N’Golo Kante scored a wonder solo goal, but Chelsea succumbed to a narrow 2-1 loss to Premier League leaders at Stamford Bridge on Sunday
In what was a game of two halves, Liverpool dominated the first 45 minutes, with Chelsea conjuring up only a couple of notable moments in the final third. The Blues fell behind just 14 minutes in, as Trent Alexander-Arnold scored a fiercely driven free-kick, after Andreas Christensen had fouled Sadio Mane just outside the box.
Chelsea thought they had levelled things up a few minutes later, when Cesar Azpilicueta found the back of the net from close range. But, VAR denied them the goal after it emerged that Mason Mount had been offside in the build-up. And, in mere moments, the hosts had themselves a mountain to climb, with Liverpool scoring from another set-piece routine.
Alexander-Arnold rolled the ball for Andrew Robertson’s, who delivered the ball into the box, where Roberto Firmino rose the highest to put the Reds two to the good. Chelsea though, should have pulled a goal back before half-time, as Tammy Abraham missed from inside the box for a second time in the first half.
Post the break, Chelsea were visibly improved and started imposing themselves in the game more. But, it was Liverpool who nearly added a third, only for Kepa Arrizabalaga to make a brilliant reflex save to deny Firmino. The Blues’ strike finally came in the 71st minute, as N’Golo Kante danced his way around the Liverpool midfield to score a wondrous goal.
Following that moment, it was all Chelsea, but Liverpool would manage to hold on to their narrow lead, and only just, as Michy Batshuayi and Mason Mount missed glorious chances late on. With the West Londoners losing for the second time in the Premier League, The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Frank Lampard’s men.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 7/10
After two sub-par performances, Kepa needed to make a statement with a strong display against Liverpool. And, he did just that. The Spaniard could not have done much to stop either of the two goals he conceded. But, he made one stunning save to deny Roberto Firmino and keep Chelsea in the game. Distributed the ball when his side were in the ascendancy.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 6/10
A mixed bag of an evening for Azpilicueta. For the second game in a row, the Chelsea captain posed a lot of threat in the final third, with a couple of his driven crosses arriving in dangerous areas in the Liverpool box. At the back, the Spanish full-back blew hot and cold, defending well at times but also giving away the free-kick which led to Firmino’s goal. Nevertheless, a step in the right direction.
Andreas Christensen: 5/10
Christensen was in a lot of trouble in the 42 minutes he spent on the pitch. The Dane gave away the free-kick that led to Liverpool’s first before poorly positioned against Firmino for the winner. Did provide an exquisite through ball to Tammy Abraham but worsened Chelsea’s injury woes and was forced to be subbed off for Kurt Zouma.
Fikayo Tomori: 7/10
One thing Chelsea’s crop of young players can never be faulted for is a lack of confidence. And, Fikayo Tomori is the latest exhibit of the same. Up against one of the best players in the Premier League, Tomori produced a composed performance to deal with the threat of Mohamed Salah quite well.
In fact, Tomori arguably won his personal duel with the former Chelsea superstar, with Salah enduring one of his more average outings of the season so far. Tomori appears to be the long-term solution to the Blues’ defensive woes and could go a long way in following the career path of one John Terry.
Emerson Palmieri: N/A
A frustrating evening for Emerson, who quite clearly was not fit enough to return. Back to another spell on the sidelines.
N’Golo Kante: 8/10
Like Emerson, Kante did not appear to be at his optimum fitness. The Frenchman still was Chelsea’s best player on the day, catching up to the pace of the game after a slow start and dealing with the threat of Firmino rather well.
N’Golo Kanté’s game by numbers vs. Liverpool:
83% pass acc.
15 duels contested
2 aerial duels won
He just doesn’t stop. 🤖 pic.twitter.com/hg3ifjTzsH
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 22, 2019
The energetic midfielder was all over the pitch on the day and his defensive numbers were truly staggering – Kante won 15 duels, completed 11 recoveries and won 3 tackles. He then produced the moment of the game when he danced his way around the Liverpool defence, slicing open the defence before unleashing a stunning curler. Alas, it was not enough to spark a comeback.
A game of two halves for Jorginho. The Italian international just could not find his way into the game in the first period, although he did open up play well with floated ball whenever he did get in on some action. Grew into the game post the interval and linked up well with attack. Far from his best defensively.
Mateo Kovacic: 5/10
Kovacic too, did not enjoy himself much on Sunday. The Croat flitted in and out of the game, often going anonymous in a difficult first half and was found wanting for a lack of end product. Did his best to contain Jordan Henderson but arguably came up second best in the face-off.
Willian used his natural flair to good effect and dazzled a lot on the pitch with his touches. But, as is usually the case with him, the Brazilian left a lot to be desired in way of end product. Apart from the drilled ball that led to Azpilicueta’s ruled out goal, he did nothing of note and it is a wonder how he continues to keep Christian Pulisic and Pedro out of the side.
Tammy Abraham: 5/10
Abraham has only himself to blame for not continuing his fine run in the Premier League. The English striker was sent through on goal early in the first half but shot straight at Adrian. He then nodded the ball just past the goal and should have done better. His movement caused the Liverpool defence a lot of trouble, but the finishing touches just were not there on the day.
Mason Mount: 5/10
Another player who was an injury doubt ahead of the game. And like Emerson and Kante, it was clear that Mount was playing a few levels below peak fitness. The young midfielder cannot be faulted for a lack of trying but was unable to make a sustained impact on the game, although he should have buried a late chance to equalise. Could do with some rest in the midweek cup fixture.
Marcos Alonso: 6/10
Thrown into the game minutes after it began, Alonso had the opportunity to make the left-back slot his own. But, true to his nature, he left a lot to be desired defensively, leaving a lot of space in behind him for Salah to exploit. Saw a lot of the ball down the left flank and got a few chances in with his dangerous deliveries. Decent outing.
Kurt Zouma: 6/10
Introduced just before half-time, Zouma produced perhaps, his best performance of the season so far. Critical in Chelsea shutting Liverpool out in the second half. With Christensen picking up an injury, Zouma now has the chance to nail down his place in the side.
Michy Batshuayi: N/A
On for the final 15 minutes of the game, Batshuayi had a glorious chance to level things up for his side. But, he headed wide of the far post when unchallenged.