Klopp re­lief af­ter lead­ers given late scare by Chelsea

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Football - Ja­son Burt CHIEF FOOT­BALL COR­RE­SPON­DENT at Stam­ford Bridge

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.

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