Anfield, 28th August 2021
Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
Salah (45+3pen) – Havertz (22)
Chelsea’s excellent defensive discipline in the second half compensated for a lack of temperamental discipline in the first. This was enough to secure a point at Anfield they did not altogether deserve. But it was well-earned.
Having dominated the opening quarter of the match, Liverpool were frustrated to fall behind to a fine header from Kai Havertz. It was the first goal either team had conceded in the 21/22 Premier League season. Mason Mount spurned a great chance to make it 2-0. But from there Liverpool fought back well, and claimed an equaliser on half-time.
Joel Matip produced a good header of his own during a goalmouth scramble. The ball landed on the crossbar, dropped back into the crowded penalty area, and Sadio Mane directed it towards goal. On the line, Reece James very clearly batted the ball away with his arm. After a VAR check, referee Anthony Taylor awarded the penalty. Furthermore, he showed James the red card.
The disturbing reaction of Chelsea players bordered on violent, and the referee ended up booking two more players. In the cold light of day, it is difficult to understand what they were complaining about. A handball to stop a goal has been an automatic red card since before James was born. It was clear that the referee was correct. Once again, anger in a VAR incident seems entirely about not getting the desired outcome. It is seldom VAR itself causing anger.
Mohammed Salah struck home the penalty against his old club, his 99th Premier League goal.
If Chelsea showed a lack of temperamental control during the penalty, they atoned with an expert display of defending while a man down in the second half. Despite being under unending siege, Chelsea’s outstanding tactical discipline and commitment meant Liverpool’s scoring chances slowly dried up. Even so, Liverpool should have won; Diogo Jota had a wonderful heading chance he put over the crossbar.
But as time passed, Liverpool increasingly resorted to long-range attempts. Some still came very close to a winner, especially Jordan Henderson’s pot-shot. But largely, Benjamin Mendy in the Chelsea goal was content to see his opponents trying their luck from distance so often.
A point apiece it is between two of the most powerful sides in the EPL. All things considered, Chelsea will be happier with that.
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