Chelsea get a B as former player Daniel Sturridge earns Liverpool a draw

Matt Jones 29/09/2018
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Daniel Sturridge’s stunning late goal earned Liverpool a 1-1 draw against Chelsea as two of the main protagonists in this season’s Premier League title race shared the spoils at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea shaded this scintillating spectacle, with the in-form Eden Hazard rifling them ahead in the first half. But just as it seemed Maurizio Sarri’s side had done enough, Sturridge emerged from the bench to steal a point against his former side.

Here is our report card from this colossal clash.

30 SECOND-REPORT

Premier League fans have been treated well this week, with Saturday’s clash the second meeting of two of the division’s best sides in four days.

Chelsea won the Carabao Cup tie 2-1 at Anfield in midweek and very nearly completed the double over the visiting Reds – indeed for the most part their sumptuous style of play warranted all three points.

Hazard’s opening goal was a work of art from start to finish and he should have sealed the three points when ingenious thinking from N’Golo Kante put him in for a second.

He and the Blues were left to rue that missed opportunity in the dying embers of the game as Daniel Sturridge fired in a brilliant equaliser. Overall, both sides laid down markers that they will be in the title mix come May.

Hazard (2)

THE GOOD

Sarriball in full flow – Under any new regime, things will always take time to change. There was mild panic though among Chelsea fans in Sarri’s early weeks at Stamford Bridge. Comprehensively beaten in the Community Shield by Manchester City, how long would it take for Sarri’s succinct methods to take shape, Blues fans wondered.

Not long as it happens. They’ve been easy on the eye ever since – swashbuckling and suave as they’ve notched 15 times in seven Premier League games. And the way they tore Liverpool to shreds for Hazard’s opening goal – Mateo Kovacic’s pass to release him sensational – was breathtaking.

Give the goalkeepers a hand – However talented you are as a footballer, there is always pressure – especially when you arrive in a new league with a hefty price tag above your head.

Both sides paid premium sums for goalkeepers in the summer. Alisson and Kepa Arrizabalaga both enhanced their reputations in a game that ebbed and flowed fluently in west London.

Young Spaniard Arrizabalaga pushed Sadio Mane’s fierce low shot behind on the hour and also did well to force Mohamed Salah wide in the first half to make his shot on goal an arduous one. His Brazilian counterpart was also under extreme pressure but spread himself excellently to keep Liverpool alive when Hazard had the opportunity to kill the game off.

2909 hazard report card

THE BAD

Something missing for Salah – There is definitely something not quite right with Salah’s game, yet criticism of the Egyptian in the early weeks of the season has been harsh in the extreme. After seven games last season he found the net four times. This season, at the same point, he has three.

Expectations will understandably be inflated after such a stellar 2017/18 campaign and firing his side to the World Cup, but patience must be preached. It’s not as if he is playing poorly, but things aren’t quite happening this term when, last season, everything he touched turned to gold.

He will perhaps be putting more pressure on himself than anyone else. His time will come again.

Entertainment galore, but not goals – This was a thrilling advert for the Premier League, the only thing missing were the goals to accompany it. The opener was magical – Kovacic conjuring a jaw-dropping killer pass and Hazard supplying the deadly finish – but in a game featuring so much attacking talent, there was only a stingy smattering of stardust.

Salah wasted a glorious chance to level before the break but his weak effort was cleared off the line, while Hazard could have buried Liverpool following Kante’s quick-thinking but couldn’t beat Alisson for a second time. Sturridge’s equaliser was excellent but there could have been much more.

Salah

TACTICAL TURNING POINT

Enter Shaqiri –Salah would not have been coming off the pitch last season with the result in the balance unless he was injured. But the owner of 30 league goals last term is struggling somewhat in the early weeks of this one, and him being hooked turned the game for the visitors.

Replacement Xherdan Shaqiri almost made an immediate impact but somehow prodded Andrew Robertson’s fine cross wide. Space was appearing though as Chelsea’s defence tired, even though it took something special from another substitute, Daniel Sturridge, to salvage a result for Liverpool.

VERDICTS

CHELSEA: B

It’s been a rollercoaster four seasons for Chelsea fans who’ve gone from champions to 10th, to champions, to fifth. This year though they give the impression that they will be right there contending. Anything appears possible with Hazard pulling the strings, even turning what many believed would be a duel between Manchester City and Liverpool into a three horse title race.

