Antonio Conte was delighted with the spirit shown by his players as we came from behind to earn a well-deserved point at Anfield.
At the end of a gruelling eight-day period, which began in the Midlands and concluded on Merseyside, with the small matter of a midweek trip to Azerbaijan thrown in, the Blues produced a solid display and earned a point as Willian’s late goal cancelled out Mohamed Salah’s opener.
It was no more than we deserved from a game in which we had the better of the chances, and the result extends our unbeaten Premier League run to five matches.
‘We must be pleased with the game, I think both teams played with great intensity from the start until the end,’ said Conte. ‘For us it was very difficult to play this game after long travelling and no rest for my players. Also, when you play a strong team it’s not simple, so we must be pleased because in the first half we were very solid and always dangerous in possession.
‘In the second half we created many chances to score and in our best moment we conceded the goal. We were unlucky when you see the dynamic of the goal but at the same time I was very happy to see a great reaction, great desire and a great will to not accept a bad result. We drew but we tried to win the game, so we must be pleased with the draw.’
Conte was asked about his decision to start with Danny Drinkwater, with Cesc Fabregas on the bench
‘I think when you play every three days it’s very difficult but every coach tries to make the best decision for his team, it’s important to have rotation otherwise you risk having players who are very tired, in this case Cesc.
‘He’s played every game from the start of the season because don’t forget, Bakayoko and Drinkwater were injured. We played in China and Singapore with just Kante and Cesc, and then N’Golo was injured but Cesc continued to play. He played every game, and played very well in every game, so I took this decision and it was important because when you give a new player this type of chance, in a big game, it shows the coach trusts all of his players. I can count on Drinkwater.
‘It’s very important to have four midfielders and make the decision if I want to play with three or two. The impact of the subs today was great. Willian, Fabregas and Pedro all played against Qarabag. Willian scored twice, Cesc also scored and Pedro had a really good performance. Today when I decided to make the subs, their impact was great and I want this. I want to create this atmosphere.’
The Italian also spoke about Eden Hazard, who was outstanding once again, particularly in the first half
‘At the start of the season it was full of trouble because he had an injury with the national team and we started the season without him. When you have this type of injury and you need surgery, it’s important to have the best time for your recovery.
‘Eden is now in really good form. He likes to play as a striker and there is a good link with Alvaro. For me it’s an opportunity to play with two different systems. Against Qarabag we played with a 3-4-2-1, today with a 3-5-2, but we must not lose our identity in both cases.’
Conte also explained his tactical plan for the game, and his reasons for introducing Fabregas, Willian and Pedro off the bench
‘We played in a really good way because today we had a tactical plan. For Liverpool it was very difficult to make chances to score. We prepared very well and it was a tactical decision, especially in the first half, to be very solid, and then be dangerous with the ball. In the second half we dominated the game and created many chances to score. Liverpool were lucky to score, and then to draw.
‘The first sub, I changed Danny because it was his first league game from the start, a big game, and you lose mental and physical energy, he played very well. With Cesc I wanted good quality in midfield. I changed Bakayoko for Pedro and I asked Pedro to play as a midfielder because he’s more offensive than Bakayoko. Then I brought Willian on to play with the strikers and moved Pedro to wing-back, I think it was a good idea, but even before the changes I don’t think we deserved to be 1-0 down.’