Liverpool continued their impressive start to the season with an excellent win away at Chelsea. After a dominant first half the visitors had to hold on in the second period, but some steadfast defending ensured that they came away with a 2-1 victory.
Pre-match nerves were increased somewhat when it was revealed that Firmino was unavailable through injury, but Liverpool fans needn’t have worried. The attacking depth in the side is the best it has been for some time, and Coutinho was certainly a more than adequate replacement for his compatriot. Indeed it was he who created the first goal; the ball came to him following a wide free kick, and his glorious delivery was met by an unmarked Lovren at the far post. The defending was lax to say the least, but the lead was thoroughly deserved – it was the culmination of sustained pressure. On the few occasions that Chelsea did venture forward Costa was marked well by Matip, and Hazard was tracked effectively by Clyne.
A meagre one-goal advantage would not have been a fair reflection on the first half, and captain Jordan Henderson ensured that this was not the case with a stunning strike. A Cahill clearance fell to the ex-Sunderland man and he bent the ball exquisitely into the very top-right of the goal, leaving Courtois helpless. There have been growing murmurs of discontent about his performances: this was an emphatic way to silence them, at least for the time being.
Whilst it is always good to see entertaining, attacking football, in a sense the second half was even more impressive. Liverpool’s prowess going forward is well-documented, but their shaky defence is infamous – it was heartening, therefore, to see them dig in and hold a lead. Frustratingly the first clean sheet of the season continued to prove elusive – Matic jinked through multiple challenges before squaring for Costa with about thirty minutes to play – but this was essentially the only defensive lapse in an otherwise steadfast performance. Matip was at fault for the goal, but aside from that looked imperious throughout. Milner appears to be growing into the left-back role – he even attempted a left-footed cross or two! Hazard’s lack of influence is a testament to Clyne’s performance, and Lovren was solid on his return to the team. Henderson, too, deserves a mention – as well as influencing things going forward, he also provided some good defensive cover. It was always going to take him time to adapt to a deeper role, but there are signs that he is growing into it.
The Burnley result is the only major blip in an otherwise extremely impressive start to the season. 10 points from matches against Leicester, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea is highly commendable – it is no surprise that Liverpool are now being viewed as, at the very least, top four contenders. Even the title itself has been mentioned, and why not? We have no European football in midweek and have shown we are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the big guns. Now it is imperative that the team demonstrate that they can also get it done against smaller teams – a win against Hull next week would consolidate our position nicely. For now, the players can relish their satisfying and deserved win.