If there was any doubt or, for their rivals any hope, as to Liverpool’s appetite to retain the Premier League title then it has already been laid to rest. Having found a way to win against Leeds United last weekend they were handed a route to victory by Chelsea who appeared to implode under the pressure of being potential pretenders to the crown.
It was, though, Liverpool’s determination and ferocity – summed up by two-goal Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah - that forced Chelsea into blundering although the level of their mistakes were their own foolish making and will be a significant worry to manager Frank Lampard who has to quickly get this organised.
There were 10 minutes either side of half-time that ended any uncertainty as to the result and surely also ended Kepa Arrizabalaga’s already slender hopes of fighting off expected new goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and keeping his place. Lampard has already shown a ruthless edge – Antonio Rudiger was left out of his squad - and the evidence was again overwhelming that Arrizabalaga is destined for the bench or even the exit.
Liverpool’s only concern was the loss of captain Jordan Henderson, who suffered a tightness to a thigh muscle at half-time, but there was the boon of the seamless introduction of new signing Thiago Alcantara to their midfield even if the Spanish international will have been relieved that Alisson saved a penalty he conceded. But, then, what a difference a good goalkeeper makes.
Nevertheless in 45 minutes Thiago completed 75 passes – more than any Chelsea player over the whole game. All those passes were successful, also, and that is the most by any player in the Premier League for just half a game since the statistics began to be compiled in 2003-04.
It helped, of course, that Thiago was playing against 10-men – after Andreas Christensen’s dismissal just before half-time – and it will be a further concern to Lampard at how his team folded at the beginning of the second period when they needed to stay resolute before rallying. By then, though, the game was over with Mane claiming both goals with a predator’s instinct and an indefatigable desire.
For all of Chelsea’s spending – and with Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell not yet fit enough – once more it was their defensive issues that hurt them. Henderson’s ball through to Mane was smart but Christensen got himself the wrong side of the forward who is simply too quick not to capitalise. Not for the first time Arrizabalaga mis-judged what was happening and rushed from goal – or maybe he would have got there first? – while undeniably Christensen panicked and hauled down Mane.
Somewhat worryingly, referee Paul Tierney initially only showed a yellow card but upgraded it to a red after being urged by the VAR official Michael Oliver to check on the pitch-side screen. It was certainly a clear and obvious error and as the dismissal was confirmed a Liverpool substitute – or two – appeared to applaud the decision only to be immediately upbraided by Klopp. “Are you crazy – we never do that, ok?” he angrily shouted.
Before that and Arrizabalaga had been fortunate to escape when he misjudged a spinning ball after Henderson charged down a clearance with Salah beating him to it and crossing low. Firmino met it and tried to turn it home, with a deft flick only for Christensen to block on the goal-line.
Chelsea struggled against Liverpool’s ferocious pressing game. Henderson bellowed “it’s got to be us” every time a team-mate closed down a Chelsea player and Klopp screamed “yes” when it succeeded. For example as they hurried Kurt Zouma outside his own penalty area they forced the defender to pass the ball straight out of play.
Chelsea’s best moments all centred around Mateo Kovacic and Timo Werner who was relentless and continually took the game to Liverpool and earned the penalty, as he ran across goal and was tripped by Thiago. Unfortunately for him Jorginho, normally so reliable from the penalty spot, stepped up and - with that little skip of his - shot low only for Alisson to dive and block with the rebound hacked away. Cleverly the goalkeeper had waited – reading Jorginho’s technique.
Kai Havertz, another big summer signing, played through the middle and was less effective and was also sacrificed once Christensen was dismissed with Fikayo Tomori, who did well, returning from the wilderness for a first Chelsea start since February which is remarkable.
