Liverpool go back to the top of the table and get another tricky fixture out of the way. They blew Chelsea away at the start of the second half, when Sadio Mane and Mo Salah scored in the space of three minutes. Salah’s explosive drive has already gone into Anfield folklore.
Chelsea did plenty of good things, but they picked the wrong team and then Eden Hazard missed two excellent chances to make it 2-1 and give Anfield the heebie-jeebies. It’s a big blow to their hopes of finishing in the top four.
90 min Three minutes.
89 min An electric bit of play from Mane, who roars past Christensen and smacks a rising shot that is pawed behind by Kepa. Before the corner is taken, Xherdan Shaqiri comes on to replace Mo Salah, whose memorable heatseeker ensured victory for Liverpool.
87 min Kepa comes out of his area to meet an up and under from van Dijk, makes a Horlicks of his attempted clearance under pressure from Mane, and is a bit fortunate to see the ball drift behind for a goalkick.
86 min Chelsea’s race is run. They have played better today than during those pitiful defeats at Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester City, but they couldn’t cope when Liverpool increased the tempo for 10 minutes at the start of the second half. That has been the difference.
84 min “That Salah goal,” says Niall Mullen, “reminded me of something.”
Yes, Jamie Carragher made the same comparison on Sky. I suppose Salah’s was a more spectacular finish, because of the way it rose into the top corner, but I prefer Fowler’s goal overall because of the skill that preceded it.
83 min Liverpool win a couple of corners in quick succession. They are very comfortable the noo.
81 min “All this talk of Liverpool fans being somehow different,” says Niall Mullen, “is not really dampening my sense of Liverpool exceptionalism.”
80 min A stinging shot on the turn by Firmino is well held by the diving Kepa. Chelsea scraper down the other end, where Hazard’s ball into the six-yard area is kicked behind by Alexander-Arnold.
78 min “The smiley was for you,” says Andrew Hurley, “to indicate I’m not irate!”
Ah, a-hem. Now, about those exclamation marks…
76 min A substitution apiece. Ross Barkley replaces the disappointing Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and James Milner comes on for the excellent Jordan Henderson.
74 min Liverpool are playing on the counter-attack now, which makes sense in the circumstances. Salah leads a four-on-three break and finds Henderson, whose cross from the byline is over the head of Mane at the far post.
71 min Alexander-Arnold, still on the left after taking a corner, Cruyff turns sweetly past Higuain before driving a low shot straight at Kepa. I have no idea what position he’ll end up in, because he has such ability. He’s almost too good to be a full-back, even in a post-Pep world.
70 min “Matt Dony not really on the point I think – United, Chelsea fans etc during their better years were nowhere near the righteous levels of Liverpool fans in their barren years,” says Andrew Hurley. “This feeling of being superior fans is unsettling, as it implies something not right to need to want to be seen by others in such a light. The question is though – why does it bother everyone else!?! :)”
I’ll tell you what bothers me: smileys.
69 min Hazard has been a constant menace since moving to the left. Who knew?
68 min Liverpool have started to calm the game down after that madcap 10 minutes, when they were almost too emotional to function.
67 min “David Dein, with the sentiments I expected in answer to Andrew Hurley’s question,” says Matt Dony. “It’s a line of reasoning I’ve heard a lot recently. I can only assume that no one remembers meeting a United fan during the peak Fergie years. ‘Insufferable’ barely scratches the surface. And, yes, I freely admit I will be a tiny, tiny bit smug if Liverpool win the league. But, no more so than, say, Chelsea fans who suddenly appeared during Jose’s first stint. Anyway, it’s all moot. Liverpool winning today will just make the final day, when City confirm the title, even more sickening.”
66 min Liverpool make a substitution, with Gio Wijnaldum replacing Naby Keita.
65 min Salah draws a decent save from Kepa with a drive towards the near post.
64 min “In answer to David Dein, just this,” begins Hubert O’Hearn. “Piers Morgan. Now, you were saying something about insufferable fans?”
Just let me go and get the popcorn.
63 min It’s all Chelsea at the moment. What a strange game. If Chelsea get one, it will be squeaky-bum time in excelsis.
62 min “If Liverpool do win the league opposition fans are convinced that we are going to be a nightmare,” says Niall Mullen. “I will be a nightmare. I’m gonna come around all your houses, steal your shoes and make you sit an exam for which you’re completely unprepared.”
61 min After a cagey first half, this is turning into a slugfest. Azpilicueta breaks into the area and slides a ball right across the six-yard box. It was begging to be finished.
60 min: Another great chance for Hazard! Willian had loads of space on the right and curled a superb ball into the middle. Hazard got behind the defence and dragged a first-time shot that was smartly saved by the diving Alisson. He didn’t quite get hold of it, though it was a difficult ball to take first time because it bounced just in front of him.
