Sunday 6th May, Stamford Bridge – It was a cheery sunny afternoon at the Bridge, with a capacity crowd in attendance for Sunday’s late kick-off. Chelsea were playing Liverpool in the Premier League, with just three games left to keep their Champions League qualification hopes alive.
The Blues were experiencing a slight upturn in their fortunes, with three wins in their three games since a tough home defeat against Tottenham Hotspur.
Liverpool were flying in the Champions League, but suffering somewhat in the EPL. They had only two wins vs Crystal Palace (2-1 away) and Bournemouth (3-0) in their last five games. The other three results were draws with Everton (0-0 away), West Bromwich Albion (2-2 away) and Stoke City (0-0 at home).
Both teams made just one change to their line-ups from previous games against Swansea and Roma. Marcos Alonso returned from suspension to replace Emerson on the left wing for Chelsea, and Nathaniel Clyne came in for Jordan Henderson for Liverpool.
Chelsea kept their 3-5-2 formation for this game, with Olivier Giroud and Eden Hazard in front, and Tiemoue Bakayoko, N’golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas in midfield. Alvaro Morata had a minor injury, and missed this game along with teammates David Luiz, Daniel Drinkwater and Ethan Ampadu.
Line-Ups & Ratings
Courtois 8, Moses 8 (Zappacosta 5.5), Azpilicueta 8, Cahill 8, Rudiger 8, Alonso 7.5, Kante 8, Fabregas 7.5, Bakayoko 7, Hazard 8 (Willian 5.5), Giroud 8
Subs Caballero, Zappacosta, Emerson, Christensen, Barkley, Pedro, Willian
Karius 7, Clyne 6 (Henderson 6), van Dijk 6.5, Lovren 6, Robertson 5.5 (Solanke 6.5), Alexander-Arnold 6, Wiljnaldum 7, Milner 7 (Moreno 5), Salah 7, Firmino 7, Mane 7.5
Subs Mignolet, Moreno, Klavan, Henderson, Woodburn, Solanke, Ings
Then Along Came Giroud
The game was all Liverpool to start. Chelsea sat deep, ceding possession to their opponents, and Liverpool did their best to take advantage. Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane both had really good chances to score, but Thibaut Courtois made even better saves to keep his side in the game.
Mane was especially threatening, putting two long range shots on target, and missing another from close range through pressure from Cesar Azpilicueta.
Giroud was somewhat isolated, with Hazard closely marked behind him, and wide defenders Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso sitting back to help cover Liverpool’s front three. As the half wore on though, the wing backs became more adventurous, and it led to the game-winning goal.
Tiemoue Bakayoko launched the ball from midfield out wide. Moses took possession and dribbled inwards, then curled a cross past Sadio Mane and James Milner. There was a slight deflection off Mane, before Giroud got in ahead of Dejan Lovren to glance the ball into the top corner for 1-0.
Virgil van Dijk was stranded out of position between Moses and goal, marking nobody really, and was unable to assist Lovren with defending the header. It was Giroud’s fifth goal in his last six league starts against Liverpool FC.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) May 6, 2018
Cesc Fabregas almost made it two when he received possession out wide, but his low shot went just past the far post.
Signs of Frustration
Chelsea visibly increased in confidence after the goal, and Liverpool started to show signs of frustration. First, Mohamed Salah was booked for simulation after Gary Cahill pulled out of a challenge on the edge of the box.
Nathaniel Clyne escaped a booking early on for treading on Giroud’s ankle, just as Milner had with a scissor tackle on Hazard. When Clyne went in dangerously again on Alonso close to the end of the half, Anthony Taylor finally did the right thing – yellow card.
Shutting Up Shop
Liverpool continued to edge possession in the second half. They were dangerous at times, but could not register another shot on target until the final minute of injury time: Chelsea had shut up shop in defence. The home team also had slightly better chances, but as in so many other games this season, they could not find another goal to kill the game off.
Early in the second half Hazard got past Firmino to the by-line, then drove a shot at Loris Karius, who parried it out to Moses on the opposite wing. Andrew Robertson then blocked Moses’ shot out of play. Antonio Rudiger thought he’d scored off the resulting corner, but the linesman disallowed his goal for offside.
Hazard set up Bakayoko on the edge of the box, but the midfielder’s shot was weak and Karius made it safe. A few minutes afterwards, Robertson was lucky not chest the ball into his own net off an Alonso cross.
Ex-Chelsea prospect Dominic Solanke came on for Robertson, and he almost made an instant impact. He took possession of a through ball on the left and might have been in on goal, but Azpilicueta made a brilliant saving tackle to take the ball from him.
Moses, who’d been fantastic all game, curled in another cross to the far post. Marcos Alonso had time and space but opted for the spectacular, and his volley flew wide and well off target.
Solanke provided a different kind of option up front for Liverpool, and his team started to swing cross after cross into the box. Both Solanke and van Dijk might have equalized off two such crosses in injury time, but the former’s header went over the bar, while van Dijk’s was tame and Courtois claimed it.
It was a great win for Chelsea, another three points and another clean sheet. The Blues perhaps took advantage of CL finalists Liverpool’s tired legs, but they attacked well, converted a key chance and managed the game excellently in the second half.
With this victory, Antonio Conte handed Jurgen Klopp his first defeat against Chelsea since the ex-Dortmund manager’s arrival in the Premier League.
It was also Chelsea’s third win against top six opposition this season – all three games won by a one goal margin, playing a 3-5-2 formation.
Conte has now beaten every Premier League team he has faced. A first win in four years at Stamford Bridge versus Liverpool. Conte is the fifth manager to have faced more than 20 PL teams and beaten them all. #CFC #CHELIV
— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) May 6, 2018
Chelsea move up to 69 points, three points behind Liverpool and just two away from Tottenham. Next for both clubs: Chelsea host Huddersfield Town on Wednesday 9th May, and Liverpool play Brighton at Anfield the following Sunday.
Final Score Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Sky Sports
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