David Luiz’s first goal since returning to Chelsea earned us a point at Anfield after a well-contested encounter on Merseyside.
It might have been all three had Diego Costa converted a penalty following Georginio Wijnaldum’s second-half equaliser, but on a night when our two nearest challengers failed to win this still felt like a very satisfying result indeed.
It was a gritty, sometimes end-to-end affair lit up by David Luiz’s brilliant 24th-minute free-kick on the day he reached a century of Premier League appearances for the club. Wijnaldum headed Liverpool level after the break and then Mignolet denied Diego Costa from 12 yards so it finished all-square.
Arsenal, who lost at home to Watford tonight, are up next.
Willian was preferred to Pedro alongside Diego Costa and Eden Hazard but otherwise it was the same XI that started against Hull.
Sadio Mane was included on Liverpool’s bench having recently returned from Africa Cup of Nations duty, while Joel Matip returned in place of Ragnar Klavan.
Attacking the Kop, it was Liverpool who began the brighter, enjoying 87 per cent of possession in the opening quarter-of-an-hour. That didn’t translate into a great deal of danger for us in front of goal, though Georginio Wijnaldum did sting Thibaut Courtois’ palms with a 20-yarder.
A couple of useful-looking counter-attacks signalled the start of our attacking intent, and it wasn’t long until we took the lead in the Anfield drizzle.
Hazard was felled a good 25 yards from goal, left of centre. It appeared Willian was going to send a cross over, but instead David Luiz pounced on a hesitant Liverpool wall and keeper to dip a free-kick in off the post. The element of surprise and the immaculate execution did the trick. Twenty-four minutes had been played.
David Luiz nearly doubled his and our tally stretching to get on the end of a free-kick that was swung over by Willian, and the defender was in the thick of the action at the other end, too, defending stoutly and at one point picking up a knock for his troubles. Happily, his landmark appearance didn’t end prematurely.
The story from then until half-time must have felt familiar to those home supporters attending their fourth game here in 10 days. Klopp’s men had plenty of the ball but little to show for it as the Blues adequately dealt with everything thrown our way while remaining threatening on the break. Would that pattern continue when play restarted?
It took only three minutes for Liverpool to create comfortably their best opening so far after we lost possession deep in enemy territory. Hazard tracked back excellently to thwart Clyne but the loose ball ran kindly to an unmarked Roberto Firmino. He fluffed his lines from 12 yards out, scooping his effort wide and high of a relieved Courtois.
Moses struck the outside of the post from a tight angle after winning a 50-50 with Milner, and then Willian opted against shooting after more good work from Hazard.
The next attack produced the game’s second goal, and it went Liverpool’s way. Henderson chipped a cross over the right side of our defence allowing Milner to head into our six-yard box. It glanced off Moses into Wijnaldum’s path, and he nodded past Courtois.
Liverpool’s intensity and pressing increased with some confidence clearly restored. Chelsea needed to stay strong.
Pedro came on for Hazard with 20 minutes left and Mane followed him on to the pitch soon after.
Diego Costa had the perfect chance to put us back ahead from the spot on 76 minutes but Mignolet guessed correctly – low to his right – and kept the penalty out. The striker’s direct running and skill had earned it, Matip the offender.
The contest only became more frenzied as we entered the final stages, long passages of possession proving few and far between. Cesc Fabregas was brought on to try and stabilise proceedings from our perspective – to good effect.
Pedro twice nearly won it very late on, denied first by a covering Henderson tackle and then whistling a left-footer just wide. In front of the travelling Chelsea support, Firmino headed straight at Courtois with what would prove the final meaningful action.
It is our first draw since Swansea in September but the feeling is certainly different this time after another test passed.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Willian (Fabregas 83), Diego Costa (Batshuayi 90+4), Hazard (Pedro 72).
Unused subs Begovic, Terry, Zouma, Chalobah.
Scorer David Luiz 24
Booked Willian 79
Liverpool (4-3-3): Mignolet; Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner; Wijnaldum, Henderson (c), Can; Lallana (Origi 90), Firmino, Coutinho (Mane 75).
Unused subs Karius, Klavan, Moreno, Lucas, Sturridge, Origi.
Scorer Wijnaldum 57
Booked Henderson 45, Milner 57
Referee Mark Clattenburg