Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic scored to cancel out Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah’s goals as Chelsea came back from two goals down to draw against Liverpool.
Liverpool drew first blood in the battle of the heavyweights at Stamford Bridge as Sadio Mane capitalised on a poor clearance from Chelsea defender Trevoh Chalobah to round Edouard Mendy and put the ball into the net to make it 1-0. The Reds were two goals ahead in the 26th minute as Mohamed Salah latched on to a lovely pass from Trent Alexander-Arnold before beating Mendy at his near post.
Having suffered big setbacks early on, Chelsea rallied back hard, and just three minutes from half-time, the hosts were able to pull one goal back as Mateo Kovacic unleashed a thunderous volley from outside the box, giving stand-in Liverpool stopper Caoimhin Kelleher no chance. Three minutes later, the Blues were on level terms as Christian Pulisic rifled the ball into the roof of the net after being played through by N’Golo Kante.
The second half started with a similar, high-octane, end-to-end affair with Salah and Mane drawing saves from Mendy while Kelleher was called into action to stop Pulisic from scoring a second. Post the hour-mark, though, things mellowed down, and even though both teams kept probing for the winning goal, chances were not coming, and eventually, they settled for a point in what was a pulsating affair in London.
The result does not favour either Liverpool or Chelsea in the title race as they remain eleven and ten points behind leaders Manchester City, respectively, with Pep Guardiola’s side likely to be extremely happy with how things panned out at Stamford Bridge. Here’s how we rated the performances of both sets of players on Sunday night.
Chelsea Player Ratings
Edouard Mendy: 7/10
Good luck in Senegal, Edouard Mendy! 🔵🇸🇳 pic.twitter.com/JJNtz460Va
— ⭐CISC⭐ (@chelseaindo) January 2, 2022
The Senegalese stopper did not stand a chance against his compatriot Mane for the opening goal but will be disappointed to have been beaten at his near post by Salah for the second. In the second half, he denied the Liverpool forwards with two top-notch saves to ensure his team came away with a point.
Trevoh Chalobah: 5/10
Back into the lineup, the youngster made a nervy start to the game. Weak against Mane in a challenge, leading to a Salah chance early on before his mishit clearance led to Liverpool’s opener. He produced a good tackle to stop Salah from making it 3-0 but wasn’t entirely convincing. He was taken off midway through the second half.
Thiago Silva: 7/10
Returning from injury, the Brazilian was calm and composed as ever at the heart of the Chelsea defence. Kept Diogo Jota quiet for the most part and was assured in possession, playing some good-looking passes to launch attacks. Read the game well to make a few key interceptions.
Antonio Rudiger: 6/10
Failed to track Salah’s run leading to the second goal for Liverpool. The German did recover from the mistake, though, making some important interventions, especially in the second half. Rudiger started the move for Pulisic’s goal.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 6/10
Starting at right wing-back, the Chelsea captain had his hands full against Mane, and even though there were times when he struggled with his pace, Azpilicueta got stuck in and kept things tight. He moved to centre-back in the latter stages and ensured Liverpool did not score a third.
N’Golo Kante: 8/10
N'Golo Kanté's game by numbers vs. Liverpool:
100% tackle success
100% take-ons completed
100% long pass accuracy
61 passes completed
14 ball recoveries (most)
4 duels won
3 take-ons completed
3 chances created (most)
Pure class. 👌 pic.twitter.com/xIX1F7GIGU
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 2, 2022
Returning to the lineup, Kante showed the value he adds to this team as he offered defensive coverage constantly while driving forward when he got on the ball. His passing was purposeful and crisp as he created the second goal for Chelsea. Vital.
Mateo Kovacic: 8/10
Retained in the side ahead of Jorginho, the Croatian international justified Thomas Tuchel’s decision with a huge display. Harried the opposition when not in possession, used the ball well, but the pièce de résistance was his stunning first-time volley to make it 2-1.
What a view of 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 Kovacic goal! 😍pic.twitter.com/QG15oRMIpE
— ⭐️ Chels HQ ⭐️ (@Chels_HQ) January 2, 2022
Marcos Alonso: 5.5/10
He was alert to track Salah but could not stop the Egyptian international from scoring to make it 2-0. Generally found it difficult defending his flank, but the Spaniard did provide a good outlet going forward. Still, Ben Chilwell’s absence was felt.
Mason Mount: 6/10
The England international offered work rate but lacked the cutting edge in the first half, although he did come close to scoring in the first period. Improved after the break and caused problems with his movement while also drawing a straightforward save from Kelleher.
