A stunning strike from Mateo Kovačić ignited a quick-fire Chelsea comeback against Liverpool at The Bridge.
Written by Ryan Bellenie (@BellenieSport).
After ending 2021 on the back end of tough run, Chelsea hoped to begin the New Year with a positive start as they prepared to face Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
The fixture between the new clubs marked the first big game of the calendar year, with both teams looking to edge their way back in the title race to keep up with high-flying Manchester City. After a series of disappointing draws at home, the Blues looked to set the record straight against their old rivals.
Chelsea also had a series of players missing, due to both injuries and illnesses. However, making the headlines before the game was Romelu Lukaku – who was dropped from the matchday squad following his mid-week controversies.
With Thomas Tuchel making the necessary adjustments to his team, there were five changes to the side that drew with Brighton. Thiago Silva and Trevoh Chalobah returned to the Chelsea defence, with Marcos Alonso, N’Golo Kanté and Kai Havertz also being rotated into the starting eleven.
A meeting between the Blues and Reds always causes fireworks with this game being no exception. Within the opening 10 seconds, there were calls for Sadio Mané to be sent off after an alleged elbow to César Azpilicueta. However, the Liverpool man was cautioned with a yellow to Thomas Tuchel’s fury.
The opening 10 minutes of the game then went on to be filled with action, but only at the expense of poor defending. Both Mohammed Salah and Christian Pulisic had glorious chances to put their sides ahead from close range, with neither being able to capiatlise.
On the 9th minute, a poorly judged header from Trevoh Chalobah resulted in a late Christmas gift for Sadio Mané, who rounded Édouard Mendy to fire into an empty net for the match’s opening goal.
The game was played at an incredibly high tempo in the early stages, with chances falling once again at either end. Marcos Alonso could have found an equaliser with a volley from close range, but the defender failed to stay composed and lashed his effort high and wide.
Although Chelsea were arguably playing the better of the two teams, Liverpool doubled their lead on the 25th minute through a dazzling Salah. The Egyptian skipped past Alonso before beating Mendy at his near post.
A moment of brilliance from the league’s top scorer stunned The Bridge, with Chelsea suddenly in a whole heap of bother.
After a lacklustre 15 minutes, the Blues pegged a goal back out of nowhere with Mateo Kovačić scoring one of the goals of the season to put the Chelsea fans back on their feet.
245 minutes later, Christian Pulisic fired past Kelleher to make it 2-2, with Stamford Bridge erupting with emotion.
Suddenly, it was all square and the London club carrying the momentum into the break.
To the delight of the fans, the second half took off exactly where it was left. There was a chance for Thomas Tuchel’s side just five minutes in as N’Golo Kanté breezed through the Liverpool midfield to set up Marcos Alonso, with the Spaniard firing over the crossbar.
The three best chances of in the second half all came within the space of five minutes.
The first stemmed from Salah, who in a one-on-one with Kanté, struck from range to bring the best out of Mendy. The Senegalese goalkeeper was called into action two minutes later, this time denying his international teammate Sadio Mané, who previously got the better of him earlier on in the game.
Following the missed chances at one end, Christian Pulisic was then denied at the other following a top save from Kelleher who denied the American from close range.
The action then went on to slow down before picking back up again in the final minutes at both teams made a late push. However, no team was either to find that indispensable third goal – resulting in yet another draw at Stamford Bridge.
After the whistle:
Goals, controversies, and a phenomenal atmosphere. Sunday afternoon’s game had absolutely everything and will surely go down as one of the games of the season.
After going 2-0 down, Chelsea did a superb job to get back into the game through a spirited team performance. Following the controversies and “noise” caused in recent days, Chelsea fans will be delighted with what they saw, especially given the circumstances.
However, a concern for Thomas Tuchel will still be the fact that his side have won just one of their previous six home games. With their January fixtures featuring both Manchester City and Antonio Conte’s Tottenham, the Blues will look to carry the momentum out of the Liverpool game and into their upcoming games.
Before facing Spurs in the league, Chelsea will face them on Wednesday in the first leg of their Semi-Final cup tie in the Carabao Cup.
Liverpool are also in League Cup action this week, taking on Arsenal on Thursday.
Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool.
- Mané (9’).
- Salah (26’).
- Kovačić (42’).
- Pulisic (45+1’).
BBC Sports Player of the match:
Mateo Kovačić (Chelsea).
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Chalobah (70’), Silva, Rüdiger; Azpilicueta ©, Kanté, Kovačić, Alonso; Mount, Pulisic; Havertz (79’).
- Subs: Jorginho (70’), Hudson-Odoi (79’).
Liverpool (4-3-3): Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold, Konaté, van Dijk ©, Tsimikas; Henderson, Fabinho, Milner (69’); Salah, Jota (69’), Mané (90’).
- Subs: Keita (69’), Oxlade-Chamberlain (69’), Jones (90’),
Chelsea (55%) vs Liverpool (45%).
Chelsea (15) vs Liverpool (10).
Shots on target:
Chelsea (6) vs Liverpool (6).
Chelsea (6) vs Liverpool (7).
Chelsea (5) vs Liverpool (X).
- (credit | BBC Sport).
- (credit | Sky Sports Football).