Once down to 10-men Chelsea were pulled apart as Liverpool sensed the opportunity to quickly kill off the game. They penned their opponents back and Chelsea could not cope with
Firmino, after combining with Salah with a sharp ‘give and go’, centring for Mane to shrewdly pull away from Reece James and glance a header across Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea had to re-group. They had to hold on – but instead they messed up with Arrizabalaga stupidly casual as he received the ball from Tomori and seemed oblivious to the fact that Mane was closing him down as he tried to play a straight pass to Jorginho. Mane stuck out a leg, intercepted and swept the loose ball into the net.
Maybe, after that, Liverpool – with Fabinho outstanding at centre-back –were a little casual themselves. Following the penalty, Alisson also reacted sharply to turn away a crisp cross-shot from substitute Tammy Abraham before Arrizabalaga denied Mane his hat-trick with a fine save. But it simply did not matter. The damage was done.
Reaction from Chelsea boss Frank Lampard
There were a lot of things I was happy about defensively. We had a couple of good opportunities. My team talk at half time was to be more confident on the ball. Then the red card changes the whole team talk.Once a yellow is a first decision, you feel it needs to be absolute critical for it to be red. I'm not sure it is.
We need to try and give him confidence. A goalkeeper works on confidence. It's a clear mistake and he accepts that.
Thoughts on the performance
I'm disappointed to lose three points as you always should be. I'm actually happier today with some things than I was at Brighton. Today I saw spirit, a desire to defend, midfield giving everything. Players should take heart, it's how we go forward from now. Normally with new faces you get a month or so to work on things, patterns of play. We have to have time for that. Every team who is successful has team.
Here's goal-scorer Mane
It was a tough game, especially the first half. When they got the red, that made it easier and the second half we created chances and scored.It was a great ball from Henderson (leading to the red card). I tried to make the run. When he fouled, I knew it was a red card and afterwards the referee gave it. I think he (Thiago) is one of the best players in the world. We are lucky to have him in our team.
FT Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
And there's the whistle. Two goals from Mane, one a header and the other courtesy of a goalkeeping blunder from Kepa, gives the Premier League champions all three points, who played the second half against a Chelsea side down to ten men. Christensen was the man to get his marching orders before the break, while Jorginho also saw his penalty saved after the break.
Still plenty of work to be done for Frank Lampard's team, even taking the red card into account. Professional job by Liverpool, who also handed a debut to Thiago.
90 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
The clock hits red with just stoppage time to go. Liverpool have a corner which Robertson will take. Minor point but they've not been particularly threatening from corners today. It's another short one which fails to make it into the box before being intercepted. But like I said, minor point today when you're 2-0 up.
88 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
Thiago, penalty aside, has done all the simple things well, picking the pass, keeping things moving. Having written that, he did just mistime his tackle on Werner but it didn't lead to any Liverpool danger.
86 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
Another Liverpool change/running down of the clock. Minamino runs on to replace Firmino.
84 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
Save! Another good low stop from Alisson after substitute Abraham went for goal from the left-hand side of the box.
82 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
Liverpool win themselves a corner. It comes out to Thiago on the edge of the box who takes a touch and then arrows one back in low but it flashes wide of the left post.
A debut goal would round off a great day's work for Liverpool and a difficult one for Chelsea.
1 - Jorginho has missed a penalty for the first time in nine attempts for Chelsea in all competitions, while this was Alisson's first penalty save for Liverpool since joining the club (three faced). Reach. pic.twitter.com/lgo1uhSyqf
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 20, 2020
79 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
Salah nudges it to Alexander-Arnold who whips it towards the top right corner but it spins away.
Chelsea bring on reinforcements - Barkley on for Kovacic and Abraham on for Jorginho.
78 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
Not the impact debutant Thiago will have wanted to make but his keeper has spared his blushes. A bit of a wake up for Liverpool who go on the attack again and win a freekick 20 yards out after a foul from Tomori.
SAVED! 75 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
Hop, skip... and a miss from Jorginho. Or rather Alisson guessed correctly and blocks before his Liverpool team-mates scramble it clear.
Whenever you have Werner on the field, you always have hope.
The German runs across the box and Thiago, tracking back, needlessly brings him down.
