Saturday’s match against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge was seen as the first real test for Chelsea under Maurizio Sarri. If anything was learned from the 1-1 draw, it’s that Sarri’s Chelsea are much further along than anyone could imagine after the first seven matches.
Eden Hazard’s clinical first half strike was cancelled out by a stunning goal from Daniel Sturridge in the second half, and both Sarri and Jurgen Klopp will see positives coming from this match as both teams performed very well.
On evidence, it will take some team to cope with the tempo that both Liverpool and Chelsea set. This match was played at an extremely quick tempo, and Liverpool seemed much more comfortable with the tempo early on.
Mohamed Salah should have had Liverpool up 1-0 within 11 minutes when he held off Jorginho and cut inside on to his favoured left foot. A year ago, Salah would have likely picked out the top corner, but on this occasion, he bloated his effort well high and well wide of the Chelsea goal.
Liverpool were given warning signs of Chelsea’s threat on the counter when David Luiz played a brilliant ball over the top of the Liverpool defence to Willian. As Willian took the ball down and headed for goal, Alisson rushed off his line and smothered Willian’s shot excellently.
Despite the warning, Chelsea took the lead through another counter attack. From near the centre circle, Hazard laid off a pass to Mateo Kovacic before spinning in behind Trent Alexander-Arnold. Kovacic exchanged passes with Jorginho before sliding a ball through to send Hazard clear on goal.
Given Hazard’s form, it’s no surprise that his left-footed drive nestled inside the far post just beyond the fingertips of Alisson, and Chelsea had the 1-0 lead.
Salah should have equalised again minutes later when Roberto Firmino exposed space between the Chelsea centre backs to send Salah through on goal. Kepa Arrizabalaga forced Salah to go around him, and with the angle tightening, Salah’s clipped effort was cleared off the line by Antonio Rudiger.
Arrizabalaga showed his shot-stopping ability on the hour mark with a great save from a Sadio Mane shot. Firmino found Mane just inside the penalty area, and Mane found just enough space to sweep a shot towards goal. The ball took a slight deflection, but Arrizabalaga was agile enough to change directions and get a right hand to the ball to tip it around the post.
Chelsea nearly pressed home the advantage after that save from a quick bit of thinking by N’Golo Kante. Salah was whistled for a foul near the halfway line, and while everyone seemed to stop in order to complain, Kante took a quick free kick to Hazard. With nothing but green grass in front of him, he saw his shot saved by the legs of Alisson.
Liverpool seemed to step it up another gear, and it was all Liverpool for the final 30 minutes. Xherdan Shaqiri should have scored when Andrew Robertson’s cross evaded the Chelsea defence, but Shaqiri got his angles all wrong and almost shinned the ball wide of the goal on the slide.
David Luiz was forced to clear off the line from a Firmino header after James Milner picked out Firmino at the end of the six-yard box. Firmino leaped and headed downward towards goal, but Luiz was quick to read the header and hack it off the line.
Sturridge came on as a late substitute, but his 89th minute strike finally brought Liverpool an equaliser. From 25 yards out, Sturridge replicated his effort from Wednesday night and curled the ball with his left foot towards the top corner. This time his shot found the back of the net rather than the cross bar, giving Liverpool the goal they deserved.
But Marcos Alonso could have won the match for Chelsea with the last kick of the game when he headed over the bar from a Chelsea corner.