31 October 2015

Liverpool 3-1 Chelsea

Ramires 4'
Coutinho 45+3' 74'
Benteke 83'

I think we can now say that this is a different Liverpool side.

Not necessarily tactically. Not even necessarily in performance; Liverpool played well, but had familiar issues with shot creation and in midfield, at least for the first 70 minutes or so.

The difference was in mentality. Liverpool hadn't won a league match after conceding first since a 3-1 win at Leicester in December 2014, hadn't won any match after conceding first since the FA Cup victory at Palace in February. Liverpool hadn't won any match after conceding in the first 10 minutes since a 6-3 win at Cardiff in March 2014. Since the beginning of last season, when Liverpool have conceded, Liverpool have often fallen apart, especially when needing to break down a deep defense after conceding early.

And a struggling Chelsea, at home, scored within four minutes: a breakdown against Azpilicueta and Hazard on Liverpool's right, neither Milner nor Clyne able to stop Azpilicueta getting in behind, then Moreno falling asleep on Ramires' run into the box, a free header bulleted past Mignolet.

It was exactly what didn't need to happen. Not only did it give Chelsea an unwanted lift, but Mourinho's teams are usually the absolute worst to play against with a lead: happy to defend as deep as humanely possible, but still capable of getting more on counters and set plays. And Liverpool have struggled to break down deep defenses for *checks watch* about 15 months now. And have been susceptible to counters and set plays for the same amount of time.

It's no coincidence Klopp said the following after last week's 1-1 draw against Southampton:

“There was still 10 minutes to go. We didn’t give up physically, it’s not that we stopped our game physically, but we didn’t believe anymore that we could turn the game around. That’s a problem, that’s why we’re not calm enough in the moments when we have the chances, the last pass and so on.

“I don’t understand this pressure at the moment, but the guys feel it. You can see that. They work so hard, they are full of concentration, full of readiness, full of passion, everything is there.

“And we conceded one goal and it felt like the end of the world – and it’s not the end of the world. It’s only a goal, you can always come back and that’s what we have to understand.”

And it actually happened.

All told, it was a very Premier League game. Liverpool continued with the few personnel changes and the high press, more a 4-2-3-1 than the 4-3-2-1 we've seen, but the same general pattern of play. The press – with Firmino up top – better than in the last two matches, the majority of players fresher after being rested midweek.

But it was more blood and thunder than individual flair, chances few and far between for more sides, excellent tackles and brutal fouls. Liverpool on top in possession – unsurprising, given Chelsea's early lead – and with more shots, but few of those shots threatening Begovic.

Then, just before halftime – 30 seconds past the added time, in fact – Philippe Coutinho's broken clock struck the correct time. Sustained Liverpool possession, Lucas spreading play wide to Milner after a failed Chelsea clearance, Firmino found in the box and a layoff to Coutinho, dancing around Ramires before a left-footed shot from the penalty arc found the far corner. I told you he should shoot more.

Honors even at the interval, and probably rightly so. Unsurprisingly, it lead to a more even second half, and an even more Premier League second half. Diego Costa could have been sent off for being Diego Costa, kicking Skrtel in the midsection as the two wrestled to the floor. Lucas could have been sent off for a second yellow, a clear foul on Ramires after he'd already been booked for persistent fouling. Tackles, tackles, and more tackles. Each side had spells of dominance, each side could have taken the lead – Milner and Lallana with decent opportunities off-target, Oscar nearly chipping Mignolet from 45 yards but the keeper just getting back – but real, honest-to-good chances remained few and far between.

Then, Coutinho again. Sakho's long cross-field pass to Benteke – on as a substitute for Milner in the 63rd – an aerial win knockdown helped on by Lallana, controlled, shifted onto his right foot just inside the box, a slight deflection off Terry taking it past Begovic. Regression to the mean. It seems Coutinho will keep shooting, no matter what. Every now and then, they'll go in: sometimes in bursts, sometimes after droughts. Today was a good day for them to go in.

And then Chelsea had to press. Liverpool shelled brilliantly, Liverpool nearly, then did, scored more on the counter. A huge save from Begovic on Moreno. Ibe's effort deflected narrowly wide. Then, Benteke, first winning Mignolet's long goal kick, then getting on Ibe's centered pass after Lallana's dummy, faking Terry and Cahill out of position before the finish. Goodnight, nurse. Goodnight, Jose.

Meanwhile, Chelsea's shots after going behind? Three swiftly blocked: from Kenedy, Oscar, and Oscar, and a Falcao header from a failed clearance that wasn't even close to the target. Three of those four shots came after Liverpool's game-sealing third.

Maybe we can add defensive resiliency to the aforementioned self-belief.

You want turning points? If Liverpool push on from here – and, admittedly, that remains a big if – this is about as turning point as you can get. A comeback win against the defending champions on their own ground, no matter their form. Three goals away from home for the first time in 10 months. The first win against Chelsea in the last nine meetings, beating a side that Liverpool's previous manager never won against.

I had forgotten what a fun football match felt like.


Adam Bowen said...



Balfy said...

I actually watched without feeling like the sinking feeling of a disastrous performance was about to unravel. Instead, I watched eagerly with a vaguely hopeful stare. So it was to be one of those afternoons, as I abused the screen for Maureen walking to the tunnel early, I lept for joy and abused the screen more as the goal rippled the net. How I missed these strange emotional outbursts I embarrass myself with during a Liverpool match. Thank you that will be all.

@SGeorgeAlfonso said...

Strategic coaching: the more I thought about it the more I believe it's an attribute that Klopp exhibited today through Skrtel's NON-Reaction to Diego's spike. We all know the responder is the 1 who gets caught - and we saw Costa work this successfully vs Arsenal this season - I'm pretty convinced - based upon the Skrtel/Costa history [and knowing what I know - and like about MS] his surprising reaction to DC's intentional spike was I think not his reflexive response but rather the result of a discussion w/Klopp - and following coach's instructions... BTW Costa basically disappeared after his patented cheap shot... A result Klopp may have predicted in his discussion w/MS - YES I think Klopp may be that good of a strategic thinker.