A missed penalty, two points dropped, but this was still a very good night for Chelsea.
No doubt when Antonio Conte’s players returned to the dressing room they were told of Arsenal’s shocking home loss to Watford and Tottenham’s draw at Sunderland — and one look at the league table will have made it a very pleasant journey home from that point.
This result keeps Liverpool at something more than arm’s length, 10 points off the lead, while Chelsea actually gain ground on Arsenal, who started the night in second place, and do not lose any to Tottenham. The only disappointment from the blue perspective was that had Diego Costa scored from the spot, it could almost have been game over.
Liverpool defender Joel Matip (right) catches Chelsea’s in-form striker Costa with a stray leg to give away a free-kick
Liverpool goalkeeper Mignolet was still arranging his defence as Luiz prepared to strike the ball towards his goal
Chelsea defender David Luiz fires the visitors into the lead against the run-of-play with an audacious free-kick
Luiz wheels away in delight, soon chased down by his Blues team-mates after giving the west Londoners the lead
The Brazil international, who is in his second spell with Chelsea, celebrates in front of Antonio Conte after scoring
The 29-year-old is mobbed by his delighted team-mates after putting the Blues ahead against Liverpool
Mignolet looks dejected after conceding the goal during the Premier League match at Anfield Tuesday evening
Georginio Wijnaldum gets between the Chelsea defence to head home Liverpool’s second-half equaliser at Anfield
The Dutch international wheels away with delight as the Chelsea defenders react following Liverpool’s equalising goal
The former Newcastle midfielder celebrates his headed goal on Tuesday as a bottle of beer is thrown onto the pitch
The Belgium goalkeeper made amends for his earlier mistake by saving Diego Costa’s second-half penalty
Mignolet congratulated by his Liverpool team-mates after he went from zero to hero by saving a second-half penalty
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS, MATCH ZONE AND PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE FROM ANFIELD
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Mignolet 7, Clyne 7, Matip 7, Lovren 6, Milner 6, Wijnaldum 7.5, Henderson 6.5, Can 7, Lallana 8 (Origi 90mins), Firmino 6, Coutinho 6 (Mane 75)
Subs not used: Karius, Sturridge, Klavan, Moreno, Mane, Lucas
Goal: Wijnaldum 57
Booked: Henderson, Milner
CHELSEA (3-4-3): Courtois 6, Azpilicueta 7, Luiz 7, Cahill 6, Moses 7, Matic 6, Kante 6, Alonso 7, Willian 7 (Fabregas 83), Costa 5.5, Hazard 6.5 (Pedro 72)
Subs not used: Begovic, Zouma, Pedro, Batshuayi, Terry, Chalobah
Goal: Luiz 24
Man-of-the-Match: Adam Lallana
Referee: Mark Clattenburg 7
Team P GD Pts 1 Chelsea 23 32 56 2 Tottenham Hotspur 23 29 47 3 Arsenal 23 26 47 4 Liverpool 23 24 46 5 Manchester City 22 15 43 6 Manchester United 22 12 41 7 Everton 22 10 36 8 West Bromwich Albion 23 2 33 9 Burnley 23 -8 29 10 Stoke City 22 -6 28 11 West Ham United 22 -7 28 12 Southampton 23 -5 27 13 Watford 23 -12 27 14 Bournemouth 23 -9 26 15 Middlesbrough 23 -7 21 16 Leicester City 23 -14 21 17 Swansea City 23 -24 21 18 Crystal Palace 23 -9 19 19 Sunderland 23 -22 16 20 Hull City 22 -27 16
David Luiz fired Chelsea ahead against the run-of-play with this quickly-taken free-kick on 24 minutes.
The Premier League leaders were pegged back when Georginio Wijnaldum headed home from inside the box.
Maybe it is now, for Liverpool. The locals left happy because, on the night, Liverpool were probably the better team and at least they had a go but, once again, the league table shows the reality. It is not just the distance separating them from Chelsea that should be of concern, but the commotion below.
