Klopp’s direct approach works as Lovren and Henderson power Liverpool to memorable Premier League win over Chelsea
Lovren 17’, Henderson 36’
Man of the match Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
LONDON // It was not the most subtle of approaches. Jurgen Klopp, standing on the centre circle with his arms folded and his unblinking eyes focused straight ahead, spent around 20 minutes observing Chelsea’s pre-match warm-up ahead of kick-off on Friday night.
It might have been a bid to intimidate the hosts’ players, or perhaps an audacious attempt to gather some potentially vital tactical information. Whatever the motive, it may just have worked.
On the balance of play, Liverpool deserved their 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge, with Klopp’s men sharper in attack and sturdier at the back for much of this heavyweight head-to-head clash. After a strong start to the season, Antonio Conte’s Chelsea were brought back down to earth with a bump.
Liverpool set the tone in the early stages, circulating the ball crisply and forcing Chelsea into numerous errors with their typically fast and ferocious pressing. David Luiz, making his first appearance since returning to west London in the summer, looked particularly vulnerable as he misplaced three passes inside the opening seven minutes, while midfield anchor N’Golo Kante was also guilty of some sloppy distribution.
Georginio Wijnaldum and Daniel Sturridge both tested Thibaut Courtois in the Chelsea goal before Dejan Lovren gave the visitors the lead in the 17th minute, the centre-back sweeping home Philippe Coutinho’s cross from the left as Chelsea were caught out by a quickly-taken free-kick. It was no less than Liverpool deserved.
The goal did, to an extent, spark the hosts into life, but they still struggled to create meaningful scoring chances. Liverpool, happy to stand off and sit a little deeper in the knowledge that they were simultaneously opening up space for the counter, were never unduly troubled, with Chelsea’s final ball leaving a lot to be desired.
The home fans sensed a slight improvement when a spell of pressure around the half-hour mark forced a few corners and free-kicks, but things would get worse before they got better. Jordan Henderson, seemingly without a second thought in his mind, bent a stunning strike into the top corner of the net shortly after, leaving Chelsea with a two-goal disadvantage and a mountain to climb.
Cesc Fabregas’s absence from the starting line-up had not really been felt before this encounter, but Conte’s side’s first-half performance showed he still has a part to play this term. The Italian may favour the more energetic and mobile Oscar, but Fabregas’s measured passing was sorely missed as Chelsea wilted in the face of their opponents’ relentless hustling.
There was still no place in the team for the Spaniard when play resumed after the interval, though, Conte opting to keep faith with the eleven players whom he had selected from the start. Chelsea certainly looked more dangerous as they attacked the Matthew Harding Stand in the second period, with Diego Costa halving the deficit and raising the decibel levels when he converted from Matic’s chipped cut-back.
All of a sudden, Liverpool looked rattled. Eden Hazard looked lively with his direct dribbling as Costa went close again, but Chelsea ultimately did not do enough in their search for an equaliser. Liverpool regained their shape and their composure after a whirlwind few minutes, with Conte’s charges unable to break down their opponents once the match had settled down again.
Fabregas eventually entered the fray in the 84th minute, with compatriot Pedro and Victor Moses also introduced in a rare triple change. It was, however, a case of too little, too late for Chelsea, who could not find a decisive late goal for the fourth time this season.
Liverpool, meanwhile, have now collected seven points from trips to London to face Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, an extremely impressive return which bodes well for the campaign ahead. Klopp’s approach has invigorated supporters and ignited hope of a title challenge. It may not be subtle but it is certainly working.
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Published: September 17, 2016 04:00 AM