FULL TIME AT ANFIELD REVIEW: REDS MANAGE TO SHARE SPOILS WITH CHELSEA BUT STILL LOOK BELOW PAR
January, the month of all things slippy, couldn’t end any faster; it’s been a terrible month for the Reds in all competitions, registering just one win in our past nine matches, dropping out of the other two domestic competitions in 11 days and in all likelihood have thrown away any chance of winning the EPL this season. So it was quite curious and a bit nauseating to see Klopp beating his chest at fulltime after the lads shared the spoils with Chelsea. Maybe the German was celebrating his record against Chelsea that suffered no stains by the time Clattenburg blew his whistle because there’s certainly no way he could have been celebrating for Liverpool. Make no mistake it was a valiant effort to take the game to Chelsea considering how horrible our recent matches have gone and a remarkable highlight of the fixture was Mignolet’s performance which showcased both sides of the spectrum of his abilities with an inexcusably poor preparation for David Luiz free-kick that led to Chelsea’s first goal followed by spells of relative brilliance with the Belgian even saving a Diego Costa penalty which would have made it 2-1 against us if the Chelsea dangerman had found the net.
While the Kop celebrated the return of Liverpool’s triple threat frontline of Coutinho, Firmino, and Mane, most understood why Klopp didn’t start with that forward combination opting instead for Lallana, Firmino, and Coutino with the Englishman attacking from the right. Wijnaldum, Henderson, and Emre Can were tasked to keep it tight in the middle while Nathaniel Clyne, Matip, Lovren, and Milner formed the backline infront of Mignolet between the sticks.
David Luiz’s quickly taken freekick moments before the half-hour mark caught Mignolet flatfooted to hand the visitors the opener. Liverpool huffed and puffed but all in all it was a frustrating opening 45 minutes for Liverpool, who enjoyed the vast majority of possession but struggled to cause Courtois too many problems. Chelsea remained well-organised and defensively solid to keep us at bay, resulting in the Reds spending most of the first half patiently passing the ball around as they desperately try to find a way to break down the sea of blue shirts camped in front of them.
We started the second half confidently moving the ball around looking for any opening to launch our attack and soon enough found one just 5 minutes into the half with a Red wave breaking forward Lallana leading the charge on the right before teeing up Clyne who then knocked the ball back to FIrmino which caught the Blues offguard as no one moved to close him down and with miles of space in front of goal, our Brazilian hit his effort high and wide letting the visitors off the hook.
That got the game going as it was pretty much end to end stuff following that Firmino attempt with Victor Moses rattling the woodwork at Mignolet’s near post, brilliant defending by Matip to stop a very dangerous foray into our final third by Hazard, and finally a fantastic buildup that led to the equalizer
The Reds looking to overwhelm Chelsea numbers in the back saw the ball moved around in the middle before a center splitting pass found Lallana but his strike bounced back to Henderson who then sent a curling cross to the left to find Milner who headed the ball across the six yard line. An attempted defensive header interception by Victor Moses wasn’t enough to get the ball out as it only helped to get it to Wijnaldum who sent his downward header past Courtois for Liverpool’s equalizer.
Both sides played with a higher degree of urgency with Klopp bringing on Mane for Coutinho hoping for some darting runs and more chances from the fresh sub but it was Chelsea that looked more menacing going forward in search of a win and nearly got it as Lovren, who has largely been impressive tonight, lost the ball in a dangerous position and gifted it to Costa, who immediately burst forward. The striker got into the penalty area before taking on Matip, who stuck out a foot sending the Chelsea striker to the ground, an easy decision for Clattenburg. Game over was on the minds of every Kop as Costa stood over the penalty spot but it seemed the occasion proved too much for the Spanish international as his run wasn’t disguised enough to send Mignolet the wrong way and our keeper got on to his shot sending it out for a corner.
Play got more vigorous at the stroke of fulltime as both sides pushed for the winner in injury time with Mane whipping in a gem of a cross to find Firmino at close range only for the Brazilian to send his header into the grateful arms of Courtois. Chelsea tried to breakthrough but were kept at bay as Klopp’s men got back in numbers to quell any attack from the visitors.
And so it ended with both sides having a piece of the pie, Liverpool did more for Tottenham than for themselves as Spurs got through a goalless draw in their match. A win was needed tonight to get us going but was a tall order so I guess the draw could pass as one with the Reds finishing strongly and in a way stopped a bruising defeat at the hands of the league leaders.
A forgettable January with only one win in nine matches in all competitions, getting dumped out of the FA Cup and EFL may be a blessing that could see us coming strong in February with only the EPL to train for as the lads are up against Hull City (away), Tottenham (home), and Leicester (away). 9 points could go a long way to helping the Reds cause with our starting lineup back and a lot to think about in the coming days on how to cement a top four finish at season’s end going one match at a time.