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(BBC SPORT) Chelsea frustrated Liverpool in a fast and furious Anfield encounter to claim a hard-earned point despite being reduced to 10 men after Reece James’ first-half sending-off.
In the battle between two Premier League superpowers who are fully expected to contest the title this season, Liverpool pressed frantically throughout, but the Champions League holders were superbly organised and will ultimately be satisfied with the draw.
Liverpool started at a super-charged pace but Chelsea were composed and took the lead when Kai Havertz sent an angled glancing header beyond the reach of keeper Alisson from James’ corner in front of the Kop in the 29th minute.
Mason Mount wasted a glorious opportunity to double Chelsea’s advantage before the game exploded in controversy in the closing moments of the first half.
Liverpool were awarded a penalty following a goalmouth scramble in which Joel Matip hit the bar and James swept Sadio Mane’s shot off the line with his hand. Referee Anthony Taylor awarded the spot-kick after consulting VAR, adding insult to Chelsea’s injury by showing the defender the red card.
Mohamed Salah drilled home the penalty to set up a second-half Liverpool siege but Chelsea were more than up to the challenge.
The Blues, who lost N’Golo Kante to injury, brought on Thiago Silva and Mateo Kovacic and held the hosts at bay with a superbly drilled defensive display, goalkeeper Edouard Mendy playing his part by saving well from Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho, with Diogo Jota also coming close with a headed chance.
Mixed emotions for Chelsea
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel will have been delighted with the way his team adapted to the blow of conceding a penalty and suffering a numerical disadvantage in those crucial seconds before the break – but he may still be left wondering what might have been.
For all Liverpool’s pressing and the incredibly animated urgings of manager Jurgen Klopp, who even acted as a Anfield’s cheerleader on occasions, Chelsea were comfortable in that opening period, apart from one golden opportunity that Jordan Henderson skewed wide on the volley.
Chelsea’s shape and discipline limited Liverpool’s chances and protected keeper Mendy while the threat at the other end brought Havertz’s goal and that squandered opening from Mount.
So it will be a source of huge frustration to Tuchel that the course of the game changed in the incident that Chelsea contested so vehemently and which brought a red card for James and yellows for Mendy and Antonio Rudiger.
Tuchel will have sensed his second successive Anfield win until then, but he managed the situation in a proactive manner at half-time, compensating for the loss of James and the crucial Kante – the latter badly missed after taking a knock – to send on Silva and Kovacic.
The veteran Brazil defender cruised and commanded his way through the second half, a calming presence in front of the Kop’s wall of sound.
Tuchel’s Chelsea have maintained their unbeaten record, but he may have been thinking about more until that dramatic conclusion to the first half.