71 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
Liverpool engaging in a spot of keep ball, mainly around midfield, as they patiently wait to pick off Chelsea.
68 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
Chance! It's a rare Chelsea attack as extra numbers slowly come forward. Mount picks it up and tries his luck from distance. It's not far off, just flying over the bar. Alisson looked pretty calm about it all though.
64 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
Thiago pulling the strings already. He exchanges passes with Milner on the edge of the box before chipping the ball towards the back post. It's a little too quick for Mane though.
63 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
Liverpool are bringing on a second sub, James Milner comes on for Keita
62 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
Look away now any remaining Kepa fans...
Brilliant from Sadio Mane, but not one Kepa will want to see again 🙈
Liverpool are now in a commanding position against Chelsea.
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— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) September 20, 2020
60 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2
Damage limitation time now for the hosts (although Chelsea keeper's reputation may be beyond repair...)
Just before Mane's second goal, he lost possession to Tomori and hopped up and down in frustration. But he was immediately back to the task at hand, channeling his frustration into closing down Kepa. And he got his rewards.
GOAL! Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2 (Mane 54 mins)
Oh dear Kepa. He will not want to watch this back. It's another blunder!
Tomori plays the ball back to his keeper in good faith. Mane harries after him and closes him down and Kepa clears straight into the Liverpool man who has an open goal facing him.
52 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 1
This could be a long second-half for Chelsea with Liverpool capable of picking off their opponents at will. Every time the hosts clear the danger, it falls back to a red shirt.
GOAL! Chelsea 0 Liverpool 1 (Mane 50 mins)
Well that didn't take long to make the man count.
Alonso doesn't track his man and Firmino plays a one-two with Salah on the left before chipping up for Mane to head in. Klopp does the big fist pump on the sideline.
49 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Mane goes for the step-overs on the left edge of the box and James chops him down. Liverpool go for an elaborate set-piece, including Thiago, but it breaks down. Trying to be a tad too clever.
Chelsea have everyone behind the ball.
47 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Unsurprisingly given the man advantage, the early pressure comes from Liverpool. Thiago gets his first touch, passing it out to the right for Alexander-Arnold.
46 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Tight thigh was the reason for Henderson being withdrawn at the break. Van Dijk takes the captain's armband.
Time for Thiago...
Liverpool's Spanish signing is making his debut, in place of captain Jordan Henderson. Presumably it's an injury replacement.
Jurgen Klopp comes over an gives Thiago a final pep talk. Here we go.
Tomori on for Havertz
Red a fair decision?
Red or yellow?
Did the referee get it right with Andreas Christensen's dismissal?
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HT Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Not really a great deal to write home about until the closing moments of that half. Just as Chelsea finally commit greater numbers forward, they are undone by a quick counter attack and Christensen gets his marching orders, via VAR.
10 vs 11. Bring on the second half, and hopefully some goals!
RED CARD Christensen Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Yup, after referee Paul Tierney was told by VAR to check the monitor, he duly wipes off the yellow and switches it for a straight red. It was the pace by Mane which did for Christensen as the Liverpool man sprinted onto Henderson's clever straight ball over the top.
First Chelsea player to be sent off in the Premier League in 89 games.
Alexander-Arnold puts the freekick just wide and there is the half-time whistle.
44 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Christensen is in danger here....
Ball over the top, Mane and the Chelsea defender are running together as Arrizabalaga also rushes off his line. Christensen appears to wrap his arms all around Mane and bring him down. It's initially a yellow but the referee has gone to check the pitchside monitor....
43 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
It seems like we had all our goals for the day in the earlier games - well mainly down on the south coast for Southampton versus Tottenham.
This is instead a tactical battle.
40 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Good position for Chelsea 25 yards out on the left hand side of the box after Henderson commits the foul on Werner. James and Havertz line up over the ball, it's the latter who takes it but there's no one busting a gut to get on the end of it.
