By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_
Daniel Sturridge was the hero of the hour for Liverpool as they snatched a late point from the seemingly-firm grasp of Chelsea in a 1-1 Premier League draw at Stamford Bridge, but Jurgen Klopp’s side surrendered their 100% record in the Premier League.
Eden Hazard was the Reds’ tormentor-in-chief up to that point, having put the Blues ahead with an emphatic finish that delighted the home fans, as well as manager Maurizio Sarri, and was full of running throughout.
But Sturridge, who came on with five minutes to go, curled in a simple incredible effort from 30 yards in the 89th minute to break Chelsea hearts and snatch what could be a vital point later-on in the season.
Meanwhile, the usual from three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino were ineffectual in a poor display from Jurgen Klopp’s men, with the defensive pairing of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, the latter especially, being a rare shining light on a tough evening in London.
The game began in a rather bizarre fashion, with a very high tempo and both sides looking to press the issue and push for early results, but neither team were able to forge any real opportunities – a tame sixth minute-effort from Salah was the best effort of the first ten minutes and it went straight down Kepa’s throat from 20 yards.
Salah found a better opportunity five minutes later after a ball forward from Alexander-Arnold found the Egyptian to feet, who rolled Rudiger with consummate ease only to spoon the resulting effort hilariously high and wide of the Chelsea goal.
But the Reds were sent a warning sign on 20 minutes when an excellent long ball forward from David Luiz caught Andy Robertson napping, and Willian almost gave the home side the lead were it not for a spreading stop from Alisson.
But the warning was not heeded when, just six minutes later, Luiz passed into Hazard, who interchanged well with Jorginho and Kovacic in midfield – the latter put the Belgian clear through to the left of the goal and he swept home beyond Alisson in clinical fashion.
The Reds responded well and were cruelly denied an equaliser by Antonio Rudiger when Firmino set Mo Salah free – the latter showed great strength and balance to hold-off Marcos Alonso and round Kepa, but his effort was blocked on the line by the recovering German, demonstrating what was an excellent piece of defending.
It was a first half of frustration once again for Salah who showed his willingness to make something happen and a creative spark, but his finishing and final pass were way-off in a poor 45 minutes for both the No. 11 and Sadio Mané on the opposite flank.
The second half began poorly for both sides with neither team really threatening, but it sprung into life in the 58th minute when Mané wriggled free in the area and fired into the near post, only to be denied by an excellent reaction save from Kepa.
Chelsea went down the other end immediately with Willian set free by Kanté, only to be caught-up by the defensive duo of Gomez and van Dijk – between them they snuffed-out the danger in expert fashion.
The Blues came back a few minutes later, taking a quick free-kick after a foul from Salah, and while the Reds were all sleeping Eden Hazard was put one-on-one with Alisson again, but this time the Brazilian triumphed with an excellent block to deny Chelsea and Hazard a second.
The ineffectual Salah was replaced on 65 minutes by Xherdan Shaqiri, who came on with a point to prove and an opportunity to wrestle that starting spot on the right of the attack from the Egyptian’s grasp.
He was handed a golden opportunity a few minutes later when he met a low trademark early cross from Robertson, square-on to the goal, and let the ball roll across his body only to fluff his contact and push it wide of the post from 10 yards.
Another opportunity was squandered just a few moments later when a long cross from the right was collected by Milner at the far post – his delicate cross was met by a strong header from Firmino, but it was blocked on the line once again, this time from David Luiz, who was a thorn in Liverpool’s side all afternoon.
But it was another substitute, Daniel Sturridge, that nicked the point in the 89th minute when, out of absolutely nowhere, he curled a deliciously crisp effort into the top right corner from 30 yards in what was quite simply a stunning goal.
The Englishman’s impact was golden for Liverpool, who were perhaps undeserving of the point, but will certainly be delighted to have gotten something out of what was a lacklustre performance from the Reds.
Chelsea pushed in injury time, but the final whistle blew and the smash-and-grab was complete, and the travelling Reds support serenaded the visiting players with a never-ending chorus of ‘Allez Allez Allez’ – they were certainly the happiest set of fans at full time.