Chelsea hit back to retain position at head of chasing pack
Chelsea' Christian Pulisic after levelling the scores at 2-2 against Liverpool the battle of 2nd and 3rd place via GETTY Images

Incidents and Isolations: 

Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku was on the wrong end of a life lesson from manager Thomas Tuchel for expressing criticisms of how he believes he has been utilised and explicitly stating his desire to return to former club Inter Milan. Due to continued Coronavirus infections, Liverpool were without Jurgen KloppAllison, Joel Matip and Roberto Firmino for their visit to London, where they hadn’t managed a win yet this season on their travels.

Fast and Furious: 

Within six seconds, events on the pitch had superseded any drama leading up to the kick-off when Sadio Mane’s arm flew into the face of Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta, earning him the leagues quickest ever booking. The stall was set, and the match was played at a high tempo, though Chelsea dominated possession in the early stages, playing fast, counter-attacking football, they failed to capitalise. Christian Pulisic, occupying a ‘false 9’ position couldn’t take the ball around Liverpool reserve goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher when presented with a golden opportunity to open the scoring just eight minutes in.

Mane in the middle:

Less than a minute later, Trevoh Chalobah suffered from some poor decision making when he tried to clear a ball with his head at an awkward level, leaving Mane in a one on one with Senegal teammate Edouard Mendy, who he did manage to round and beat. Chelsea continued to play in the ferocious way they had begun but looked shaky when Liverpool attacked at pace and could very quickly be forced onto the back foot when out of possession.

Strike Two:

On 26 minutes Trent Alexander-Arnold played in a lofted pass to Mohammed Salah, who had lost marker Marcos Alonso, as he stormed into Mendy’s box and shot a sublime left-footed strike past the helpless keeper. 

Some Chelsea fans may have been forgiven at this stage for wondering what, if any, difference Lukaku may have made to his team’s performance, but any wondering minds soon had their attention drawn back to the action on the pitch. This season’s breakthrough Chelsea academy graduate Chalobah kept his boyhood side in the match when he intercepted the ball from Salah once more bearing down on goal. 

Comeback on King's Road:

It took 40 minutes until Chelsea hit the target, James Milner bringing down Kai Havertz for a free kick from which Alonso’s shot brought a save from Kelleher which was parried high into the air. Mateo Kovacic, waiting on the edge of the area connected with the ball as it made its way back toward the ground with an incredible volley which looped the ball up and over the hapless Liverpool keeper and into the net to bring Chelsea back into the game.

Chelsea would have believed that the foundations were firmly in place for a second half comeback as half-time approached with the deficit halved, but the limitless N’Golo Kante played the ball to the onrushing Pulisic who thumped the ball past Kelleher to make it 2-2 as Stamford Bridge erupted.

Second-half Stalemate:

The second half was going to have to go some way to live up to the first, and despite attempts on target from Salah, Mane and Pulisic, a winner could not be found, leaving Chelsea with their fifth drawn in their last six home games, and their second against Liverpool this season.

The flexibility of Chelsea’s front three made it difficult for Liverpool’s defence and meant that Trent Alexander-Arnold and Konstantinos Tsimikas were limited in their ability to be attacking forces in the game for the opposition and it will be interesting to see how Tuchel approaches his attacking selection for the next matches in the wake of the Lukaku fall-out

City Slickers:

Manchester City will be extremely happy that both Chelsea and Liverpool dropped points and are now 10 and 11 points in their wake respectively, but there is still a race to be run to see who will run Pep Guardiola’s side the closest, and these two are the only contenders in that battle.​​​​​​