29 September 2018

Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea

Hazard 25'
Sturridge 89'

So I had the match report already written. And there was a lot of complaining, mostly about the front three.

It wasn’t the greatest performance in the other phases either, with midfield creativity an issue and a defense that was allowing Chelsea chances mainly due to long passes to Hazard and Willian in behind the full-backs, whether on the floor or in the air. But I was most annoyed with and disappointed in Liverpool’s attack, which is not a sentence I often feel needs writing.

Two seemingly certain goals cleared off the line by Chelsea defenders: Rudiger after Salah rounded Kepa in the 32nd minute, David Luiz from Firmino’s header in the 72nd. Shaqiri’s missed sitter in the 70th minute, set up by Robertson’s low cross on a rare fast attack. Kepa’s wonderful save on Mané’s shot in the 58th minute. Some makable but wild shots in the first half when Liverpool were the better side, before Chelsea opened the scoring.

And as much as those missed opportunities, it was the frequent loose touches and sloppy passes in the final third. Close-quarters interplay failing to find teammates, centered passes cut out, crosses over attackers heads. Hell, we even saw Salah – Mohamed Salah! – hauled off in the 66th minute because that's how little he'd done. It was frustrating. So, so frustrating, especially when we know what Liverpool are capable of. I may be undervaluing Chelsea’s defense, compact and controlling, but it certainly felt like Liverpool’s attackers could and should have done more and that’s why Liverpool were going to lose.

But then came Daniel Sturridge. In the 89th minute. From the damned parking lot to the only place that Kepa couldn’t save it.

Let's roll that beautiful bean footage.

And now this is a very different match report.

It goes without saying, especially considering where Liverpool were in the 88th minute, but I will absolutely take a point from this.

Yes, there were the aforementioned missed opportunities for Liverpool, but Liverpool also needed Alisson to make two egregious saves, first on Willian in the 22nd minute, in behind Robertson, then one v one with Hazard after a quickly taken free kick in the 64th. Liverpool conceded to a very good goal, with the midfield passed through by Hazard, Jorginho, and Kovacic and a through-ball to Hazard, yet another moment where Chelsea’s wide attackers exploited Liverpool’s high line and attacking full-backs. And, of course, scored by Hazard. I really do hate that guy.

It’s a lot easier to say when it’s your side that scores a dramatic late equalizer – something Liverpool has been on the receiving end of more often than the giving – but these two sides were equally balanced, and I’d guess it was a hell of a match to watch for neutrals. Sarri’s Chelsea gave Liverpool a serious challenge, combining his style of attack with the deep, determined Chelsea defense we’ve hated for years. And they’re probably only going to get better; he’s been manager for all of two and a half months.

My biggest takeaway – other than Daniel Sturridge is great and I love him – is that this is what we’ve been talking about with Liverpool’s new-found strength in depth. Today’s substitutes? Shaqiri, who should have leveled matters earlier than they were. Naby Keïta, £45m worth of midfielder, adding more dynamism and impetus to Liverpool’s play. And Daniel Sturridge. A healthy, in-form Daniel Sturridge who scored that wall-banger and then celebrated against a former club.

Klopp now has more weapons at his disposal, and Klopp used those weapons to rescue a point, also clearly not caring if Liverpool lost by one or two if it gave the team a better chance of possibly getting a draw.

Liverpool have now played two of last season’s top six away from home. Liverpool lost to both Tottenham and Chelsea last season, and have now won and drawn the same fixtures this season. The other three still to come? Loss at City, loss at United, draw at Arsenal last season. I feel like there’s room for improvement there as well.

And, obviously, still, there’s more room for improvement in this Liverpool side.

1 comment :

Scott said...

My favorite part of this review is imagining your non-U.S. audience puzzling over what “beautiful bean footage” might be.