Two goals early in the second half ended our run of four wins since our previous visit to Merseyside when we lost by the same scoreline to Everton.
Today’s defeat was also our first against Liverpool at Anfield in 10 matches and it leaves us fourth in the table in the race for Champions League places, three points ahead of Man United who have a game in hand and four in front of Arsenal who have two games extra to play, the first of those tomorrow.
As at Everton and Cardiff in our previous two away league games, we went behind soon after the interval. The first half had been fairly balanced with neither side creating many chances. Chelsea played some good football, with both us and our opponents finding the windy conditions made matters difficult as soon as the ball was in the air.
Sadio Mane scored the opening goal with a far-post header which was followed almost immediately by a goal-of-the-season-contender of a strike from distance by Mohamed Salah.
At that moment it looked a sure-fire home win for the league leaders, but the score could very easily have become 2-2 when Eden Hazard had two chances in quick succession, the first he fired against the woodwork, the second was saved by Alisson.
Maurizio Sarri opted for Hazard as the central striker today and he continued to name Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi in his league starting line-up. This was the third time in a row.
There was just one change from the side which began the previous Premier League match, the victory over West Ham. Willian came in for Gonzalo Higuain. Liverpool made one change too from their last league game, a win at Southampton. Their captain Jordan Henderson returned to replace Georginio Wijnaldum.
There were tributes at today’s match to mark the anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster, the tragedy that took 96 lives which occurred 30 years ago tomorrow. Before the game, Chelsea directors added a wreath from the club to the others at the memorial on the outside of the stadium. Inside, there was a minute’s silence observed before kick-off.
Kepa was the first goalkeeper tested once the game was underway. With five minutes gone he made a safe claim when Salah volleyed powerfully after the home side had switched play from one side to the other and back again.
Hazard was hurt early on by a recovering tackle by Fabinho but was able to continue to plough his central furrow. Liverpool had the better of the first 15 minutes. Kepa was called upon to be sharp in making it first to a ball delivered into our six-yard box. Hudson-Odoi was the first Chelsea player to get forward with the ball for the Blues but his ball was clipped across the penalty area to no avail.
On 19 minutes, we attacked well, and Hazard twisted and turned past Joel Matip before drawing the first save out of Alisson. The Blues continued to move the ball around smoothly but were thankful when a Henderson shot was deflected wide.
Just before the half-hour came our best chance to score so far. A superb David Luiz pass released Willian to run from halfway. Liverpool defenders retreated but the Brazilian worked himself some shooting space but unfortunately blasted the ball into the Kop.
Mane did similar at the other end eight minutes later after Chelsea for once had allowed Liverpool space for a quick attack.
We then lost Toni Rudiger. He had needed treatment earlier in the game but now went down again and was helped off the pitch in pain. Andreas Christensen came on for the final five minutes of the half.
Just before the interval, Kepa made a good save not knowing that the offside flag was up as a free-kick was played in. Azpilicueta had been booked for the foul.
So were reached the break level with the Merseysiders, and could be satisfied with much of our performance.
However we were on the back foot from the off at the start of the second half and after five minutes of Liverpool pressure, the home side made the breakthrough. Emerson looked to be dealing with a ball behind him from Salah but did not quite get there. Henderson was able to send a cross over to the back stick where Mane headed in from close range.
Two minutes later we were 2-0 down, Salah striking a shot from outside the penalty area which was the very definition of unstoppable.
Liverpool were jubilant, but we came within a whisker of giving them something to think about again when an onside Hazard collected an Emerson ball but instead of going around Alisson, he took the shot early and hit the post. Unmarked a couple of minutes later, he then did not hit a shot as cleanly as he would have wished when unmarked in front of goal. Alisson saved.
We worked the ball into the Reds box again during the second half, without making any chances to match those two for the Belgian. Kepa made a couple of further saves to keep the score down, but now the pressure is on for three points at home when we play Burnley in eight days’ time (tickets are on sale for that game) before the very important trip to Old Trafford.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), Rudiger (Christensen 40), David Luiz, Emerson; Kante, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek (Barkley 75); Hudson-Odoi (Higuain 56), Hazard, Willian.
Unused subs Caballero, Kovacic, Pedro, Giroud.
Booked Azpilicueta 44
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson (c) (Milner 77), Fabinho, Keita (Wijnaldum 66), Salah (Shaqiri 89), Firmino, Mane.
Unused subs Mignolet, Lovren, Origi, Sturridge.
Scorers Mane 51, Salah 53
Referee Michael Oliver