Liverpool fell to club-record fifth consecutive Premier League home defeat with a 1-0 loss to Chelsea at Anfield.
Mason Mount’s first-half goal separated the teams in a result that could well prove a hammer blow to the Reds’ Champions League qualification prospects.
Controversy ensued when Jurgen Klopp replaced Mohamed Salah late on, despite the Egyptian looking like the host’s best chance of manufacturing a goal, with Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino — both of whose performances were well below their usual standards — both remaining on.
The performance was that of a physically and mentally jaded team, with the only attempt on target coming with ten minutes remaining via a Georginio Wijnaldum header that Edouard Mendy in the away team’s goal easily saved. Off the ball, Liverpool also looked meek and their pressing game was passive and allowed Chelsea to dictate the terms of the game.
With all of that being said, though, the Reds began the game in a decent manner. The midfield trio of Curtis Jones, Thiago, and Wijnaldum — along with some nice passes from Ozan Kabak — all showed decent flashes of play, but moves would invariably break down when the ball went near the box.
Much of the play went through Salah and the Egyptian played two sumptuous passes — to Jones and Mane — but poor first touches scuppered two of the home sides’ best opening half chances.
Chelsea, meanwhile, looked threatening with Timo Werner — so nearly a Liverpool player — spearheading their attacking, showing pace running in behind the hosts’ backline.
The German had a goal chalked off by VAR, when he appeared to be onside and he had several more efforts at goal when Liverpool and their press couldn’t prevent Jorginho and Hakim Ziyech from acting as the forward’s supply line.
Chelsea’s pressure did eventually tell close to half time, though, as Mount cut in from the left flank onto his stronger right foot and curled an effort past Alisson into the bottom right corner. No one of even the most zealous Reds’ persuasion could deny that they deserved the lead they headed into halftime with.
The second half began in the same, disjointed manner with Liverpool easily being played through by Thomas Tuchel’s men while their attacking endeavours consistently fell apart at the last moment. Poor touches and decisions hampered the Reds all night, with Mane and Firmino especially guilty.
If it wasn’t for Alisson, the Blues could easily have doubled their lead on a few occasions in the second half, with the Brazilian denying Werner with a strong save when the German tried to clip a finish over the keeper after bearing down on goal from the left-hand channel.
The Reds ought to have had a penalty when Mane’s cross hit N’golo Kante’s outstretched arm. Their performance didn’t merit a chance to draw level, but it was a terrible decision by Martin Atkinson to not even refer the incident to the video assistant referee.
Chasing a goal, Klopp — inexplicably so — replaced Salah with the returning Diogo Jota and Jones with Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. The alterations failed to have the desired impact and nor did James Milner’s introduction for Thiago.
Liverpool looked totally devoid of energy and confidence and Anfield, once a bastion of strength that wasn’t breached for 68 league games, was once again breached.
The Reds welcome Fulham on Sunday, but the biggest event on the horizon is the upcoming international break — one in which Liverpool won’t release their players, due to the pandemic laws of the country — which will provide much-needed respite to players, coaches and fans alike. This is the most tiresome season of all time.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Kabak, Fabinho, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Replacements: Jota for Salah, Milner for Thiago, Oxlade Chamberlain for Jones.
Subs not used: Adrian, N.Williams, R.Williams, Keita, Origi, Shaqiri.