Despite a high-scoring defeat tonight at Anfield, the Blues know a draw in our final game of the league season at home to Wolves will be enough for Champions League qualification.
In our last away Premier League outing of the drawn-out 2019/20 season, we conceded three first-half goals scored by Naby Keita, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Georginio Wijnaldum, and although Oliver Giroud pulled one back before the interval, Roberto Firmino headed in during the second half to make it 4-1.
At that stage of a very open encounter, it looked like the game was definitely up for the Blues but substitutes Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic scored to make it interesting before a Liverpool sub, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, finished off a counter-attack to ensure the win for the home side, who after the final whistle lifted the Premier League trophy they won earlier in the restart.
Despite the three goals conceded, we were not outplayed in the first half and the second goal came from a free-kick that was justifiably disputed, but the first and third strikes by the new champions could have been better defended.
The goals were shared in the second half, with Roberto Firmino’s first league strike at Anfield this season followed by Abraham’s 17th of the season in all games for Chelsea, a goal that owed much to the skill of Christian Pulisic. And it was our in-form American international who scored on the turn to close the deficit to 4-3. We were pressing for an important equaliser when caught out on the break with six minutes left on the clock for the final goal of the game.
Chelsea knew shortly before kick-off that instead of the win needed at the start of the day, one draw in our remaining two games would now take us into next season’s Champions League. That was because Manchester United had dropped two points at home to West Ham in the day’s earlier game.
Punished in the first 45
After a start to our game at Anfield in which we had more of the ball, the first opening was ours when Reece James delivered a cross. It might have been intended for Giroud at the back stick but the connection came from Mason Mount in front of the near post. From a difficult position, the weekend Wembley scorer’s header went over.
Liverpool asked for a penalty early in the game after they moved the ball around quickly deep in our half for the first real time, but neither Andre Marriner on the pitch nor VAR were interested. Mo Salah was the player who had gone down.
James, again playing right-wing back as Frank Lampard stuck with the formation that had beaten Man U, was the next to go for goal for Chelsea but from the edge of area, he was off-target.
The Blues were reaching the first drinks break all-square at 0-0 and were certainly looking the equals of this season’s champions in this particular game, but just before that pause we conceded when Keita rifled in an unstoppable shot. Willian had initially intercepted deep in our half but then lost the ball and having taken one touch, the Guinean smashed it in from 20 yards.
That gave Liverpool a boost and Chelsea had to do more defending. At the other end Mount played on and did the right thing in putting the ball in the Kop End net when he was sent through in an offside position, but VAR confirmed the goal should not stand.
Liverpool’s second goal came with 37 minutes on the clock and we had every right to feel hard done by this time. It looked a fair challenge by Mateo Kovacic on Sadio Mane but instead a free-kick was awarded in a dangerous position. Alexander-Arnold beat the wall with a curling free-kick and scored.
The third goal came shortly before half-time and it was another powerful strike, this time by Wijnaldum, when our familiar failing at corners manifested itself. There was a chance to clear, it wasn’t taken, and the Dutch international scored from 12 yards.
Olivier keeps his scoring run going
Some hope was restored when Giroud made it 3-1 moments before half-time. We scrambled the ball in from our left, Willian had a shot saved, but the ball looped up for Giroud to score from point-blank range. The Frenchman has now registered seven goals in his nine Premier League starts in 2020. He also now has eight goals against Liverpool for Arsenal and Chelsea.
Open game after the break
Early in the second half, Salah could have restored Liverpool’s three goal cushion but missed by a very long way. However Firmino did make it 4-1 when he got in front of our defence to meet a well-delivered Alexander-Arnold cross.
Lampard responded with a triple substitution and two of those players introduced did not hang around in reducing the deficit to 4-2. Christian Pulisic showed outstanding balanced as he wormed his way through the Liverpool defence before squaring to Abraham to find the Anfield Road End goal from five yards out.
Unfortunately, the American could not keep a shot on target soon after that assist, having pulled a ball out of the air, but with 72 minutes played Pulisic did score to make it 4-3 and keep the game very much alive.
The other of the three subs brought on had a hand in that goal, Callum Hudson-Odoi crossing. Pulisic controlled the ball with back to goal, swivelled and gave Alisson no chance with his shot.
This game was certainly entertaining but when Liverpool sprung forward at pace after a Chelsea free-kick delivered by James was cleared from their penalty area and Oxlade-Chamberlain scored, it was game over.
There was no surprise to see Frank Lampard stick with the same formation and almost all the team that had performed so well when beating Manchester United at Wembley three days earlier. Kepa returning in goal was the only change. Liverpool, off the back of their defeat at Arsenal, also made one change with Naby Keita in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
So it all goes down to the last day. The final Premier League match of the season is on Sunday – at Stamford Bridge at 4pm. Tonight’s results means we have to wait a little longer to find out if we will compete in the Champions League next season. But a draw will be enough. A Man United win over Leicester in their final game against each other will also be enough for a Chelsea top-four finish.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), Zouma, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso (Emerson 87); Willian (Hudson-Odoi 59), Giroud (Abraham 59), Mount (Pulisic 59).
Unused subs Caballero, Christensen, Tomori, Loftus-Cheek, Pedro.
Scorers Giroud 45+3, Abraham 61, Pulisic 73
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk (c), Robertson, Keita (Jones 66), Fabinho, Wijnaldum (Milner 66), Salah (Oxlade-Chamberlain 78), Firmino (Origi 87), Mane (Minamino 87).
Unused subs Adrian, Lovren, Lallana, Shaqiri.
Scorers Keita 23, Alexander-Arnold 38, Wijnaldum 43, Firmino 55, Oxlade-Chamberlain 84
Booked Gomez 83
Referee Andre Marriner