Klopp relief after leaders given late scare by Chelsea
Records tumble to Liverpool. But will the Premier League do likewise this season?
There was a sense of certainty as they arrived at Stamford Bridge, cleverly claimed a two-goal lead against Chelsea and while they were left hanging on, they departed having re-established their fivepoint lead at the top of the table. As the saying goes, they found a way to win and that, so often, is the touch of contenders.
To gauge how much it meant you only had to watch Jurgen Klopp. With five minutes to go, the Liverpool manager was hopping up and down on the touchline in frustration as the ball kept going back into the Liverpool penalty area, and on the final whistle his typically exuberant celebrations, hugging his players, showed his relief – and understandably so.
As for those records – Liverpool became the first Premier League club to win their first six games in successive seasons, they have now won 15 league games in a row, seven away from home and Klopp, in his 150th league match in charge, has won 92 of them, the most by any manager of the club (Kenny Dalglish is next with 87).
Only Jose Mourinho can better that in the league.
Records mean nothing, though, without reward and what was encouraging for Liverpool was the game management they showed when under the cosh in the last half-hour, when they could easily have dropped points. They might have gone 3-0 up before that, but for a superb save by Kepa Arrizabalaga to deny Roberto Firmino his second goal, and Klopp said that would have been some statement to the rest of the league. But, in the end, one was still made as Liverpool knew they had to respond following Manchester City’s 8-0 humiliation of Watford, and they did just that.
They collected cautions, they slowed the tempo, they made substitutions and they managed their way to the final whistle. There was a little bit of luck, also, with Frank Lampard dropping to his knees and three Chelsea players slumping to the turf after Mason Mount skied a 90th-minute chance.
“It is a big one, really,” Klopp said of the result. Not that he had to convince anyone.
And Chelsea? They are in the bottom half of the table, they have yet to win at home under Lampard in all competitions, they have not even earned a clean sheet and have a negative goal difference – only the aforementioned Watford and Norwich City have shipped more goals. And yet “Super Frank Lampard” again rang out as a chant, and why not? There is so much to admire about this young team and they are, despite results, heading in the right direction with Klopp knowing – as he expected – that it was some challenge that Liverpool eventually overcame.
Their only concern will be running out of steam – was that a result of their midweek Champions League trip to Naples? – and a bang on the knee, compounded by a dead leg, to Sadio Mane. But such are the challenges over a season.
Lampard declared Chelsea had been the better team with “energy, passion” in the second half, and with some justification, but it was also undeniable that they have to defend better and losing two of those defenders – Andreas Christensen and Emerson – to injury appeared to sum up their weakness in that area.
There was also another crucial VAR intervention with what appeared to be an equaliser by Cesar Azpilicueta, which would have made it 1-1, rightly ruled out because Mount had half a leg offside in the build-up.
Offside is offside, no matter how tight the margin. The only problem, again, was the delay and the fact that the reason for the goal being overturned was not communicated to those inside the stadium.
Both Liverpool’s goals resulted from smart, well-worked freekicks, although when Lampard goes back over them he surely has to point the finger at Christensen – for both – Jorginho and substitute Marcos Alonso, who replaced Emerson after the left-back suffered a recurrence of a recent injury with the risk of playing him backfiring. There was some poor, poor defending and two fine finishes.
For the first, Mane was clumsily fouled by Christensen on the edge of the Chelsea penalty area and Jordan Henderson shaped to take the free-kick before it was rolled backwards by Mohamed Salah, with the sole of his foot, to Trent Alexanderarnold. The change of angle did for a disorganised Chelsea defensive wall, which was made more chaotic when Jorginho turned his back on the ball as Alexander-arnold fired it past him and high into the top corner of the net.
Chelsea were also at fault for the second. They argued vehemently that Azpilicueta had not bundled over Georginio Wijnaldum, but the free-kick was given and again it was played short with Andrew Robertson crossing from the left. He picked out Firmino, who rose between Christensen and Alonso – neither of whom bothered to mark him – to head in from close range.
Tammy Abraham could have changed the dynamic. He spurned a chance, again at 1-0 to Liverpool, when he was through on goal and Adrian saved with his legs, then was wasteful with a header close to half-time, directing the ball wide.
But Chelsea did finally pin Liverpool back and then cut the deficit. It was some individual effort by N’golo Kante, who twisted and turned away from Fabinho and then as Henderson and Virgil van Dijk advanced on him, he toepoked a shot from just outside the area into the same corner of the goal that Alexander-arnold had struck. Suddenly Chelsea sensed they could claim a point, the crowd did too, and maybe Mount could have done that only to spurn his opportunity, but Liverpool held and did make the statement that Klopp had talked about.