on the counter – although the German’s rapid breakaways were well dealt with by makeshift centre-back, Fabinho.
Then, with the first half edging towards a goalless conclusion, the game would take a huge swing in Liverpool’s favour, an excellent raking ball from Jordan Henderson straight through the middle of the park finding the onrushing Sadio Mane who was bearing down on the Chelsea goal. The Senegalese forward was brought down by the chasing Andreas Christensen, who, after initially being shown a yellow card, was given his marching orders for the denial of a goalscoring opportunity following a review of the pitchside monitor.
Within five minutes of the restart, Liverpool took full advantage of the extra man. Roberto Firmino playing a quick one-two with Mohamed Salah down the right, the Brazilian standing the ball up for the third man of the Reds deadly attacking trio, Sadio Mane, who expertly steered his header past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Three and a half minutes later, and Arrizabalaga showed why Chelsea are in the market for a new ‘keeper, the Spain international adding to his ever-growing list of calamities as he dallied on the ball. The 25-year-old was closed down by the energetic press of Mane who intercepted the Spaniard’s attempted clearance before tucking the ball home from six yards out.
With the man advantage, Liverpool further dominated possession, but a rare foray forward saw the hosts handed a potential lifeline, the lively Werner bustling his way into the box before being clumsily brought down in the box by the Reds debutant midfielder, Thiago Alcantara.
However, despite his previously perfect record from the spot, Jorginho saw his effort met by a firm left hand from Reds ‘keeper Alisson Becker to maintain the two-goal advantage.
Alisson was forced into another save with six minutes remaining from a Tammy Abraham effort, before Kepa was forced into a couple of late saves.
First, Sadio Mane attempted to take advantage of Kepa’s perceived weakness from distance with a vicious strike, before last week’s hat-trick hero Salah saw a close-range effort palmed away.
Speaking afterwards, Jurgen Klopp was impressed with his side’s dominant performance.
“Super game. Really good game from both teams,” the German told Sky Sports. “I like our game a lot. Chelsea are a top side. Our own football I liked in the first half, really good situations, passed through the line but we didn’t score.
“After the red card, the second half is a different game. We kept the ball rolling, let them run, scored the goals, conceded a penalty, Ali saved it, so all good. Everybody had a hand in the result.”
Liverpool had been strongly linked with a move for Timo Werner earlier this summer, but were unwilling to commit themselves to the deal financially amid the ongoing pandemic, and Klopp praised Fabinho for his performance against the Germany international.
“Timo is a good player,” said Klopp. “No real tactic that you can defend against him when he has the ball, but Fab played very well. If Sadio hadn’t scored two goals then Fab gets man of the match.”
Timo Werner completed five take-ons against Liverpool, more than any other player on the pitch.
A promising display in difficult circumstances. pic.twitter.com/ZXp8Zvh6h9
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 20, 2020
Despite the second goal coming through Kepa’s error, Klopp was keen to point out the selfless pressing from Sadio Mane to force the mistake.
“I loved both goals for different reasons. Top header, but I loved the movement from Sadio, which is why he can score,” said Klopp.
“The second goal he gets the reward for pressure on the keeper. I liked it. I liked both goals.”
Despite only joining the club on Friday afternoon, Klopp was forced into introducing new signing Thiago Alcantara to the fray at half time due to a slight injury to Henderson.
75 – Half-time substitute Thiago completed more passes (75) than any Chelsea player managed in the entire match. Since full passing data is available for the Premier League (2003-04), his 75 successful passes are the most by a player who played a maximum of 45 minutes. Control. pic.twitter.com/UvHfrw1ggN
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 20, 2020
The Spain international took no time to settle against the 10 men, completing more passes in his 45 minutes of play than any of the Chelsea side to leave Klopp delighted with the performance of the £20 million man.
“Top timing. He played with Spain and trained with Munich so he’s fit, that’s not a problem. He needs to get used to his team-mates, but when they went one man down it became the perfect game for him.
“I liked his game a lot. Defensively it was tricky for him, but offensively, with the ball, that’s him, he wants to pass the ball.”
Next up for Liverpool is an away tie against Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup before a home Premier League fixture against Arsenal next weekend.