Liverpool continued their steady progression under new manager Jurgen Klopp with a 3-1 victory against an underwhelmed Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea on Saturday. Both sides came into Saturday’s pulsating fixture with contrary results in the Capital One Cup fixtures in midweek. Liverpool won against Bournemouth with a solitary goal by right-back Nathaniel Clyne, whereas Chelsea were knocked out by Stoke City on penalties, ending the latter’s chance to defend a title he first won under his second spell at the club.
Chelsea made only one change at left-back, where Baba Rahman was replaced by Azpilicueta. Diego Costa maintained his spot up-front with Oscar and Willian on the flanks and Hazard through the middle. In midweek against Stoke City, Oscar played through the middle and Hazard featured on the left-flank, but with the latter’s inferior rate of the defensive contribution it was necessary to field Oscar on the left-wing to provide better cover to his defensive compatriot on the left-side of defense against the likes of Clyne and Milner. Kurt Zouma maintained his place at the right-back spot (in the absence of Ivanovic) alongside Cahill and Terry.
Meanwhile, Liverpool’s starting-XI featured just 2 players (Clyne and Firmino) who played in the midweek Cup win over Bournemouth; though, Skrtel came on midway through the first-half for the injured Kolo Toure against Bournemouth, altogether Liverpool came into the game with a superior amount of fresh legs. As a result, the away team significantly improved as the game progressed by providing greater intensity and work-rate throughout the 90 minutes, coming back from a goal down to win 3-1 and record their first Premier League win under Jurgen Klopp.
In the post the match press conference to every question put forward to him, Jose Mourinho countered it with an explanation in the form a question. He paused to think when he was asked by a reporter: “What happens now, Jose?” And a thought might have made Jose Mourinho ask: “What next, Jose?” The side which faced Liverpool on Saturday didn’t entirely depict what Jose Mourinho’s character sketch has been – intensified and angry. His team was unfurnished, lacked the imagination to create and unlike the nature of their manager’s result oriented approach – performed better than the final result. Unlike most teams who suffer from poor results despite their performances being tidy, Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea has a problem which their manager is facing, and not the problem many are addressing to (Mourinho himself i.e.).
With every loss, the thought to turnaround Chelsea seems to weaken the club’s aspirations to play Champions League football next season, at least. He made a safe move to field out last year’s title-winning midfield duo of Fabregas and Matic for a better set of energetic players and destroyers in Ramires and Mikel. Both the players would’ve impact on the game as it progressed. The duo struggled throughout the game to match against the pressing of Liverpool; case in point: Ramires played-out a poor pass to Mikel, which cleared an ideal opportunity for a perfect pressing triangle for Liverpool (in the final third).
Liverpool played in a 4-4-1-1 formation rather than deploying in their usual 4-3-2-1 system. Liverpool looked better-organized structure than Chelsea, but they didn’t enjoy a steady hand at transiting the ball by creating a goal-scoring opportunity after winning it. Particularly, Can and Miller, who failed to make consistently good decisions.
Both Chelsea and Liverpool fancied their set of opportunities to create chances. In the first-half, Chelsea played out through the flank(s) (in particular, right-wing). Willian in the process suffered a total of 7 fouls while creating opportunities. Liverpool fancied the left-side of Chelsea, where Oscar largely drifted into the middle to balance the number of players in midfield, emptying the flank for Clyne to sprint forward at a certain ease. But the Brazilian played a fair part to track-back timely recording 2 out 3 successful tackles. Throughout the first-half the home-side presented Liverpool with a host of half and quarterly chances which eventually led to Coutinho scoring the equalizer under the much controversial circumstance. The Brazilian scored twice, curling a shot into the corner; one right footed, one left. The time added on was two minutes at the end of first-half, but the goal was scored on post-30 odd seconds after the end of 2 minutes of added time; at 45:30 Chelsea drew an offside call and at 46:00 Begovic played the free-kick forward.
Liverpool’s centre-back pairing of Skrtel and Sakho haven’t been convincing throughout and have struggled to cope with two attack-minded side-backs and a certain Lucas Leiva protecting them, but the counter-pressing style of football bought-in by Klopp has provided a greater solution to Liverpool’s defensive inefficiencies; case in point: Chelsea recorded just one attempt on goal throughout the first-half.
Liverpool had great confidence coming into the second-half with a 65% possession and completing 282 passes to Chelsea’s 139; indeed, Liverpool fruitfully converted their possession into meaningful chances by recording 7 shots (4 on target). Another disappointing game for Eden Hazard meant he was hooked on the 59th-minute mark, and it was his opposite No.10 Coutinho who made the difference with a 76th-minute strike to put the visiting team ahead.
Which might have been a problematic substitution with Chelsea’s approach earlier in the game planned out perfectly for Jurgen Klopp’s men, when substitute Christian Benteke hit the final nail in the coffin with an 83rd-minute goal, working off a clever Adam Lallana imitation after setting-up Coutinho for his second goal.
Chelsea might argue upon a couple of refereeing decisions, but as Klopp pointed out in his post-match interview: “You cannot win at Chelsea without luck.” It wasn’t just luck, Liverpool recorded a total of 16 shots on goal (7 on target) to Chelsea 8 (out of which on 2 were on target with 4 shots blocked). With 58% ball and completing 470 passes to Chelsea’s 333, Liverpool enjoyed the task to break down Chelsea.
Both Adam Lallana and Coutinho remained excellent when needed. Though, the game failed to provide any highlights of breathtaking football, which a viewer might have considered watching with the presence of Mourinho and Klopp at the touchline. The game provided a good view of their approach towards “big games”, and with recent goalless draws in these fixtures suggests the lack of players who can create opportunities in these clashes.
While Klopp looks to gradually gain confidence with effect performances and results, Jose Mourinho will be keen towards next Wednesday’s Champions League tie against Dynamo Kyiv at home. The defeat doesn’t change anything for Jose Mourinho, but it certainly adds pressure on the Chelsea boss. He needs to rethink upon his methods, redevelop his visionary and imaginative approach if he is to overcome his and Chelsea’s problems.