Liverpool made it 15 straight league wins, as first-half strikes from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino held off an N’Golo Kante second-half effort to make it six wins from six to start the season.
Stamford Bridge was up for this one as Frank Lampard chased his first home win against the league leaders, but the enthusiasm lasted only until the 15-minute mark when a clever set-piece routine saw Mohamed Salah lay off Trent Alexander-Arnold to smash one into the top corner from the edge of the area.
The ?Blues didn’t lie down, however, and after Tammy Abraham had a one-on-one effort well-saved by Adrian, it was VAR’s turn to come to the ?Reds rescue, the technology narrowly but correctly ruling out a scrappy Cesar Azipilcueta effort for an offside in the build-up.
It was a topsy-turvy start to the game, and while it could easily have been level after the first half-hour, the Reds found themselves 2-0 up shortly after. It was from another set-piece, as Roberto Firmino found several yards of space in the area and rose highest to convert Andy Robertson’s delivery from the left.
Chelsea dominated for much of the second half, making the Reds’ lead a lot less comfortable after N’Golo Kante rampaged through a watching Liverpool midfield to curl in a special strike and half the deficit.
Despite dominating the possession, the hosts struggled to create many more clear-cut chances, as a pinned-back Liverpool were made to rely on the counter-attack.
Mason Mount fluffed a late chance to level it late again, but 2-1 it would stay, as Liverpool kept their lead at five points for yet another week.
Key Talking Point
Having stooped to European defeat at the hands of Valencia during the week, Frank Lampard was desperate to get things back on track against the early league leaders, and in an effort to do so, he controversially did away with the back five shape that had served them so well in the Midlands a week ago.
Kurt Zouma was dropped for the returning N’Golo Kante as the Blues reverted to the 4-5-1 they used to some effect in the UEFA Super Cup against Liverpool last month, with Marcos Alonso dropping out for Emerson in the only other change from midweek.
You had to feel sorry for the Blues’ back four, who contended with two injury-enforced changes in a first half in which they struggled against the best front three in world football, but they were the architects of their own downfall throughout the early stages. Some clumsy defending from Andreas Christensen allowed Alexander-Arnold the opportunity to score the first goal, while Alonso – on for Emerson after 15 minutes – was posted missing as Firmino nodded in the second.
Eight of their 11 league goals before kick-off had come in the first half, with same amount of their 11 against coming in the second, so their prospects of a fightback didn’t look particularly great. They had, however, both scored and conceded in every league game since that opening day drubbing at Old Trafford – so you felt they had a goal in them.
That they did, when Kante halved the deficit deep into the second half. They huffed and puffed in pursuit of the equaliser, but it wasn’t forthcoming, despite a spirited effort to force it.
Still, it’s a result Lampard won’t be too concerned about – his team are improving by the week, and a defeat to Liverpool, in their current form, is little to be ashamed of.
Starting XI: Kepa (6); Azpilicueta (6), Christensen (5), Tomori (6), Emerson (5); Kante (6), Jorginho (6), Kovacic (5); Willian (6), Abraham (6), Mount (6)
Subs: Zouma (6), Alonso (5), Batshuayi (6)
Star Man – Fikayo Tomori
The 21-year-old has been thrown straight into the deep end this season and, playing against a Liverpool side who were on fire in the league, this was his biggest test yet.
He rose to the challenge, however, and if not for the defensive maturity and reading of the game that belies his years, then this could have been a grim affair for Chelsea – whose defending elsewhere left so much to be desired.
Tomori is a baller. Has he been a CB all his life???
— Mr Reload it ???? (@AlexBasz) September 22, 2019
Tomori looks the one with 300 appearances ?
— Paddy Carey (@paddycarlos10) September 22, 2019
Tomori has stood up to the challenge of taming Salah well. Growing in confidence game by game ??
The only positive in yet another inconsistent defensive showing from #CFC#TapinFootball
— TapIn (@tapinfootball) September 22, 2019
His second half display, in fact, marshalling the inside channel in which the clinical Salah so often thrives, was one of the best 45 minutes’ you are likely to see from a young defender this season.
Despite defeat, he took another important step towards becoming a key player for Lampard, and is now surely a written-in-stone starter for the Stamford Bridge side.
Key Talking Point
Liverpool were in crisis heading into this one, for against Napoli during the week, they had in fact *checks notes* lost a game of football.
It was the first time since last season’s first leg thrashing in Barcelona they had left a game on the losing end, but in Jurgen Klopp’s 150th Premier League game in charge, they showed absolutely no inclination they were about to make it two on the bounce in the early stages.
The German made just one change from the Champions League defeat, bringing Georginio Wijnaldum back in for James Milner, and without even getting out of first gear, they found themselves well on track for a 15th consecutive league win
Starting XI: Adrian (7); Alexander-Arnold (7), Matip (6), Van Dijk (6), Robertson (6); Henderson (6), Fabinho (7), Wijnaldum (6); Salah (6), Firmino (7), Mane (6)
Subs: Milner (6), Lallana (6)
Star Man – Trent Alexander-Arnold
?The 20-year-old vowed to add more goals to his game speaking prior to kick-off and did just that when he got things started, curling in after a decoy from Salah on a free-kick on the edge of the area.
He has come under criticism for his defensive displays so far this season but he allowed absolutely nothing down his flank here, that partnership between himself and Joel Matip once again proving defensively fruitful for the Reds.
He’s maturing into a key man in both thirds for Liverpool, and this display will have done his burgeoning reputation no harm.
Both sides will have a change of pace this midweek with some EFL Cup action, as the Blues host Grimsby Town on Wednesday while Liverpool travel to MK Dons.
There is no rest for the wicked, however. Chelsea have a third straight home game just three days later when Brighton come to town for league action, after Liverpool head to Yorkshire to take on Sheffield United in the earlier kick-off.