After 0-1 Win, ‘Blues Can Be Confident Of Top Four But Liverpool’re Floundering’

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The scenes could not have been more different, the emotions more contrasting – and they encapsulated the current conditions of resurgent Chelsea and a Liverpool side now making a mockery of their Premier League title defence.

Chelsea were in charge and a goal up after 62 minutes when Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, searching for answers and looking to avoid an unwanted place in history with a fifth straight Anfield loss, decided it was time for a change.

To the general astonishment of most observers, and to the very obvious fury of the player involved, the man Klopp chose to remove was the top goalscorer, Mohamed Salah.

Salah departed in what might be politely termed a huff complete with full-on head-shaking, wrestling furiously with a large coat when he got to the bench, as Diogo Jota returned after being absent since early December because of injury.

The Egyptian forward was clearly bemused and unhappy. He would hardly be beaming with smiles at being hooked in such unceremonious fashion so the reaction was no great surprise, but it was a sign of Liverpool and Klopp’s current struggles – and perhaps some muddled thinking – that it was their leading marksman who was removed when they needed a goal so badly.

If it was a punt by Klopp it was a gamble that did not work as Chelsea moved into the top four with a victory that left Liverpool adrift in seventh, not merely out of those Champions League places, but now also three points behind neighbours Everton, who are fifth and have a game in hand.

Cut to the Chelsea bench with nine minutes left as match-winner Mason Mount, outstanding all night, was replaced by Mateo Kovacic, with manager Thomas Tuchel moving to shut down any late Liverpool comeback.

Mount was all smiles, despite his early night, as applause from the Blues’ bench echoed around the largely deserted Anfield and the whole feeling was of a job about to be very well done.

Liverpool took a step forward with victory at Sheffield United, but the moment they walk into their home ground they take several steps back – and this was retrograde in the extreme.

The champions played themselves back into top-four contention at Bramall Lane on Sunday, but here – despite understandable claims for a second-half penalty when Roberto Firmino’s cross hit N’Golo Kante’s hand – this was the same stodgy, uninspired Liverpool that have inhabited Anfield since the landmark loss to Burnley on 21 January that ended a 68-game unbeaten home league run.

The story of Liverpool’s injuries has been told countless times and they have every right to state those facts as one of the reasons why this has turned into such a low-key, dismal follow-up to the title won so spectacularly and convincingly last season.

It must also be stated, however, that to lose these five home games in the manner Liverpool have lost them is unacceptable when set against their previous high standards.

Yes, the Reds have injuries, but they have enough quality – including a world-class trio of attackers in Salah, Firmino, and Sadio Mane – to perform with much more drive, creativity, and verve.

Liverpool have now gone more than 10 hours without a goal in open play at Anfield – almost unthinkable given the manner in which even the finest teams were intimidated and besieged by Klopp’s teams here in previous years.

 

 

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