PREMIER LEAGUE

Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool: Mané the difference against 10-man Blues

Liverpool strolled to victory against Frank Lampard’s side, helped in part by another sloppy performance from Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool: Mané the difference against 10-man Blues
MICHAEL REGAN Pool via REUTERS

The last time these two sides met, just two months ago in the penultimate game of the Premier League season, they played out a breathless 5-3 at Anfield. Both teams were clearly eager to avoid a repeat this time out and the opening stages at Stamford bridge showed their more restrained sides.

There was still, however, a moment of characteristic uncertainty from Kepa Arrizabalaga within the first 15 minutes as he raced out to intercept a loose ball ahead of Mohamed Salah. The Spaniard misjudged and was beaten to the ball by the Egyptian, but a strong block by Andreas Christensen spared his blushes.

Liverpool had the greater share of the possession in the first half and Chelsea’s only real threat came from Timo Werner on the break. The German had impressed against Brighton last week but was wasteful against Liverpool, dragging two decent first half chances wide of Alisson Becker’s post.

Chelsea's Christensen sees red on the stroke of half time

The Reds began to turn the screw as the half wore on and an incisive pass from Jordan Henderson found Sadio Mané sprinting through the heart of the Chelsea backline. Kepa was again stranded in no man’s land against an onrushing Liverpool forward and Christensen hauled down Mané on the edge of the box.

Paul Tierney initially booked the Danish defender but a quick glance at a pitchside VAR monitor saw him upgrade the yellow card to red. It was the first red card in this fixture since Chelsea boss Frank Lampard was sent off in 2009, when Liverpool beat the Blues 2-0.

Thiago on for debut as Mané hits double for Reds

There were changes for both sides at half time as Lampard replaced the peripheral Kai Havertz with Fikayo Tomori and Henderson was taken off with a muscle injury. Thiaga Alcántara was brought on for the captain to make his Liverpool debut.

Now a man down, Chelsea got off to the worst possible start to the second half as they went behind to a quick-fire brace from Mané. His first was the result of some brilliant attacking play; a razor-sharp one-two between Salah and Roberto Firmino set the Brazilian in behind the Chelsea backline and his cross was nodded into the top corner by Mané.

Thiago Alcántara came on at half time to make his Liverpool debut.

Kepa badly at fault for Liverpool's second goal

Kepa had no chance with the first but he was all to blame for the second, dallying on the ball before passing it straight to the Senegalese forward. Mané needed no second invitation and calmly slotted it past the helpless goalkeeper.

That two-goal and one-man advantage was enough to secure the three points for the visitors and much of the second half passed as an extended passing drill for the champions. Chelsea hopes were briefly raised midway through the second half when Liverpool new boy Thiago clipped Werner’s heel in the box and the hosts were awarded a penalty. Jorginho stepped up, hopped up, but Alisson got down well to keep the spot-kick out.

The red card ultimately changed the game but Liverpool looked the better organised and more assured side throughout. Chelsea will face few harder tests this season but Liverpool’s comfortable victory only served to illustrate the gap between Lampard’s team and the champions.

Relentless Mané steals the show

Last weekend’s victory over Leeds United saw Mohamed Salah take the plaudits but it was his offensive partner, Sadio Mane, who made the difference against Chelsea. His qualities on the ball are obvious but it was the intensity of his running that swung the match in Liverpool’s favour at Stamford Bridge. His direct run drew the red card on Christensen; his clever movement made the space for his opener and it was his determined pressing that earnt the second. Aside from those match-winning moments he prevented the hosts from building out from the back and set the tempo amongst his teammates. Chelsea may well have been paying extra attention to Salah after his performance last week and Mané took full advantage.

Chelsea’s backline all at sea

Lampard’s big summer of spending had some pundits speculating that they could challenge at the top this season but they looked a long way off today. Injured new signings Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva could only watch on as Chelsea conceded two avoidable goals and had a man sent off after a defensive mix-up. The introduction of those two will undoubtedly improve the backline but questions remain about Lampard’s ability to set up a team defensively.

Liverpool found it far too easy to build up the play from defence and, in truth, could have had more if they had really pushed for it. Kepa’s Chelsea career has looked dead in the water for months now and his performance today did little to resuscitate it. Rumours of Edouard Mendy’s arrival from Rennes have grown in recent weeks and that should help prevent the obvious mistakes. However, there is plenty more work to be done on the training ground to sort out the Blues’ defence.

Klopp's defensive gamble justified

Liverpool’s pursuit of Thiago Alcántara appeared to have taken a back seat as the Reds looked to add a new defender but a charge of heart made the move possible. Fabinho has occasionally been deployed in the middle of defence in the past but is now viewed as solution when the usual defenders are out. Joel Matip and Joe Gomez were unavailable so the Brazilian slotted in next to Van Dijk and looked solid throughout against Chelsea’ attacking talents. The pacey Werner managed to isolate him a couple of times in the first half but Fabinho dealt with it comfortably, pushing him wide and dispossessing the forward. His passing ability was also useful as Liverpool looked to rotate the ball across the backline, and Liverpool seem fairly sorted for midfielders at the moment anyway.