37 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Werner's blushes are saved by the offside flag. Chelsea break forward down the right hand side and Havertz squares it for an unmarked Werner who inexplicably shoots wide first time.
Havertz was offside but it was a case of the linesman waiting not to flag until the passage of play is finished, as per the latest rulings around VAR.
36 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
More good build up from Liverpool as Chelsea camp on the edge of the box. Henderson loops a first time cross towards the back poss but Robertson gets his timing wrongs and his volley bounces first into the ground and then off target.
35 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Chelsea switch off at the back and Christensen doesn't track the ball back in after a corner. Salah picks it up but the angle is extremely tight and his shot-cum-cross runs across the face of the goal.
33 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Best opening so far, most definitely.
Werner is lucky with the bounce off Fabinho but he runs onwards towards the box and drives his shot wide of the right post.
31 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Salah goes for the horizontal run across the pitch from right touchline to middle before trying to chip the ball over the defence into the box for Mane. It doesn't come off.
29 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Approaching the half hour mark and this is like the very early stages of a chess match, the moves which involve shuffling the pawns around before the bigger movers come later.
Liverpool the most active in terms of movement forward but Chelsea showing plenty of patience.
25 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
No shots on or off target for Chelsea yet, and just the one on target for Liverpoool. Safe to say most of this game is being played out in the middle of the park.
22 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Liverpool just shading possession in this game so far, 54% to 46%. Chelsea holding firm and getting their defensive lines set up.
Kovacic then tries a ball over the top of the Liverpool defence for Mount to sprint onto but his outstretched leg can't quite reach the ball.
19 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Good recovery from Fabinho. With Kante breaking forward in midfield for Chelsea, it looked like he had stepped too early but quickly turned and got back.
Shortly afterwards, with Alexander-Arnold bombing forward for Liverpool, Kovacic notices the space and plays in Werner on the left. Fabinho stands firm in the box as Werner tries to beat him. This battle will be an interesting one this afternoon.
17 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
A first meaningful foray forward from Chelsea. The ball breaks on the right-hand side of the box for Kante but he never looks comfortable shooting and instead ends up turning back into trouble. But a quick break that had Liverpool's defence back-tracking.
14 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Uncertainty at the back from Arrizabalaga as he scampers out wide of his box for a ricocheting ball. Salah gets there first, however, and turns the ball across towards Firmino with the goal gaping but Christensen blocks.
12 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Shot from Wijnaldum after Liverpool work the ball around the box. But it is always curling wide of the target.
9 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Chelsea defending very deep currently, which is allowing Liverpool to press forward.
Salah takes a tumble in the box and screams for a penalty but referee Paul Tierney is unmoved. That was more in hope than anything.
9 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
The corner comes to nothing as it fails to make it past the first man, Havertz. Poor by Robertson.
8 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Fabinho and van Dijk are being allowed plenty of time on the ball at the back, but Chelsea holding their shape well. The camera pans to Klopp hydrating on the sidelines. It is a hot day don't you know?
Robertson bursts forward down the left and wins a Liverpool corner off of James.
3 mins Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
Werner gets an early chance to stretch his legs down the left-hand side, doing well to keep the ball in play. He goes to attack Fabinho and, worryingly for Liverpool fans, shrugs off the Liverpool makeshift centre back quite easily.
Moments later Fabinho is much stronger and fends off the danger in the box.
1 min Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0
We're underway and Liverpool begin with a bit of keep ball across the back.
Kick off moments away
The sun is out over Stamford Bridge, the players are ready, Klopp and Lampard have fist pumped and hugged each other on the touchline, here we go....
Chelsea reaping dividends of Abramovich's ruthlessness
Chelsea are more self-sustainable but Roman Abramovich is manoeuvring that tank again because he senses, after falling behind City and Liverpool, that ground can quickly be made up by being bold and aggressive
With Chelsea cash rich, the unexpected chance to close the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City in one bold go has been seized, writes Jason Burt in his latest column.
