Ten-man Chelsea stand firm to win draw with Liverpool
Chelsea staged a defensive masterclass as Thomas Tuchel’s men dug deep to secure a 1-1 draw at Liverpool after Reece James was sent off in an explosive end to the first half.
Kai Havertz led Chelsea in the lead during a captivating opening spell that ended in spectacular fashion when the video assistant referee advised Anthony Taylor to check the pitchside monitor.
The referee sent James off for handball and Mohamed Salah scored from the resulting penalty, but Liverpool were unable to secure a second-half winner as Chelsea channeled their anger into a superb defensive display.
All eyes were on Anfield as Premier League title hopes clashed on Saturday night after starting the campaign with two top-tier wins each without conceding.
Few could have predicted that the Blues would walk away with anything after what appeared to be a game-changing decision at the end of the opening period.
But veteran Thiago Silva’s halftime introduction turned out to be inspired as Chelsea backed wave after wave of Liverpool attacks without giving in again as Tuchel frustrated compatriot Jurgen Klopp.
The mood crackled from the start at Anfield, although the Liverpool boss will be disappointed that some ignored his plea not to sing a homophobic song aimed at Chelsea.
The Reds started on the front foot and the exciting teenager Harvey Elliott took a chance before Jordan Henderson managed to connect cleanly with an excellent ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Poor decision-making prevented well-drilled Chelsea from creating clear chances on the other end, but they profited superbly from a lackluster defense from a set piece.
James swung to a left corner and Havertz was too easily able to throw a nice loop header past Alisson Becker in front of the Kop in the 22nd minute.
Chelsea’s goal came from their first shot on target and they could easily have made matters worse for the hosts.
Virgil van Dijk blocked Romelu Lukaku after N’Golo Kante started a break from the Blues, before Mason Mount hit the goal as teammates Havertz and Lukaku screamed to be played.
Diogo Jota replaced Roberto Firmino before an entertaining first half ended in chaos.
A corner from Andy Robertson’s return took its toll, with Joel Matip seeing a header come back off the bar before James blocked Mane and Jota’s attempts on the line.
Liverpool players and fans alike shouted for handball when the Chelsea full-back blocked Mane’s attempt and Taylor was advised by VAR to verify the incident.
The referee pointed to the spot and sent off James after going over to the pitch monitor, angering Chelsea players.
Salah kept his cool in the midst of the storm to slam the penalty, with spirits unraveling again after the equalizer.
Chelsea continued to voice their grievances as the players left for a break from which Havertz and a seemingly injured Kante did not return, as Silva and Mateo Kovacic were presented to consolidate matters.
It was a wise move given that Liverpool reappeared with a bit between their teeth.
Jota glanced at a sublime cross from Salah with the outside of his boot before Edouard Mendy stopped a 30-yard shot from Van Dijk.
Henderson leaned terribly far from the distance and Mendy pushed a low shot from Fabinho past the post, with the Chelsea keeper also keeping a snapshot of Robertson from the resulting corner.
It was one-way traffic but Chelsea finally managed to give Lukaku an offensive reinforcement in the 64th minute, with the striker’s shot blocked by Matip at the end of a good shot.
The majority of the visitors’ energy was devoted to staying firm in the back, where the cunning Silva expertly organized the backline.
Salah missed a shot that dribbled straight into Mendy’s hands and Alexander-Arnold stabbed the Senegalese international’s palms towards the end of the game, with Kovacic having a half-chance at the other end.
Jota headed for Liverpool as Liverpool pushed to the death row, but there was no winner.