If Manchester City win at West Ham on Wednesday night, they will be level on points. If Manchester United beat Hull at Old Trafford they will be just two points adrift. There is a squeeze at the top and five into three doesn’t go. Forget the league leaders. For the moment, Chelsea are above the escalating scramble.
So while Georginio Wijnaldum’s header meant Liverpool got what they deserved, what they took from this game amounts to little but pride in terms of the title race. True, Liverpool looked the better side for long periods, but no points are awarded for endeavour or artistic impression.
There was something admirable about Chelsea’s resistance, too, and the way they kept trying to win all the way to the end. They are never scared to make an agricultural clearance, but not frightened of committing bodies to the fight farther forward either.
Chelsea defender Gary Cahill (left) heads the ball clear despite pressure from Liverpool playmaker Adam Lallana
Liverpool’s Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino (left) battles for possession with compatriot Luiz during the first half
Former Paris Saint-Germain defender Luiz was busy in the first half – here he is beating Firmino to the ball at Anfield
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson puts Chelsea’s midfield anchor, N’Golo Kante, under pressure on Tuesday night
Chelsea boss Conte, who watched his team struggle during the opening 15 minutes, shouts instructions to his team
Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum shoots from distance on the edge of Chelsea’s penalty area to level up the scoring
GRAHAM POLL’S VERDICT
I was appalled to see Jurgen Klopp appear to scream in fourth official Neil Swarbrick’s face after Simon Mignolet saved Diego Costa’s late penalty. Enthusiasm is one thing but that was too much from the Liverpool manager.
Referee Mark Clattenburg had shown why he was rated best in the world in 2016 when awarding Chelsea the spot-kick in the 75th minute. He kept up with play and saw Joel Matip dangle a leg and trip Costa.
It seems referees simply can’t win, even if they’re as good as Clattenburg. When Liverpool conceded the opening goal to David Luiz’s quick free-kick, there was an attempt to blame the ref.
Pundits thought Clattenburg hadn’t indicated for the free-kick to be taken but replays proved he had, meaning Luiz’s strike was legal.
Even the award of the free-kick was analysed. Replays showed the decision for a foul on Eden Hazard was debatable, but do we really expect reviews of all set-pieces? Liverpool defended really poorly — it is they who deserve the blame.
As well as Costa’s lame penalty, they could have won the game in the 90th minute when brilliant work from N’Golo Kante on the left found Pedro in the middle, shooting just wide.
In injury time, Roberto Firmino had a close-range header saved, one of a number of chances he might have converted with a calmer mind. Yet it was that type of night. Not the greatest football, all sound and fury, and with too much at stake, for Liverpool at least.
Yet for all their sweat they would have got nothing at all were it not for that Costa penalty, and an equalising goal that encapsulated their perseverance.
It came after an intense period of pressure. Chelsea got the ball clear only for it to be smartly recycled by Jordan Henderson, sending a cross deep into the six-yard box. It was met by James Milner, who did magnificently to head it back across goal and there was Wijnaldum, getting in front of David Luiz to steer the ball past Thibaut Courtois. Anfield went up in decibels and it began to look as if the resistance to a Chelsea procession had finally arrived.
Yet, just as Sadio Mane came on from a final-15 minute tilt at a winner, and the voices were at their fullest — calamity. Dejan Lovren gave the ball away and Chelsea broke, through Costa. He stepped inside Joel Matip, who stuck out a leg and Costa fell.
Yes, he made the most of it. Probably, though, it was a foul. Either way, Mark Clattenburg decided to ignore the studied tumble and focus on the infringement. Penalty to Chelsea. Costa stepped up, hit a weak one to the left, and Simon Mignolet saved.
Chelsea manager Conte gets a ticking off from Premier League official Clattenburg after kicking the ball away
Luiz prepares to strike the ball on target but Belgium international Mignolet is unaware the Brazilian is about to shoot
Mignolet continues to organise the wall and his defenders, not realising Luiz is seconds away from taking the free-kick
Liverpool had been on top during the opening 23 minutes at Anfield but went behind in bizarre circumstances
(L-R) Firmino, Henderson, Lallana, Philippe Coutinho barely jump as David Luiz sends the ball goalwards
David Luiz roars with delight after taking advantage of the quick free-kick to break the deadlock
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp looks on dejected during the first half of this crunch EPL fixture at Anfield
To most inside the ground, justice was done. Whether that is true or not, those who were hoping the title race might go to the end of April breathed a sigh of relief.