59 min: Hazard hits the post! A Chelsea corner was cleared to the halfway line, where Emerson drove a speculative ball back over the top. Hazard, who was just onside, took the ball down beautifully on the run and slipped it through the outrushing Alisson’s legs – but it bounced off the face of the near post.
59 min “As a Gooner I can tell you why so many, myself included, do not want Liverpool to win the league,” says David Dein. “I have nothing but the utmost respect for the club’s achievements, they were absolutely fantastic throughout the 70s and 80s. An absolute joy to watch. Their fanbase, however, are insufferable. The idea of millions of gloating Scousers with zero sense of perspective does not bear thinking about. Come on Chelsea!”
57 min Firmino almost comes to the party, cracking a superb low shot just wide from 20 yards.
56 min Gonzalo Higuain replaces Callum Hudson-Odoi for Chelsea. It’s a change that needed to be made about eight minutes ago.
55 min It’s probably fair to surmise that Jurgen Klopp gave good half-time teamtalk, because Liverpool have been electric in the second half.
What a goal! What an effing goal! Van Dijk drives a pass out to Salah on the right. He controls it, cuts infield and arrows a spectacular shot from 25 yards that explodes past Kepa and into the top corner.
Mo Salah has scored an absolute screamer!!
53 min Jordan Henderson has had a very good few weeks since his change of role, and that was a glorious cross.
What a good goal that was. Salah played a one-two with Firmino, ignored a woolly tackle from Emerson and found Henderson in the area. He danced around the outside and stood up a gorgeous cross to the far post. It was a certain goal even before it reached the head of Mane, and he nodded it into an open net from four yards.
It’s been coming!
50 min Chelsea are struggling to get out of their half. If I was Maurizio Sarri – spoiler: I’m not – I would hook Hudson-Odoi, who has been peripheral at best, and bring on a striker so that Hazard can move out to the left.
49 min A long throw is headed clear to the edge of the area, where Keita sends a volley into orbit. Liverpool have started the second half well, though.
48 min Deep down, Liverpool know a draw today isn’t enough. One way or another, this is going to be a tumultuous 45 minutes.
47 min “Why do so many people want Liverpool NOT to win the league?” says Andrew Hurley. “(When you consider they are against a moneybags outfit, it’s interesting.)”
I suspect a lot of people still haven’t got over the 1980s.
46 min Peep peep! Chelsea begin the second half.
Peep peep! Chelsea will be the happier team after a first half of few chances. The best was probably Mo Salah’s early volley, which he hit too close to Kepa. See you in 10 minutes for the second half.
45+1 min Three minutes of added time.
45 min A wicked inswinging free-kick from Alexander-Arnold on the left is touched towards goal by Firmino, and Kepa saves with his feet. It wouldn’t have counted as Firmino was fractionally offside. But it was a stunning ball in from Alexander-Arnold.
44 min Mane scampers past Azpilicueta, who pulls him back and is booked.
41 min “Hi Rob,” says Lee Madden. “It’s easy to see what Chelsea’s game plan is here – hold Liverpool at arm’s length and hit them on the counter. The thing is, is this really much different to what Conte did in away games last year? They’ve played well, but this is not an approach likely to be successful over the whole game. Liverpool have too much quality up front and you’d expect them to take one of the two or three chances their wide forwards will get…”
40 min Rudiger is helped from the field, unable to put any weight on his left leg. Christensen replaces him.
39 min Rudiger is down again, and it looks like he’ll need to go off. Andreas Christensen is getting ready.
38 min Saying which, Mane almost gives Liverpool the lead. Salah scurried infield from the right and stabbed a good pass towards Mane, who whipped a first-time shot wide of the near post from 12 yards. It was a decent chance, but he couldn’t wrap his foot around the ball sufficiently to curl it inside the near post.
37 min Liverpool’s attacking play has been a bit ponderous, certainly by their standards. Chelsea have been fairly comfortable defensively.
36 min Liverpool are going to need yet another late winner, aren’t they?
34 min Another dangerous counter-attack from Chelsea comes to nothing. This time Loftus-Cheek takes too long and loses the ball in the D.
32 min A brilliant piece of play from Salah, who gives Emerson twisted blood before his cross is headed away at the near post by David Luiz.
30 min Willian wastes a good chance for Chelsea. He led a counter-attack after being found by a fantastic pass from David Luiz (I think he meant it), and ran all the way to the edge of the area before dancing across the line of the 18-yard box and slashing a shot wide of goal. He had Hazard alongside him and should probably have passed it.
29 min This is a good spell for Liverpool, with Chelsea pinned back in their own half for the last few minutes.
26 min Lovely play from Liverpool. Fabinho clips a pass forward to Salah, who nods it down perfectly for the supporting Henderson on the edge of the box. He lashes a shot across goal that hits the outstretched leg of David Luiz and goes behind for a corner.
24 min Chelsea are having an even share of the game now. It’s all a bit cagey, as if each team is waiting for the other to blink.
23 min It looks like Rudiger will be able to continue.