Liverpool and Chelsea played out a nervy 1-1 draw at Anfield in a game where both sides feel they should have 3 points in the bag. Luiz’s surprise free-kick was cancelled out by a close range header by Wijnaldum.
Klopp made one change to the lineup that started against Swansea last weekend in the Premier League, fit and cleared to play again Matip replacing Klavan. The shape was 4-3-3 with the same midfield three of Henderson, Can and Wijnaldum. The front three consisted of Lallana, Firmino and Coutinho.
Conte also made a change by bringing on Willian for Pedro, otherwise all systems going for Chelsea, the shape was 3-4-2-1 as expected. Matic and Kante sitting in front of the back 3 and wing-backs defending first in a difficult game.
Analysis :- Major Events and General Play
Liverpool started the game quite brightly, Klopp didn’t make many changes as far as playing style was concerned, the passing speed increased a bit with more purpose in it. For the first 20 minutes, midfield and defensive line weren’t dwelling over the ball too much, it was first touch control and pass forward.
Klopp deployed Can and Wijnaldum a bit wider in their midfield positions than they usually are, this was because of two reasons – first being to stop the runs of Alonso and Moses from wing-back positions and secondly to support their fullbacks to stop Hazard and Willian take the ball on half-turn and run at the defence on the counter.
On the other hand, Chelsea were content to stand firm and defend what is in front of them. The league leaders were patient with their approach, likes of Moses and Alonso were quite measured in their forward runs as Liverpool marked them out with wide midfielders. Hazard and Willian were more tracking the runs rather than impacting on the other side.
Conte deployed Matic to sit deeper than Kante, the Frenchman made those forward runs or made tackles in Liverpool half. Costa tried to play at the shoulder of last line but was unsuccessful most of the time. His runs weren’t timed most of the time and was tightly marked by Matip, for once he got away from Lovren and won the penalty, but the finish from the spot was poor.
The above image shows the player positioning in general terms throughout the game. Evidently, Chelsea players had more influence in their half and tried to be compact and give no space. Liverpool, except the centre-backs had all others in Chelsea half for most parts, when Matip went ahead with the ball, Henderson more or less dropped into his position to cover up.
After the Chelsea goal, Liverpool were a bit fearful of another defeat and went into their shell, the visitors started to control the game with patient passing in their own half and probing in and around a nervy defence, home side began to be more cautious in their play resulting in considerable loss of momentum they had in early exchanges.
In the second half, Liverpool started with purpose in passing and they had final balls to boast too, Firmino was good pressing the ball but Coutinho gave the ball away cheaply too many times, Kante marked him expertly and never allowed with space to a pick pass or shoot. Lallana was never comfortable in his forward positioning, he pressed up the Chelsea passing from back but was ineffective in attacking play and finding spaces in between the lines.
The Liverpool equaliser came with a good tactical presence from first Henderson and then Milner with Wijnaldum.
The above image shows the build up of the goal, we can see a narrow front three has forced the Chelsea back 3 to be narrow marking them, the run from Wijnaldum centrally and from Firmino on Moses’ shoulder forced them give space to Milner. Initially, a shot from Lallana was blocked by Cahill but the rebound was taken expertly by the skipper as he clipped the ball towards left-back Milner. He then just helped it on with his head, a deflection from Moses took it into the head of Wijnaldum who scored.
There was a defensive tracking mistake made by Willian for that goal, we can see (in yellow circle) he is in a wrong position to track a wide run from the opposition player or fill the gap in between the fullback and centre-back. On that occasion, his job was to track the Liverpool left-back but instead he stood still resulting in space for the Englishman to work into.
For Chelsea, despite missing the penalty, they should be more than happy to take a point and go away from Anfield, Conte will be delighted by the defensive work his team did to nullify the threats, but on the other hand, shouldn’t be pleased with the way they strayed passes many times and Costa didn’t held up the ball well to give likes of Hazard to run beyond him. The Belgian himself was very quite, was marked tactically by Wijnaldum and Clyne combined.
For Liverpool, it was more of two points dropped than one gained, it was a game where they had to put a marker by defeating the leaders at home, but another basic mistake from the back-line cost them those crucial points. Mignolet was caught sleeping for Luiz free-kick and Lovren’s mistake almost cost them when Matip conceded the penalty, only to be saved by Mignolet. Klopp was proud of his team for the way they showed character to hit back when it was most needed, but at the same time not happy to be punished by a poor mistake.
Overall, the winner of this point over the big picture is Chelsea who are now 9 points ahead at the top with Arsenal at home to come next. Liverpool will travel to Hull City to revive their top 3 chances and maybe a final push at the title.
By Mizgan on 1st February, 2017