Ten-man Chelsea suffered defeat at home to the reigning Premier League champions for the first time in 18 years, Liverpool capitalising on their numerical advantage after the break to leave the Bridge with all the points.
The Blues had been more than a match for their visitors, a regular threat on the break, but when Andreas Christensen was given his marching orders for a last-man foul on the stroke of half-time, our task became a lot harder against a side adept at taking advantage of space. You have to go back to Tiemoue Bakayoko’s dismissal at Watford in February 2018, 89 games ago, to find our last red card in the league prior to today.
Two Sadio Mane goals inside the opening nine minutes of the second period effectively ended the contest, although things might have been different had Jorginho converted a penalty the electric dribbling of Timo Werner had again forced with a little over 15 minutes remaining. It rounded off a day when things just hadn't gone our way.
The next league outing is at West Brom on Saturday, before which we host Barnsley in the Carabao Cup.
Frank Lampard made a solitary change to the side that started at Brighton in our first game, with last season’s Player of the Year winner Mateo Kovacic returning in midfield after serving a one-match suspension. Ruben Loftus-Cheek made way.
Liverpool were without Joe Gomez so Fabinho dropped back into the heart of their defence. Their new signing Thiago Alcantara was on the bench.
Chelsea started the game with Havertz in a central striking position and Werner wide left, looking to exploit the space behind Trent Alexander-Arnold. He managed to do just that on a couple of occasions early on, although with no tangible end product.
It was a competitive if not compelling opening quarter-of-an-hour, at the end of which Liverpool mustered their first meaningful attack. Kepa was drawn out of his goal only to be beaten to the ball by Mohamed Salah, whose square pass from the touchline was hit goalwards by Roberto Firmino. Christensen was in the right place to make an excellent block.
The match began to open up. Salah dribbled inside with customary danger and again it was Christensen in the way of the shot. Kovacic instantly launched a counter-attack, feeding Werner who was held up by Fabinho before being crowded out on the edge of the box. From a deeper position, Kovacic then came so close to picking out the run of Mount behind the Reds’ backline.
Shortly after the half-hour we had our first shot in anger, Werner drilling wide from 20 yards having done well to win a 50-50. At the other end, Salah fired across goal and thankfully there was nobody in red to touch it in.
It was a similar story when Havertz whipped in an inviting free-kick with half-time approaching, not met by anyone in blue but worthy of sustained applause from Lampard and the Blues subs behind him.
Cheers turned to gasps when Christensen, hitherto impressive, bundled Sadio Mane over as Liverpool broke at speed. The referee’s initial decision was to give the Dane a yellow card, perhaps with Kepa's position near the action in mind. Having having checked the pitchside monitor, however, he upgraded it to red, deciding Christensen was the last man. The foul had taken place outside the box, and with the last kick of the half, Alexander-Arnold curled the resulting free-kick over.
Lampard’s half-time solution was to bring Fikayo Tomori on for Havertz, move Werner into a more central role, and get Mason Mount operating off him while also providing support to the midfield three. For Liverpool, Thiago replaced Henderson, who had supplied the defence-splitting pass that caused Christensen bother.
Our resistance lasted five minutes. With Chelsea stretched, Liverpool worked an opening down their right and Firmino delivered a cross Mane nodded into the corner from six yards out.
The Senegalese attacker had an even simpler task four minutes later after he intercepted a Kepa pass aimed at Jorginho stationed inside the box, sliding the ball into the corner with half the goal to aim at. Any plans the Blues had to keep it tight with 10 men had gone up in smoke.
Kepa stopped the visitors making it three on 65 minutes, keeping out Georginio Wijnaldum’s low strike with his feet. In front of the Matthew Harding Stand, Mount then curled not far over.
Paying the penalty
The Blues began showing more signs of life in the final third, and were rewarded when Werner drew a foul from Thiago at the end of a dazzling run across the box. Seventeen minutes remained but any hopes of a fightback surely ended when Jorginho’s penalty was kept out by Alisson, diving to his left. It was the Italian international’s first failure in Chelsea blue from 12 yards, excluding shoot-outs, but the incident again highlighted the threat Werner will pose this term.
Werner then fed sub Tammy Abraham who drew a fine stop from Alisson, low to his left, as time ran out. Chelsea did not go down without a fight, and Kepa made two good late saves, but it was the damage done either side of the interval that decided our opening home game of the season, and condemned us to defeat against the champions in SW6 for the first time since Manchester United won 3-0 here in 2002.
Home run over
Defeat also brings to an end our excellent streak of six straight home victories in which just a solitary goal, Kevin De Bruyne's free-kick in June, was conceded. It is a shame we will not know how the match would have panned out with 11 against 11, as we were right in it up until the red card.
The Blues are back at the Bridge on Wednesday for our first cup action of the campaign, Barnsley the visitors for a Carabao Cup third round tie.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; James, Christensen, Zouma, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho (c) (Abraham 79), Kovacic (Barkley 79); Mount, Havertz (Tomori h/t), Werner.
Unused subs Caballero, Azpilicueta, Hudson-Odoi, Giroud.
Sent off Christensen 45+1
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Fabinho, Robertson; Keita (Milner 64), Henderson (c), Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino (Minamino 86), Mane.
Unused subs Adrian, Tsimikas, Jones, Origi.
Scorer Mane 50, 54
Referee Paul Tierney