Jürgen Klopp extended his fine run in London with a fully deserved 2-1 win against Antonio Conte’s Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. First half goals from Dejan Lovren and Jordan Henderson proved to be too much for the hosts to nullify as Diego Costa’s strike midway into the second half was rendered a mere consolation on a rare Friday night showdown. On the balance of play, Liverpool were miles ahead of their counterparts in every department and with victories against Arsenal and champions Leicester City well documented, there is a growing sense of optimism surrounding the Merseyside club’s domestic endeavours this season.
For Conte and his side though, this was a brutal reality check following a strong start to the campaign, the only blip being their hard-earned point at Swansea City five days ago. Chelsea were slow out of blocks, far too limited in ambition and more often than not, a yard behind their visitors whenever they surged forward in numbers. Eden Hazard chose a bad night to put up a truly anonymous display and the lack of cohesion by his colleagues meant lone striker Costa was starved of service for long spells of the game. The Spaniard barely had a whiff of the ball in the first half and could not conjure anything for his teammates. The defensive duo of Lovren and Joel Matip stood firm against the maverick striker and made life difficult for him.
Going into the interval two goals to the good, the travelling support could have been forgiven for contemplating a massacre in the second half, such was Liverpool’s dominance and refinement on the ball. Conte must have had some pretty stern words to say to his side though and that was reflected in their approach thereafter. The hosts controlled possession and tried outworking their opponents with some clever passes. The restart also saw Diego Costa move into more advanced positions and link up with Oscar and Nemanja Matic through the centre. With Liverpool happy to sit back and soak up the pressure being exerted their way, Chelsea were coaxed into the sort of game they despised.
Despite having been a peripheral figure for the majority of the contest, Costa made his mark sixteen minutes into the half. An industrious run and cut back from Matic was tucked in by the hitman as Liverpool’s overcommitted men were left slightly red-faced. Sensing an immediate opportunity to grab a second, Conte urged his players to get higher up the pitch. That move was almost rewarded as an Oscar lay-off from a lofted pass from Branislav Ivanovic fell Costa’s way. On this occasion though, the 27-year-old shot straight at Simon Mignolet. The former Atletico Madrid star looked nowhere near his best. His stats throughout the game were:
- Just 2 shots on target
- Won just 33% of aerial duels
- Only 2 chances created
- 3 failed take ons
- No interceptions
There was precious little for the Chelsea faithful to cheer about late on as Liverpool came the closest to adding a fourth goal to the clash. Substitute Divock Origi was left aggrieved as his headed effort was brilliantly saved by Thibaut Courtois. Costa may have benefited from early changes by Conte though as the trio of Pedro, Cesc Fabregas and Victor Moses were introduced seven minutes from time. The manager’s decision to leave Michy Batshuayi on the bench was widely questioned, given Chelsea were chasing the game. It ultimately ended in dismay as Liverpool bagged a win more comfortable than the score line may have suggested. For the mercurial Costa, a fifth league goal in as many games amounted to nothing.