Speaking before kick-off, assistant manager Pep Lijnders said Liverpool had no intention of making excuses and wanted to “make it a special game”. They did just that, with Sadio Mane capitalising on a miscued defensive header from Trevoh Chalobah to put the visitors ahead early on.
With 26 minutes on the clock, Mohamed Salah latched onto a through-ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold, went round Marcos Alonso and slipped a shot past Edouard Mendy at the near post. Chelsea looked shell-shocked, with Thomas Tuchel still furious that Mane had only seen yellow for an elbow to the face of Cesar Azpilicueta at the start of the game.
Chelsea hit back just before half-time, however, Mateo Kovacic curling one in off the inside of the post from distance after Caoimhin Kelleher, Liverpool’s stand-in goalkeeper, had punched clear a free kick.
They equalised a little over three minutes later, Antonio Rudiger flicking the ball to N’Golo Kante, Kante moving it on to Christian Pulisic and Pulisic bursting into the box before smashing a shot into the far corner.
Despite the second half being played at the same manic tempo, neither side could find a winner. Chelsea are now 10 points behind league leaders Manchester City, while Liverpool remain third.
Should Mane have seen red? It would have been highly controversial had Mane been sent off straight from kick-off, but Tuchel certainly seemed to think that Anthony Taylor had let him off lightly. The Chelsea manager could be seen remonstrating angrily with the fourth official on the sidelines following the incident, while Azpilicueta called it “a clear red” after the match.
While it was certainly a reckless challenge, Mane seemed to be looking at the ball as opposed to Azpilicueta and caught him more with his forearm than the point of his elbow. That may have saved him from a red card for endangering the safety of an opponent but, as ever, officiating is subjective and, on another day, with another referee, Liverpool could have found themselves playing 89 minutes of the game with 10 men.
Liverpool assistant Lijnders 'proud' despite losing two-goal lead at Chelsea
MAN OF THE MATCH
Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea). While his performance will be remembered for his first-half wondergoal, Kovacic’s all-round contribution was crucial in hauling Chelsea back into the game.
Not only was his passing generally excellent, he produced a steady stream of tackles and interceptions which helped Chelsea to take control in midfield. He also won 13 out of 14 duels he was involved in, a stat which epitomised his combative, energetic approach.
Liverpool: Kelleher 6, Tsimikas 6, Van Dijk 6, Konate 6, Alexander-Arnold 7, Milner 6, Fabinho 7, Henderson 6, Mane 7, Jota 6, Salah 8
Subs: Oxlade-Chamberlain 5, Keita 5, Jones N/A
Sadio Mane of Liverpool celebrates after scoring their sides first goal with team mates Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota, Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Kostas Tsimikas during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge
Image credit: Getty Images
1’ OUCH! Straight from kick off, Mane catches Azpilicueta with an elbow to the face and earns himself a booking from referee Anthony Taylor. Tuchel seems to think a yellow card was too lenient a punishment.
9’ GOAL! Chalobah gifts Liverpool a chance after his attempted header back to Mendy falls perfectly for Mane. The Liverpool forward takes his opportunity, lashing the ball into the back of the net.
26’ GOAL! That is absolutely delicious from Salah. Running onto a through-ball from Alexander-Arnold, he ghosts past Alonso with a clever touch, deceives Mendy and pings in a shot at the near post.
42’ GOAL! What a hit from Kovacic. Chelsea get one back before half-time, Kelleher punching away a free kick only for the Croatian midfielder to curl one in from distance.
45+1’ GOAL! And just like that, Chelsea are level! Rudiger flicks the ball to Kante, who lofts it to Pulisic. He bursts into the box and leathers a shot past Kelleher into the far corner.
As per Opta, this is the fifth consecutive Premier League campaign in which Mohamed Salah has been directly involved in 25 goals (16 goals, nine assists) or more. Only Thierry Henry has ever had a longer run of 25+ goal seasons in the competition (seven between 1999-2000 and 2005-06).
This was only the second Premier League game between two teams starting the day in the top four to see both sides score twice in the first half, with the other being Arsenal’s 3-2 win against Manchester United in November 1997.