Christopher Nkunku marked his return to action with a goal at Anfield, but it was just a consolation as Chelsea suffered a painful defeat to Liverpool.

It was a tough night for Chelsea away at Liverpool. We had brief spells of promise in the game but in truth they were only occasional and we struggled to create chances, while allowing our opponents too many.

We were 2-0 down by half-time as we were punished by Diogo Jota and Conor Bradley. There was an element of controversy in both goals, but there was also a let-off when Darwin Nunez missed a penalty.

A triple substitution at half-time livened us up, but Liverpool got a third through Dominik Szoboszlai before Christopher Nkunku found the net with fine solo effort in one of the few bright spots for the travelling Blues supporters.

Luis Diaz made the final score 4-1 from close range, but there was one last glimpse of future potential when young midfielder Cesare Casadei came off the bench to make his senior Chelsea debut.

It was a fairly high-tempo opening to the game as the ball repeatedly bypassed midfield in a series of quick attacks at either end. Chelsea’s part in that resulted in an early shout for a penalty when Conor Gallagher went down under a Virgil Van Dijk challenge. There was contact, but VAR decided it was not enough after a very quick check.

It was certainly a hostile atmosphere for the Blues, who were whistled by the home fans throughout every second of possession. Unfortunately there was less whistling to hear around Anfield as the first half wore on, with most of the game being played in our half of the pitch, while we launched the occasional breakout on the counter with our front three.

Djordje Petrovic then produced the first of a few brilliant saves at Anfield. It denied Darwin Nunez, who seemed determined to shoot at every opportunity and volleyed low across goal, but the Serbian keeper got down to tip it onto the post.

Blues behind

Midway through the first half the home side had the lead. There was an element of fortune when Diogo Jota tried to go straight through our defence on the edge of the box, but it ricocheted several times before landing behind our defenders for the Portuguese forward to bundle beyond Petrovic. It looked like it had hit Jota’s hand in the confusion too, but it was allowed to stand after a long VAR check.

Arguably our best spell of possession came soon after Liverpool had got the first goal, but we weren’t able to make progress into Liverpool’s box to fashion out a chance and before long we needed another good save by Petrovic low to his left, this time keeping out a placed effort by Curtis Jones from the edge of the box.

Before half-time we found ourselves two goals behind. It came on a quick Liverpool attack which ended with Conor Bradley breaking forward down the right. Raheem Sterling and Benoit Badiashile were both in pursuit but couldn’t get there in time to prevent the right-back finishing into Petrovic’s bottom corner. VAR again decided not to intervene after a lengthy delay, this time checking a possible foul on Chilwell in the build-up.

Right at the end of the first half Liverpool had a penalty after Badiashile stood on Jota’s foot as they jostled to reach a near-post cross first, but Nunez stepped up and hit his shot against the outside of the post. We were still 2-0 down, but the game was not out of sight going into the break.

Looking for a response

Mauricio Pochettino made his feelings on what he had seen in the first half clear by making a triple substitution during the break. Christopher Nkunku, Mykhailo Mudryk and Malo Gusto were all introduced, with Madueke, Gallagher and Chilwell making way. The fresh faces nearly combined for a goal inside five minutes, but Mudryk couldn’t keep his shot down from Gusto’s ball across the face.

Although we had more of the ball in the second half, with 25 minutes remaining we fell further behind and it was a disappointing one to concede for its simplicity, as Bradley was given acres of space on the right and his cross was headed in by Dominik Szoboszlai.

Too little too late

The gap between the sides didn't stay at three for long, as Nkunku made his presence felt by scoring his second Chelsea goal on his fifth appearance for the club. It was a lovely goal, too, as the Frenchman weaved his way through Liverpool players in the box before rolling a finish into the bottom corner.

That wasn't able to spark a comeback, though, as we still had too high a mountain to climb to salvage anything from this trip to Anfield, and it got even bigger when Luis Diaz turned in Nunez's low cross from close range.

What is next

Chelsea will be hoping to bounce straight back when we return to Stamford Bridge in the Premier League this weekend. We host Wolverhampton Wanderers at 2pm on Sunday 4 February.

The teams

Chelsea: Petrovic, Disasi, Thiago Silva, Badiashile, Chilwell (c) (Gusto h-t), Gallagher (Mudryk h-t), Caicedo (Chukwuemeka 66), Enzo, Madueke (Nkunku h-t), Palmer (Casadei 86), Sterling
Unused subs: Bergstrom, Gilchrist, Broja, Washington
Booked: Caicedo 12, Enzo 32, Chilwell 35, Disasi 41
Scorer: Nkunku 72

Liverpool: Alisson, Bradley (Alexander-Arnold 69), Van Dijk (c), Konate, Gomez (Robertson 69), Szoboszlai (Elliott 69), Mac Allister, Jones (Clark 83), Diaz, Jota (Gakpo 69), Nunez
Unused subs: Kelleher, Quansah, Gravenberch, McConnell
Booked: Nunez 47, Konate 76
Scorers: Jota 22, Bradley 39, Szoboszlai 65, Diaz 79

Referee: Paul Tierney