Chelsea came from behind to secure a deserved 1-1- draw with Liverpool at Anfield.
Antonio Conte set up his team to play on the counter attack and the approach largely worked with Liverpool enjoying plenty of possession without ever looking that threatening. At the other end, Eden Hazard ensured that Chelsea always looked dangerous. Indeed, it was the visitors that created all the chances with both Hazard and Davide Zappacosta stinging the palms of Simon Mignolet. There was also a moment of pinball in the six-yard box when the Liverpool defence just about scrambled the ball away but only after a challenge by Joe Gomez on Alvaro Morata that on another day could have seen a penalty awarded.
Liverpool increased their intensity after half-time but still it was the Blues that looked likelier to break the deadlock with all their opportunities coming from the right flank. Morata missed a chance to score after a cross just evaded Cesar Azpilicueta and the Spaniard then saw another opportunity strike his torso and spin wide of the near post. Liverpool then took the lead in slightly fortuitous circumstances when a Tiemoue Bakayoko interception fell into the path of Mohamed Salah who finished coolly. Conte responded by making three attacking substitutions which paid off when Willian’s cross-cum-shot drifted over Mignolet into the corner of the net.
The cohesion and discipline showed by the team was exemplary, denying their hosts any space in or near the penalty area. As a collective they were always prepared for a counter attack when attacking a set piece, showing great energy and determination to recover their defensive positions.
Perhaps with greater cutting edge Chelsea might even have won this game. They always looked dangerous on the break against Liverpool’s fragile backline and a combination of better delivery and smarter finishing could have made the difference in Chelsea’s favour.
Manager rating out of 10
8 — Conte’s game plans both at kickoff and once his team had fallen behind worked well. The decision to start Danny Drinkwater ahead of Cesc Fabregas was an intelligent one and the decision to swap them in the second half was also well timed and pivotal to Chelsea’s recovery.
Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 7 — Did not have that much to do but still showcased the sublime and the ridiculous. Allowed a tame cross from Daniel Sturridge to squirm underneath and go just past the post but also made an excellent save from Salah late on.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 9 — The Spaniard has had his wobbles this season but this was one for the archives. Made a stunning block from Sturridge and made several key interceptions to deny Salah service.
DF Andreas Christensen, 7 — Had a couple of moments of indecision on the ball in the first half, though without creating too many problems for himself or his teammates. Otherwise comfortable.
DF Gary Cahill, 8 — The captain was given the tough task of pinning down the slippery Salah and although he did get spun on a couple of occasions he largely won his individual battle. Almost marked the occasion with a rabona in the Liverpool box but wisely thought better of it.
MF Marcos Alonso, 7 — Seemed to be targeted by Liverpool but stood up to the test. Might have scored had he managed to control his late volley from eight yards out.
MF Davide Zappacosta, 7 — Started a little nervously though soon got into the action. His direct running caused problems for the hosts and was a good outlet for his team.
MF N’Golo Kante, 7 — Won the ball back more times than one can count and showed great strength to escape from tight situations. Could have been more precise with his distribution.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 6 — An odd game for the former Monaco man who saw much good work undermined by a lack of intensity in his game. Made some important interceptions but was often bypassed by Liverpool, putting pressure on the defenders behind him.
MF Danny Drinkwater, 7 — Impressed on his first Premier League start for the Blues. Read the play well and used the ball crisply and intelligently while also getting forward regularly.
FW Eden Hazard, 8 — A brilliant first-half display bemused Liverpool who couldn’t lay a finger on him. His influence waned after the break largely due to a naughty kick on his calf by Salah.
FW Alvaro Morata, 6 — The Spaniard’s movement was decent and he did not get the quality of service it demanded. Still, he might have done a little better when he was on the ball and rarely looked like scoring.
MF Cesc Fabregas, NR — Played the quarterback role after coming on and helped direct the recovery.
FW Pedro, NR — Came on as a forward before switching to wing-back.
FW Willian NR — Only he will know whether his goal was intended but his contribution proved decisive .