Chelsea and Liverpool played out a pulsating 2-2 Premier League draw at Stamford Bridge on Sunday in one of the games of the season.
The visitors had stormed to a two-goal lead through Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, only for Thomas Tuchel's side to haul themselves level thanks to Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic strikes before half-time.
The talk at kick-off had been about who was not playing in London. Tuchel had made the huge call to drop record signing Romelu Lukaku after the Belgian's critical comments about the Chelsea manager's playing system in an interview with Sky Italia. “The thing got too big and too noisy,” said the German before the game.
Liverpool were missing goalkeeper Alisson Becker, centre-back Joel Matip and attacker Roberto Firmino — as well as manager Jurgen Klopp — due to a Covid-19 outbreak at the Merseyside club.
But those that were on the pitch made it a game to remember from the first whistle to the last. A relentless first half almost saw the defining moment in the first 10 seconds. Mane was booked for banging his arm into Cesar Azpilicueta’s face jumping for a high ball, when the challenge could so easily have been a red card.
Trevoh Chalobah’s loose header let Salah in only for Edouard Mendy to palm impressively away, and then Pulisic lingered too long in a one-on-one to allow Alisson’s understudy Caoimhin Kelleher to tap clear.
The struggling Chalobah saw no reprieve from his second botched header however, with Mane latching on to the loose ball and slotting home.
Salah doubled the visitors’ lead inside the half-hour to put Liverpool seemingly in total control. Antonio Rudiger stepped up tight on Salah only for Liverpool to work the Egyptian into a one-on-one with Marcos Alonso. The free-scoring forward breezed through and then delivered a deft disguised finish to beat Mendy at his near post.
Chalobah conjured a last-ditch sliding tackle to thwart the rampaging Salah in another Reds raid. And Mason Mount was left to breathe easy when VAR opted against a red card following a tussle with Kostas Tsimikas.
But suddenly, from a maelstrom of mistakes and mishaps, Chelsea battled their way back to parity. Alonso’s whipped free-kick forced Kelleher to parry to the edge of the area, where the lurking Kovacic adjusted his feet superbly to lash into the net.
The Croatia midfielder hopped on his left foot to create the first-time strike, and the reward had Stamford Bridge in a spin. A spurious VAR check for offside had an angry Tuchel booting a drinks bucket on the touchline but the goal stood and Chelsea were off the canvas.
Just four minutes later they were level, Pulisic racing on to N’Golo Kante’s chipped ball to dab past Kelleher with a fine first-touch finish.
Both sides looked desperate to win the match before the interval, with the atmosphere whipped up into a frenzy.
The clash still continued to captivate after the break. Mendy somehow back-pedalled quickly enough to tip away a long-range Salah strike, before palming away another Mane effort.
Chelsea settled though, and Pulisic drew a smart stop from Kelleher after Mount failed to connect with a near-post cross.
The draw leaves Chelsea second in the table, 10 points adrift of leaders Manchester City, while Liverpool are a point further back in third but with a game in hand on both of the sides above them.