Chelsea closer to Liverpool than I thought, says Sarri
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri believes his side are "closer than I thought" to Liverpool after both teams maintained their unbeaten starts to the Premier League season with a draw at Stamford Bridge. The Italian, appointed in the summer, thinks Liverpool and leaders Manchester City are "one step ahead" of his side as their managers have been in place longer, but said he is "starting to think" they can bridge that gap in one season. Having beaten Liverpool 2 1 in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, the Blues have now faced them twice in four days without losing. They are third in the table, two points behind Jurgen Klopp's side and defending champions City, who are top on goal difference. "There are six or seven top teams here who are among the best in Europe, not just in England," he said. "It's not easy to get into the Champions League. "We have to try to stay very close in the table with the top-level teams. And we have to try to improve more." Eden Hazard's 25th-minute strike, driven low past Alisson, had threatened to be his second match-winner of the week against Liverpool. The Reds wasted a host of opportunities before Daniel Sturridge curled a magni cent shot into the top corner from 25 yards to rescue a point in the 89th minute. Klopp was pleased with the striker's contribution but felt his side should have taken more from the game."what a spectacular football game," he said. "We had many chances and played fantastic football. "Getting a point at Chelsea is always a good result but if we play like that, we will win plenty of games." Sarri will have been disappointed to see Chelsea concede so late but will have taken much pleasure from aspects of a performance that con rmed they have the qualities to remain in the race at the top of the Premier League this season. With this result on the back of the Carabao Cup in midweek, Sarri can look back on a highly satisfactory start to his Chelsea reign. Klopp will feel the negative of the end of Liverpool's 100 per cent start to the Premier League season - but he can re ect on a performance that resulted in so many chances created on opposition territory against a team they will rightly regard as close rivals in pursuit of the title. He would have shaken his head in disbelief had Liverpool left Stamford Bridge empty-handed given the golden opportunities they let slip through their grasp. Liverpool, no matter how late they left it, deserved their point. In the nal reckoning, however, both Chelsea and Liverpool remain unbeaten with ve and six league wins respectively - although the sight of City above them even after that superb opening is an ominous one. Sturridge's spectacular late equaliser was another reminder that beneath the injury problems and time on the sidelines lurks arguably England's most naturally gifted striker. The last time he played at Stamford Bridge was on 12 January during a miserable loan spell with West Bromwich Albion. He limped o with a hamstring injury after only four minutes and did not play a full game for the rest of the season. Liverpool had tried just about everything and missed all manner of chances when Sturridge, with as much nonchalance as brilliance, looked up and sent a 25-yard nish in an arc past the stretching Kepa. Sturridge combines athleticism and in-bred goalscoring instinct, as he proved with his bicycle kick in midweek, and would be a certainty for Gareth Southgate's England squad if he could string together a sequence of games. As Sturridge walked off, taking the acclaim from Liverpool's fans, he cut a stark contrast with Salah, who did not last much longer than an hour against his former club and continues to struggle for form.
It is hardly crisis time for the Egyptian, who was never likely to repeat his 44-goal feat of last season, but he looks low on confidence - although he possesses such quality it is surely only a matter of time before he returns to his best.
HOPEFUL Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri.