Joel Matip and Adrian were the heroes at the back as Liverpool handed a narrow 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Liverpool were the stronger of the two sides in the first half, with the visitors restricting Chelsea to mostly half chances apart from two major opportunities. The Reds grabbed a foothold in the game just 14 minutes in, as Trent Alexander-Arnold scored a thunderbolt of a free-kick, after Andreas Christensen had fouled Sadio Mane just outside the box.
They were then let off by VAR, who ruled Cesar Azpilicueta’s close range strike after it emerged that Mason Mount had been offside during the build-up. A few minutes later, the Premier League leaders were two to the good, as Roberto Firmino finished off a clever set-piece routine, nodding in from Andrew Robertson’s cross.
Post the interval, Liverpool tailed off considerably, with Chelsea imposing themselves in the game more. But, they nearly added a third, only for Kepa Arrizabalaga to make a fantastic save to thwart Firmino. And, the Blues then set up a frantic final 20 minutes of the game after N’Golo Kante netted a brilliant solo goal to bring his side back into the match.
For the latter stages of the game, it was all Chelsea, but Liverpool managed to hold on to their slender advantage, thanks to late misses by Michy Batshuayi and Mason Mount. With that win, the Reds continued their perfect start to the season and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Adrian was always going to be high on confidence after his exploits against Chelsea in last month’s UEFA Super Cup. And, the Spaniard oozed self belief, which was evident in a cheeky dink over Tammy Abraham in the first half.
Adrian played a big part in his side’s crucial win, with the save from Abraham’s first half effort standing out, as he rushed off his line and made himself big to deny any space to the Chelsea striker. Not much he could have done for Kante’s goal.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 7/10
One of the better defensive performances by Alexander-Arnold, who had the measure of a half-fit Mason Mount. Did struggle at times against Marcos Alonso, but he repaid with kind going forward. The feather in his cap was the goal he scored from a fine free-kick routine, burying the ball into the back of the net. Turning out to become a true set-piece mastermind, as the fans put it.
Joel Matip: 8/10
Joël Matip vs. Chelsea
68% Pass accuracy
5/6 Aerial duels won
3/3 Tackles won
On a difficult day defensively, Matip for the most part was excellent. Strong in the tackle, dominant in the air and often in the right place at the right time. pic.twitter.com/Qe9hHGg21T
— The Tactical Times (@Tactical_Times) September 22, 2019
Matip received the man of the match award on the day and his efforts made it well justified. Stats make for a great reading for the Cameroonian, who won five of the six aerial duels he contested and each of his three tackles, while making nine clearances. Stood tall amid the Chelsea pressure, doing well to absorb the pressure from Abraham and Michy Batshuayi.
Virgil van Dijk: 6/10
While Matip was simply excellent on the day, van Dijk was sub-par by his enormous standards. The Dutchman was as imposing as ever in the air, rarely losing any battles. But, he was at fault when Abraham ran through on goal before Adrian bailed him out and should have closed Kante down quicker for his goal.
Andrew Robertson: 7/10
After being underwhelming at Napoli, Robertson looked like he had regained peak fitness against Chelsea. Had an engrossing personal battle with Cesar Azpilicueta, with the Spaniard prevailing ever so narrowly. But, the Scot had the measure of Willian and provided the assist for Firmino’s goal with an inch perfect cross.
Jordan Henderson: 7/10
A solid performance by the Liverpool captain, who had the better of Mateo Kovacic in their duel. Henderson’s first-time passes were crucial for Liverpool all through the game. In the first half they helped in quick transitions while for the final 45 minutes, they served as a way to release pressure as Chelsea started dominating the proceedings. As always, put in a shift off the ball.
Fabinho has been Mr. Consistent for Liverpool so far this season. And, the Brazilian was at his best once again at Stamford Bridge, shutting off Willian and Mount when they drifted into central areas.
His floated balls opened up play magnificently and his driving run was the catalyst in earning Liverpool the free-kick that led to the opener. However, he should have done better for Kante’s goal, instead looking helpless as the Frenchman danced his way past him before scoring.
Georginio Wijnaldum: 5/10
An uncharacteristically poor performance by Wijnaldum, who turned back the clock to the days when he was a passenger in Liverpool’s away games. The Dutchman was rather quiet for much of the game, having just 26 touches on the ball while struggling to cope up with the energy of Kante. A wild effort in the second half summed up his evening. A rare failure.
Mohamed Salah: 5/10
Usually Liverpool’s leading light, Salah was far from his best on Sunday. The Egyptian did look to be in his elements early on and provided the assist for Alexander-Arnold with a clever flick. But, the superb Fikayo Tomori contained the former Chelsea star expertly as the game wore on as sloppiness started to creep into his game.
Roberto Firmino: 7/10
Firmino did well for his goal, beating Alonso to rise highest and caress the ball into the net. But, as is the case with him, his performance was more than just scoring the goal and resting on his laurels. Firmino expertly drew defenders off the line and worked hard to win the ball back high up the pitch. On another day, he would have facilitated a goal or two from his attacking partners.
Sadio Mane: 5/10
Like Salah, Mane was levels below his best and seemed to become leggy as the game wore on. The Senegalese speedster did win the free-kick for the first goal, but he just could not manage to get the better of Azpilicueta on the day. Taken off for James Milner as Liverpool looked to see the game out.
James Milner: 6/10
A perfect substitution by Klopp, with Milner absorbing the Chelsea pressure and minimalising their threat as much as possible. A decent outing off the bench.
Adam Lallana: N/A
On for Henderson, Lallana was slow and off pace for the 10 minutes he spent on the pitch.
Joe Gomez: N/A
Gomes barely had any time on the pitch to make an impact.