A high octane 45 minutes to start 2022!
Chelsea took on Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday night for MW 21 of the Premier League season. The pressure was on both teams to perform and it was very much the case of winner stays in the title race. Liverpool were missing Klopp, Alisson, Firmino, and Matip due to Covid, so Kelleher started in goal with a Konate coming in for Matip. The rest of the lineup was the usual with a front three of Mane, Salah, and Jota. Tuchel of course had to deal with the Lukaku situation and to protect the preparation of the game he completely dropped the Belgian from the lineup. With more and more comments coming out it was the right thing to do and I wouldn’t mind if Lukaku never played for Chelsea again. Mendy started his last game for Chelsea before heading for AFCON while Chalobah, Silva, and Rudiger made up the back three. Azpilicueta, and Alonso started as the wing backs while Kovacic, and Kante started in midfield. Pulisic, Mount, and Havertz started up front for Chelsea. A strong lineup although the wing back situation was a worry due to the lack of pace.
Straight from kick off Liverpool hoofed a ball to Mane and he elbowed Azpilicueta in the face within 5 seconds. Mane was shown a yellow card by none other than Anthony Taylor for what was a red card offence. It was laughable how the Senegalese managed to stay on the pitch. Chelsea started the game well and the first chance fell to Pulisic as Mount closed Trent down and Pulisic failed to round Kelleher from a standing start. The first goal came in the 9th minute with Chalobah making an error in trying to clear a ball with his head when he could have cleared it with his left foot. The clearance was scuffed and Mane went through and rounded Mendy to give Liverpool the lead. Mount then sent in a good cross but Alonso skied his volley. The 2nd goal came in the 26th minute as Trent played in Salah who drove forward and finished past Mendy to make it seem like Liverpool would run rampant. The quality though that has gone under the radar while Tuchel has been our manager is our fighting spirit and are willingness to get back into the game. We got one back int he 42nd minute after Alonso’s free kick was punched out by Kelleher and as the ball fell to Kovacic he took a few steps back and volleyed it with his left foot from outside the box to bring Chelsea back into the game. It was a magnificent goal. VAR tried their best to rule it out but there was nothing wrong. Chelsea had the momentum and the equaliser came during the extra time as Kante played in Pulisic who chested the ball down and finished with his left foot past Kelleher. The stadium went into pandemonium and the atmosphere was electric. Salah went close the other end but Alonso played in Havertz who drove forward and couldn’t finish as the ball fell to Mount who’s shot just went wide off the post. Chelsea were well and truly back into the game, as half time came.
The second half’s two best chances came to Salah and Pulisic each. Salah’s hopeful lob from distance was brilliantly saved by Mendy while Pulisic’s good volley from close quarters was saved by Kelleher. The two sides ended up getting the draw as City in the larger context turned out to be the winners.
Chelsea Team Review
Mendy’s final game for Chelsea this month did not result in a clean sheet but he was not at fault for either goal. Mendy pulled off a couple of great saves and he did really well for much of the game. Good luck to him for AFCON and I hope he does well. Kepa will come in for him.
Chalobah had a shaky start to the game and was at fault for the first goal when he should have just cleared his lines with his foot. The youngster did grow into the game though and made a great tackle on Salah later on. Silva was his majestic self while Rudiger was solid as well. Azpilicueta was elbowed in the face and Mane should have been sent off but over all the Spaniard was pretty good while Alonso’s pace was not a massive issue in this game and he was quite good as well. Neither players performance warrants us not going in for wing backs in this window and reinforcement is needed.
Kovacic was simply sublime. Kovacic was everywhere he was at his press resistant best and he was driving forward picking out great passes. The goal was a goal of the season and to volley the ball while moving backwards is just an insane level of technique with a bit of luck. Kante was his usual self as well and it is so good to have both these players back. Mount went close a couple of times and his energy was great. Jorginho came on in the 2nd half and helped regain control of the game for Chelsea.
Pulisic started the game poorly but he fought through and the equaliser was expertly taken and was a brilliant finish. Pulisic could have got the winner as well but Kelleher made a solid save. The American has played a lot of games recently and probably deserves a rest, he has improved as well and hopefully he continues to improve. Havertz just came back from covid and for his first game back he wasn’t bad but he did look like he lacked fitness. Hudson-Odoi came on in the 2nd half but made no real impact playing as a striker for the final minutes.
Tuchel took a tough decision and dropped Lukaku. It was the right decision and it was Lukaku’s fault that the club had to do this. Whether Lukaku comes back in is totally up to Tuchel but last night Tuchel and Chelsea showed we can perform without the Belgian. The support was all behind him and we are all behind our German manager. It was a solid point given the context and the comeback.
So, Chelsea remain 2nd in the table a point clear of Liverpool with the reds having a game in hand. Sadly City’s win means that they are now 10 points clear of us and the title does look like it is done and dusted. I personally think there are some twists and turn still but for Chelsea and Tuchel we just need to take one game at a time. Next up is a visit by Antonio Conte and Tottenham for the 1st leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final. COME ON CHELSEA!!!