It was redemption for Mignolet, too, after his embarrassing part in Chelsea’s goal. On the final day of the last transfer window, Luiz was in the headlines with his surprise return to Stamford Bridge and he marked the close of the January sales in some style, too. Although this wasn’t about business, but pure pleasure.
There is a reason Luiz’s popularity as a footballer extends beyond Stamford Bridge. He is an entertainer, a showman, he adds to the gaiety of nations. Not too many centre halves can boast that. It is the strikers who capture the attention, usually, the jinky wingers, the magicians in midfield. Central defenders tackle, they head the ball away, they kick lumps out of folk. And Luiz can do all of that. But he does more. He takes risks, he has a go, he contrives to be a little cheeky, to play as if he is enjoying the game.
Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool’s manager, was asked prior to kick-off what his team needed to do to win. ‘We need to annoy them, be a little bit brave, play with a big heart, be angry, have fun,’ he said. All those boxes were ticked — but by Luiz.
He certainly annoyed the locals with his combative approach, he was brave, shrugging off a first-half injury, and he always plays with a big heart. He’s still a defender, mind you, so anger is never far from the surface, but the fun? It was all there in that Chelsea goal, a player not afraid to make himself the centre of attention, to risk looking a fool if the upside is becoming a hero.
There was a moment of concern for Chelsea as Luiz goes down with a knock but the goalscorer was able to run it off
England international Lallana goes down in the corner of the pitch under pressure from Belgium international Hazard
Liverpool had a glorious chance to equalise in the second half but Firmino was unable to keep his effort down
Firmino reacts with disappointment after sending the ball into Row Z
Belgium international Hazard has to skip the challenge of Matip to avoid being caught by the Liverpool centre back
Imagine if his kick had gone high and wide, or had been simply caught by Mignolet. Imagine had it gone in only to be recalled by Clattenburg. Imagine if Luiz had been ticked off and told to play to the whistle in future. He would have been mocked on all sides of Anfield. Instead, he wheeled away in celebration, Chelsea ahead against the run of play. Luiz had gambled and it paid off. Luiz scored: for fun, and for real.
Full credit to him for the technique, and for thinking quicker than the rest. When Adam Lallana brought down Eden Hazard after 25 minutes, most saw it as an opportunity to take time out to regroup and reorganise. Willian was over the ball trying to find his range, Liverpool were loosely structuring a three-man wall. In goal Mignolet was least prepared of all, back on his heels waiting for a typical set-piece, except there is little about Luiz that conforms to the typical.
So, spying an opportunity, he began his run. Whether Clattenburg spotted it and responded, or the timing of his whistle was merely a happy coincidence we cannot say, but from Luiz’s point of view it all came together perfectly. Clattenburg blew when he was three strides from the ball, meaning Liverpool were utterly unprepared for the hit.
Even so, Luiz’s aim had to be spot-on or it would not have worked. And it was. He lifted the ball over the wall and it went in off the inside of Mignolet’s right post, the goalkeeper standing bemused by developments. By the time he responded to Luiz’s ingenuity, Chelsea were bouncing for joy over by the near touchline.
And probably on the coach home, too. Even Costa, certainly Luiz.
Klopp’s men continued to search for equaliser and got the goal it when Wijnaldum headed home
Sadio Mane, who has recently returned from Africa Cup of Nations action with Senegal, comes on as a substitute
Chelsea had a great chance to regain their lead but Costa’s tame penalty was well-saved by Liverpool keeper Mignolet
Matip, who had given away the penalty after fouling Costa, celebrates after seeing his team-mate save the spot-kick
The Liverpool supporters were in fine voice prior to kick-off as the club’s manager Klopp looks on from the sideline