Kai Havertz: 5/10
Starting through the middle as Tuchel decided to axe Lukaku from the squad, the German international failed to make much of an impact. He helped create a chance for Pulisic early on with his pressing but wasn’t involved much. Rustiness showed.
Christian Pulisic: 6.5/10
Christian Pulisic. 2-2 vs. Liverpool at HT.
What a game 💥 @brfootball
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 2, 2022
Preferred over Callum Hudson-Odoi, the USMNT international missed a big chance early in the game and looked a bit shaky in the early exchanges. However, Pulisic redeemed himself with a thumping strike to equalise late in the first half. He did not do much of note after the break apart from an effort that Kelleher saved.
On for Chalobah with 20 minutes left. He helped Chelsea control the game better.
Callum Hudson-Odoi: N/A
Late sub for Havertz.
Liverpool Player Ratings
Caoimhin Kelleher: 7/10
He stepped into the lineup in the absence of Alisson and made a good stop early on from Pulisic. Not a lot he could have done about Chelsea goals, but he again came up with important saves after the break to ensure there was no further damage.
Gary Neville on Caoimhin Kelleher:
“He’s done everything right, very composed… seems a good goalkeeper”
— IP🇮🇪 (@IrishPropaganda) January 2, 2022
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 6.5/10
The right-back got the assist for the second goal from Salah with a perfectly weighted pass over the top of the Chelsea defenders. He played some nice cross-field passes that caused the hosts some problems. However, he was not entirely convincing defensively on the night.
Ibrahima Konate: 6/10
A bit of a mixed bag from the Frenchman who was brought into the team in the absence of Joel Matip. He used his pace well to get out of a couple of tricky situations, but at the same time, he tended to leave spaces open when he pushed forward to cut out passes.
Virgil van Dijk: 5.5/10
Not the best of outings from Liverpool’s defensive stalwart, who should have done better to come across and stop Pulisic for the second. Did win several crucial aerial duels but wasn’t his usual infallible self at the back.
Kostas Tsimikas: 7/10
Another steady display in the absence of Andrew Robertson, as the Greek left-back provided a good outlet going forward, swinging in a few dangerous crosses. Tsimikas was dogged in his defensive duties and cut out several crosses.
Jordan Henderson: 5/10
The Liverpool skipper cannot be faulted for effort but struggled to get to grips with the pace at which the game was being played. Failed to offer the desired precision and penetration when on the ball.
"Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and James Milner were bossed and bullied by Chelsea's midfield today. They were not at the races – they were exposed." #awlive [sky]
— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) January 2, 2022
It was a worrying sight for Liverpool in the first half as the Brazilian was time and again bypassed easily in the middle of the park. Did improve after the break, though and was able to get ahold of things.
James Milner: 5/10
Getting the nod over Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the veteran midfielder, got a lot of work done off the ball in the early stages but gave the free-kick away leading to the first goal. However, some of his passing was sluggish, and he grew tired with time.
Mohamed Salah: 8/10
Mo Salah has 200 goal contributions for Liverpool in just 229 games.
Five season wonder 😉 pic.twitter.com/KCOf3Oosq1
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) January 2, 2022
The Egyptian international had a shot saved early on and looked dangerous each time he ran at Marcos Alonso. He got his goal close to the half-hour mark with a well-taken finish after making a fine run. Could have scored a second with a stunning strike from a distance but was denied by Mendy.
Diogo Jota: 6/10
Not able to pose a goal threat on the evening, but his movement kept the Chelsea defence honest. Jota helped create chances for his teammates and played a role in Mane’s goal.
Sadio Mane: 7/10
Could have been sent off early in the game for a stray elbow on Azpilicueta but got away with just a yellow card. Mane caused Chelsea problems with his pace and movement and punished Chalobah for his mistake to open the scoring. He was denied a second goal by his compatriot Mendy after the half-time break.
"I love Mane – he's a nice guy and a top, top player, but it's a red card."
Thomas Tuchel has joined captain Cesar Azpilicueta in highlighting a number of refereeing decisions he believes are going against Chelsea…💭 pic.twitter.com/zYczc72X2d
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 2, 2022
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 5/10
On for Jota in the 69th minute. Wasted a decent counter-attacking opportunity late in the game.
Naby Keita: 5/10
Replaced Milner for the final twenty minutes. Did little of note.
Curtis Jones: N/A
Late sub for Mane.