By Paul Lagan at Anfield
Liverpool 1 v Chelsea 1
Chelsea showed just why they are the champions of Europe with a breathtaking second half defensive display to ensure they left the hotbed of Anfield with a point.
The reason. After taking a deserved 1-0 lead through Kai Havertz, they had to survive the second half with 10-men after Reece James was adjudged via VAR that he handled the ball, on his goal line.
Mohamed Salah put the spot kick cleanly away.
But it was that second half – while understandably trying to slow the game down whenever possible, they also showed calmness and composure when under the greatest of pressure.
Marcos Alonso proved pivotal to this – he was forever the outlet and on occasions, instrumental in the counter -attack.
Chelsea would have taken a point from Anfield with 11 men, with 10, they showed massive commitment to the cause and can consider themselves serious title contenders.
Harvey Elliott had the first attempt on goal after five minutes of frantic huffing and puffing by both sides.
But his edge of the penalty area, left-footer, went wide of Eduardo Mendy’s left post.
Chelsea responded well, trying to keep calm in possession but more importantly trying mot to give the ball away needlessly.
A fine mason Mount free-kick almost found Toni Rudiger, but it was cleared into the path of Alonso who hammered the ball towards goal, but it was deflected away from a corner, which Liverpool felt with comfortably.
Jordan Henderson missed an absolute sitter on 10 minutes.when a deep ball by Trent Alexander-Arnold found Henderson free at the far post, but he scuffed his left-footed volley wide of Mendy.
But the corner routine proved fruitful on 22 minutes when a regulation Reece James cross was met perfectly by Kai Havertz – his backwards glancing effort sailed over the desperate grasp of Alisson Becker and into the back of his net to give the west Londoners the lead.
Chelsea’s ability to counter-attack quickly posed the greatest threat to Liverpool, apart from set pieces and twice the Blues had chances to extend their lead. Both times the home side gathered themselves sufficiently to cut out the final ball.
£97million striker Romelu Lukaku had a quiet opening 30 minutes. He struggled to gather a pass, But then, on 36 minutes, he turned Joel Matic leaving the centre-back for dead, before setting up Mount. The midfielder raced into the penalty area, but instead of cutting the ball back to in-running Lukaku, he opted to try and score from a tight angle, which saw the ball inch across goal and cleared.
As the clocked ticked into overtime, Liverpool pounced and all hell broke loose. A messy attempted clearance by Alonso at the far post allowed Van Dijk to head onto the crossbar. The ball fell to Sadie Mane, who toe-poked the ball towards goal from close range.
James on the far post cleared the ball, but shout of a handball echoed round the stadium.
It was a VAR decision that prompted referee Antony Taylor to check for a possible handball – he gave a penalty and then sent off the offender James.
Up stepped Mohamed Salah to take the kick and he scored to level the match.
James was a tad unlucky to be red-carded. The ball bounced off his thigh but a forward movement with his right arm connected to the ball.
Cesar Azpilicueta and Rudiger were given yellow cards for their post-penalty protests.
Head coach Thomas Tuchel made a double substitution at the break, bringing on Thiago Silva and Mateo Kovacic – Kai Havertz and Kante were the Blues replaced.
Chelsea survived two early scares as Liverpool went for the jugular.
A Henderson curling long-ranger on 58 minutes had Mendy diving to his left, but the ball inched wide of his left post, once again.
Mendy made a host of saves in quick succession as the Blues held onto the 1-1 scoreline by their finger-tips.
When Chelsea did get the ball and some space, however, their attempt to forge a chance looked good. One excellent Alonso-inspired break saw Lukaku get to the end of the move, but his sideways volley, on 64 minutes was blocked by Matip.
Kovacic had an excellent chance to steal a goal with five minutes left on the clock, but his effort from just inside the Liverpool penalty area was weak.
To try and cement a point, Tuchel brought on defender Trevoh Chalobah – Jorginho was sacrificed.
Teams: Chelsea, Mendy, Rudiger, Alonso, Christensen, Jorginho, Kante, Mount, James, Azpilicueta, Havertz
SubS: Kepa, Silva, Kovacic, Werner, Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah, Hudson-Odoi, Chilwell, Ziyech
Liverpool: Becker, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Firmino, Mane, Sarah, Henderson, Robertson, Matip, Alexander-Arnold, Elliott
Subs: Kelleher, Konate, Thiago, Keira, Gomez, Oxlade-Chaberlain, Minamino, Jota, Tsimikas
Referee A Taylor