Here's Frank Lampard
On squad selection, picking Kovacic and Loftus-Cheek dropping out
It's a change, we're playing the best team in the country and Kovacic gives us that cover. We competed well with Liverpool last season every season we played.
On Liverpool's lack of centre-backs
We will have a few words about it before. Fabinho has played centre back before, he knows that role. They're as strong as they ever are.
Weakness in Liverpool's defence
With Joe Gomez out injured, it means Liverpool have just one recognised centre-back in van Dijk. Can Chelsea take advantage?
Jurgen Klopp/van Dijk speak
Thiago on the bench
I didn't think for a second about starting him. Bayern and Liverpool, there might be similar parts but he plays different positions for us.
There was no chance of him starting today.Chelsea are a top four team in England. It is a tough game for us. But we will try to make sure it will be a joy to play against us.
Virgil Van Dijk on Chelsea's Timo Werner
Timo is a fantastic player, that's why Chelsea bought him. It will be a fantastic test. The whole Chelsea team is quality.
Thiago worth the hype?
Liverpool's latest Spanish acquisition could make his debut from the bench today. JJ Bull took a look at how the former Bayern Munich midfielder will fit in at Liverpool and how he will make them even better. Have a read here
Thiago is often compared to a midfield tempo setter like Xavi, or tricky dribbler like Andres Iniesta, but is actually a lot more defensive than both, with his statistical output painting the picture of a player who protects his own team rather than one who antagonises the opposition
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 20, 2020
Doubts over Rudiger's Chelsea future
Germany international Rudiger was an unused substitute for Chelsea’s opener against Brighton, and he's not in the squad at all today. Matt Law writes on how this could mean he is heading for the Stamford Bridge exit door, here
Kovacic in for Chelsea
One change for Chelsea too as Mateo Kovacic replaces Ruben Loftus-Cheek in midfield.
Summer signings Thiago Silva and Hakim Ziyech are still not fit to make the squad.
Thiago on the bench for Liverpool
It's a place among the substitutes for Liverpool's new signing Thiago Alcantara following the completion of his £20m arrival on Friday. Dioga Jota is not involved.
One change to starting line up from the Leeds victory as Fabinho comes in for Joe Gomez.
Today's line-up 🆚 @ChelseaFC...
Gomez (minor knock) and Matip (minor muscle issue) both miss out. Thiago named on the bench.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 20, 2020
High-scoring affair at Stamford Bridge?
Good afternoon. Time for the third Premier League game of today and the first meeting of the 'Big Six' sides this season. Big-spending Chelsea versus champions Liverpool. Here's hoping it's a good un'.
Starting with a stat attack... Liverpool can equal their longest winning streak against Chelsea in the Premier League - four matches, set between November 2010 and May 2012 - with victory today. Liverpool have won six of their past 12 league games at Stamford Bridge (D3, L3), including three of five under Jürgen Klopp although Chelsea won 2-0 at home in the most recent fixture between the sides, an FA Cup fifth-round tie in March.
Importantly for today, though, neither side are particularly sound defensively. There's certainly nothing watertight about Liverpool's defence currently. Since securing the league title in June, they have conceded 15 goals in eight games in the division. In comparison, the previous 15 league goals they conceded came across a 23-match spell. And then there is of course that seven goal thriller won against Leeds last weekend.
Chelsea, meanwhile, know they need to address their defensive weaknesses from last season although Kepa Arrizabalaga did not seem to get the message in their opening win against Brighton last weekend. The Chelsea keeper has failed to stop nine of the last 13 shots on target he has faced in the division.
With the vast array of attacking talent on display from both sides, there should be plenty to keep people glued to the action on the pitch, especially with new summer arrivals aiming to impress.
In his column this week, Jamie Carragher said he didn't think Chelsea were yet ready to challenge Liverpool for the title, not without a new goalkeeper. How dearly Frank Lampard and his team would love to prove him wrong and get one over their rivals today.
Let's get stuck into the team news...