Mohamed Salah fired up the crowd in the Kop with his 65th minute goal, but Willian’s equalizer in the 85th helped Chelsea escape from Anfield with a 1-1 draw against Liverpool on Saturday.
The first half was quiet for both clubs. The forwards were unable to generate many chances, but the match opened up after the first goal was scored when Liverpool finally broke through.
Chelsea are now three points behind Manchester Untied in second place, while Liverpool could drop to sixth in the Premier League table if Arsenal defeat Burnley on Sunday.
Here are five things we learned from Liverpool’s 1-1 with Chelsea.
Mo Salah, mo’ problems
The Premier League’s top scorer is proving why he’s the best transfer of the summer in England, adding a 10th goal to his tally in the process.
Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino were left on the bench against Chelsea, leaving Salah and Daniel Sturridge to lead the Liverpool attack. Time and time again, the Reds would get into the final third, eventually leading to the Egyptian’s goal in the 65th minute.
Salah’s finishing has improved since his short stint at Chelsea, which didn’t include many minutes on the pitch. His £36.9 million fee was shadowed by the expensive transfers of Romelu Lukaku, Álvaro Morata, and Alexandre Lacazette, meaning Liverpool are getting their money’s worth. The club is especially fortunate to acquire Salah before he plays with Egypt in the World Cup.
The 25-year old still has time to refine his skill set even more to make Chelsea regret giving up on the winger. He’s going to cause a lot of problems for Premier League defenders, earning him the nickname of the “Egyptian Messi.”
Chelsea respecting Liverpool attack with Drinkwater start
Danny Drinkwater earned his second start of the season with his new club, his first in the Premier League, and it seemed to be a tactical switch for Chelsea.
He replaced Cesc Fàbregas in the starting XI as Antonio Conte’s response Jürgen Klopp’s signature gegenpressing. The Spaniard needs time on the ball to work his magic, so Drinkwater was preferred as a better defensive midfielder with passing abilities.
Chelsea’s attack lacked a bit in quality with Eden Hazard having to drop back to build forward, but Drinkwater did his part in limiting Liverpool to just one goal. The Reds were not able to penetrate through the middle, and they had to rely on attacks from the flanks.
Drinkwater made some nice runs behind the Liverpool defence. With more minutes, he should integrate into Chelsea’s and Conte’s playstyle.
Key players shut down, both clubs adjust
Even with all the attacking talent on both teams, the match remained goalless for over an hour due to defensive prowess.
Salah was constantly stopped once he received the ball in the box. Every time he would try to move to his strong left side from the right wing, he would run into a defender before being surrounded and losing the ball. Chelsea also couldn’t feed Hazard, leading to limited chances. The Liverpool defence constantly left Morata and Davide Zappacosta offside.
Liverpool’s fix that led to the goal was to overload the left flank with Salah, Sturridge, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Merseyside club had more short options for one-two passing, and some fortunate bounces off Chelsea players’ shin pads allowed Salah on goal with an easy finish past Thibaut Courtois.
With the Blues chasing the game, Antonio used his substitutes to bring on all his creative players. Pedro, Willian, and Fàbregas were all brought on to breathe some life into Chelsea’s offence. With a little bit of luck, Willian’s cross chipped over Simon Mignolet and into the net for the equalizer. The West London club didn’t let off the gas pedal, but were unable to score a second.
The problems for both clubs in the first half were eventually solved in the final half hour, and it made for an exciting finish to the match.
Despite song, Bakayoko gives the ball away
Timmy Bakayoko, ba de ya…he never gives the ball away!
To the tune of Earth, Wind & Fire’s September, Chelsea fans like to sing about Tiémoué Bakayoko, together with N’Golo Kanté, and how they never give the ball away. Supposedly the new power midfield, the song has been ironic as of late.
Bakayoko’s ball control has been poor in the last few matches, giving the ball away in crucial spots to either kill Chelsea attacks or start opposing counterattacks. The Frenchman was at fault for Salah’s goal, and he constantly lost the ball in the midfield.
The young midfielder seems to be playing the way he was ordered to: up and down the pitch rather than to the sides. I don’t think he’s being asked to play safely as Chelsea need him to play box-to-box. He’s more susceptible to turning over possession in his role, but he still needs better control.
I don’t think he deserves to be benched just yet. But with Drinkwater slowly assimilating into the club, he should be in the hot seat. Hopefully that will light a fire under him to improve to his wonderful form during his AS Monaco days.
And I will walk 500 miles, and I will walk 500 more…
Just to be the man who’ll walk a thousand miles to fall down at your door…
Chelsea flew 3,000 miles to Azerbaijan to play against Qarabag on Wednesday, traveled 3,000 more miles to return home to London, only to almost immediately travel north to Liverpool to play at Anfield. With that much time on the road and in the air, it would make sense for this fixture to be moved to Sunday to give the club some rest.
If the FA wants Premier League clubs to succeed in European competitions, they should work together with the clubs in terms of scheduling. Chelsea was put into a tough spot, and are lucky to leave Anfield with a point.
Starting next Wednesday, Chelsea will have three matches in a week. Luckily, they all happen to be home matches at Stamford Bridge, but the schedule isn’t going to get any easier for England, and the Premier League need to work with all the clubs to ensure everyone is set up for success in domestic and European competition.