Liverpool won a valuable point last night, as they held league leaders Chelsea to a 1-1 draw.
In terms of challenging for the title, a point perhaps was not enough, but Liverpool’s main aim now in simply to get into the top four. The gap to the top remains ten points for Jurgen Klopp’s side; Chelsea are clear by nine points to Tottenham in second.
Chelsea, though, still have tough fixtures to play, starting with Arsenal on Saturday, so the challengers at the top still have hope.
At Anfield, the atmosphere was back to a more normal level, following a week to forget both on the pitch and in the stands. Off the back of three straight home defeats – all three games that Liverpool were favourites to win – a draw is a decent result. A much improved performance was achieved.
From the start, Chelsea sat in deep and allowed the home team to keep the ball. Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana made up the front three, and passed with speed and purpose that has been absent for a few games.
For the first ten minutes or so, Liverpool put the Chelsea backline under pressure. James Milner was heavily involved from left full-back, whilst Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum saw a lot of the ball in midfield. N’Golo Kante had to be at his best, shutting down gaps as he so effectively does, but Liverpool still got into good positions, albeit not testing Thibaut Courtois too much.
After about fifteen minutes, Chelsea came forward themselves, Eden Hazard looking dangerous, and Diego Costa holding the ball up well. Joel Matip, who has just come back into the team following injury and then a hold-up over a dispute due to Cameroon’s participation in the Africa Cup of Nations, looked nervous, giving the ball away cheaply at times.
On 24 minutes, Adam Lallana fouled Eden Hazard. On second viewing, it seemed Hazard played for the foul, cleverly moving his body across the Englishman’s body to win the free-kick as he so often does.
David Luiz stepped up and caught goalkeeper Simon Mignolet out. The Belgian claimed he never heard Mark Clattenburg’s whistle.
From a position of strength in the early period of the game, Liverpool found themselves behind. The crowd rallied once more, and the original pattern of play resumed: Liverpool passing neatly and purposefully, and Chelsea defending deep, offering little space to exploit.
Liverpool created no more clear-cut chances before half-time. Chelsea made every effort to waste time when they could, and took an age over every throw-in and free-kick, meaning the home team’s rhythm was disrupted.
Jordan Henderson showed his frustration as he was booked for dissent in stoppage time. The vast majority of possession had once again led his team to be a goal down, a theme far too familiar over the previous three games.
The second period required Liverpool to dig deep, conscious that Chelsea would continue to sit deep the longer the game went on.
Within minutes, Liverpool created the best chance of the match. The ball was worked well into Nathaniel Clyne, whose cross found Firmino in acres of space at the back post. The Brazilian, normally so reliable, mistimed his shot, and it sailed over the bar. At the time, it felt like a chance that simply had to go in.
Fortunately for Firmino, Liverpool equalised with their next attack. Henderson crossed the ball in, it was headed down by Milner and Wijnaldum got across Luiz to head home. This was the third goal the Dutchman has scored this season – two of the three coming against Manchester City and now Chelsea.
With the game level, both sides wanted the win, and suddenly Chelsea began to attack again. Emre Can went close for Liverpool before Costa hit a shot wide of the post at the other end.
Sadio Mane returned to the Anfield turf on 75 minutes, replacing Coutinho. Rapturous applause followed, but the excitement was soon tempered. Lovren gave the ball away easily, and Costa made strides forward. Matip came across to cover, but clumsily left a foot in and Costa needed no second invitation to go down – penalty.
Costa quickly grabbed the ball, and placed in on the spot, intent on putting his side back in front. Mignolet, in the Liverpool goal, however, had other ideas. He produced a brilliant save in front of the Kop, meaning he has now saved six of the fourteen penalties he has faced for the Reds.
The final ten minutes flew past, with Chelsea wanting to make amends for the missed penalty, and Liverpool wanting to go ahead to make them pay.
Pedro went close for Chelsea before Firmino had another header saved by Thibaut Courtois, but the game finished level.
Liverpool would have wanted more, but off the back of such a poor run of form, and with the penalty save factored in, cannot really complain.
Likewise Chelsea, who would certainly have killed off Liverpool’s title hopes with a victory, would have aimed for more, but the other results mean they are nine points clear of second place anyway.
Not an ideal result for either side, but a welcome point for both in the end.
Follow @MattAddison97 on Twitter for updates, photos and more news from VivaFootballCalcio’s Liverpool FC Correspondent.