With two matches left in the season, Chelsea’s hopes of finishing in the top four are still alive after a 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
Olivier Giroud’s goal just after the half-hour mark gave Chelsea a lead they would not relinquish, thanks to a solid performance from Chelsea’s defence that was very reminiscent of performances from last season.
It is hard to imagine that Liverpool’s players were at 100% after their exertions in Rome midweek, but it was the visitors that started off the better team.
Roberto Firmino had the game’s first chance just three minutes in when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s dinked pass through the right-hand channel sent the striker clear to force a smart save from Thibault Courtois.
Chelsea seemed content to sit deeper in order to deny Liverpool space in behind, but it meant that Liverpool dominated possession for much of the first half.
When Chelsea did go forward, there was always the threat of a counter attack from Liverpool, and twice on the counter, Sadio Mane was able to create a couple of chances.
First, Alexander-Arnold intercepted a header from Marcos Alonso and found Mane in space in the centre of goal. Mane let the ball run to his left foot and unleashed a shot from 25 yards that Courtois had to push around the post.
Minutes later, Andy Robertson intercepted a loose pass from Giroud and fed Mane through the middle to start a counter. Mane raced through and fired another shot from 20 yards that Courtois could only parry. Firmino was first to the loose ball and cut it back for Mane, but his first touch was slightly heavy and he could only toe-poke the ball for Courtois to gather.
Then on 32 minutes, Chelsea got the breakthrough. Tiemoue Bakayoko played a wonderful cross-field ball for Victor Moses on the right. Moses got the better of Robertson and dug out a cross with his left foot that took a slight deflection off the head of Mane. Despite the deflection, Giroud was quickest to react, and glanced a wonderful looping header just inside the far post that left Loris Karius stranded.
Chelsea could have been 2-0 up just minutes later when Eden Hazard slipped cute ball through to Cesc Fabregas, but he fired a ball wide across the face of goal with no one able to reach the ball for a tap-in.
Hazard was Liverpool’s main tormentor and just after half-time, initiated a move that should have given Chelsea a 2-0 lead. Holding off a challenge from Alexander-Arnold, Hazard found Fabregas near the top of the 18-yard box. Fabregas kept the ball long enough to find Moses sprinting forward on the right. Moses hits his cross with enough pace to be a shot and evades everyone.
Hazard continued to give Alexander-Arnold a tough time on the right, this time dancing through half of the Liverpool defence and his shot from a tight angle forced Karius to make a tough save, and Robertson’s mishit clearance very nearly ended up in his own net.
Alonso almost scored a goal that would be talked about for years when his perfect volley from just inside the left side of the penalty area just flew inches wide.
Dominic Solanke made his return to Stamford Bridge and had two chances to bring Liverpool level. First, Dejan Lovren sent in a cross from deep that found Solanke on the penalty spot, but Solanke couldn’t get enough power on it to trouble Courtois.
Then in stoppage time, Liverpool’s final chance came when Mane’s cross from the right was headed over by Solanke who was under pressure from Antonio Rüdiger.