LIVERPOOL: C-

They’ve been brilliant to watch so far, but the Reds were given a real test here. They rose to it, although Klopp’s side can count themselves fortunate to come away with anything here. Salah needs to rediscover his best form, but lacking a Plan B is a stick often used to beat Klopp with. With players like Shaqiri and Sturridge in reserve, he certainly has options this season.

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Chelsea player ratings v Liverpool as Hazard shows his class in entertaining draw

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A late strike from Daniel Sturridge salvaged a point for Liverpool in their 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Eden Hazard gave the hosts the lead on Saturday with a fine finish in the 25th minute.

It looked like the Blues would hold out for the win but Sturridge came off the bench to score a brilliant equaliser in the thrilling encounter.

Here, we rate the performances of the Chelsea players.

STARTING XI

Kepa Arrizabalaga – Commanded his box well and made a few routine saves but his save to deny Sadio Mane low to his right was world class. 7

Cesar Azpilicueta – He lacked composure on the ball and was caught out by Liverpool’s closing down, giving the ball away cheaply. 4

Antonio Rudiger – Made a crucial clearance off the line to deny Mohamed Salah. Kept the ball well and dominated in the air. 7

David Luiz – Played a sensational long ball forward to set Willian clean through in the first half and, like his central defensive partner, made a great clearance off the line in the second to deny Roberto Firmino. 8

Marcos Alonso – A different kind of good performance from the attacking left-back as he was focused on defending, keeping close tabs on Salah and making several clearances in the process. 6

N’Golo Kante – Set Hazard clean through with a quick release in the second half. Was on hand to sweep up at the back on a couple of occasions as well. 7

Jorginho – His passing wasn’t quite flawless against an energetic Liverpool side but he largely held his own and directed the team’s play. 6

Mateo Kovacic – Possibly his best performance yet in a Chelsea shirt. Linked up with Hazard well, especially when he played a delicious through pass for the Belgian’s goal. 7

Willian – Should’ve given the hosts an early but for a good save by Alisson. Made plenty of forward runs but Andrew Robertson was much tighter to him after that early chance. 5

Olivier Giroud – Was anonymous in his 65-minute display. Only had 18 touches and when he did get the ball, his usually excellent link-up play deserted him. 4

Eden Hazard – A simply elite finish from a top quality player to break the deadlock. Always buzzing around the final third, pulling the strings in attack. Should’ve had a second but was denied by Alisson one-on-one. 8

SUBS

Alvaro Morata – Came on for Giroud and was a slight improvement, having a couple of shots late on. 5

Victor Moses – Had a half chance at the death and provided more pace in attack for the Blues to counter with. 5

Ross Barkley – Came on for Kovacic in the closing stages and won a free-kick in stoppage time. N/A

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Arsenal march on but Unai Emery seeks stronger starts

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Unai Emery admitted Arsenal need to improve their first-half displays after they again left it late to secure a 2-0 victory over Watford.

Their seventh successive win came courtesy of Craig Cathcart’s 81st-minute own goal and a strike soon afterwards from Mesut Ozil, and after Isaac Success had squandered a fine chance to give the visitors the lead.

Arsenal continue to show signs of progress under their new manager but as in recent victories over Cardiff, Newcastle and Everton they were not leading at half-time.

Similarly to against Everton they also could have lost had Watford capitalised on an encouraging display by taking their chances, and Emery said: “We need more moments in the 90 minutes for this control.

“The first half was not easy but our defensive moments were good. They were more than we wanted but we did well in the first half.

“In the second half, we scored two goals but we conceded two good chances for them. We need more control, we need to continue to improve with the control, with the possession, with the positioning.

“But it’s not easy. Each match is very difficult. I am happy because we are becoming more competitive.

“The ball was near our box for a lot of moments and the rhythm of the match is not particularly what we want. Our players in the first half were a little nervous and we need to continue in being calm.”

Petr Cech suffered a suspected hamstring injury in the first half that Emery expects to keep him out for the coming two to three weeks, leading to Bernd Leno making his league debut, but when asked if Leno could retain his place, the manager responded: “He can convince me, but not now.

“He played because of an injury to Petr Cech but I am very happy with him. He has waited for his moment.”

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