The most anticipated clash of the season so far saw honours shared as the Reds were unable to put away a spirited and organised Chelsea side who comfortably navigated the entire second half with only ten men. Ian Brown was on the Kop and penned some thoughts on what we witnessed....
1. My first thought is what a relief it was to actually make it to the game! I set off 5 hours before kick off for a journey that should normally take around 2 hours but due to an accident on the M62 I got to my seat 5 minutes before kick off. The long queues outside didn’t help and this was the first time i’ve had problems with NFC; it took 3 or 4 attempts for the scanner to read my phone. A few people in front had similar issues. It needs sorting out as this just isn’t sustainable and the club can’t expect people to permanently change their match day routine. Yes, we’re all made up to be back and can make some short-term changes but this needs sorting now.
2. I was really happy with the team selection and especially intrigued to see Harvey Elliott had been picked. I assumed he’d be rotated for experience given the scale of the game but Kloppo gave him a huge vote of confidence and his trust was repaid; I thought Harvey was one of our best players on the day and definitely the pick of the midfielders. There were moments where he could have done a little bit better but for me that was something that will come with more games. As he gains experience and confidence I can see some huge performances from this lad. Earlier in the summer I wanted Gini to be replaced but i’m now completely fine with the situation.
3. I thought we started the game well. Trent's range of passing and his linking up with Harvey and Mo on the right side was a feature early on and we looked dangerous. It was from one of Trent’s raking passes that we created our best chance of the game. The ball was just superb and Hendo really should have done better. He tried to guide it with the side of his foot but got it all wrong.
4. After that Chelsea settled into it and started to look like a really good side to me. They were soaking up our pressure and then trying to hit on the break and looked dangerous. The goal was probably slightly against the run of play overall when it came but the game was becoming more even at that point. I thought the goal had a fair bit of luck attached to it as Havertz was just looking to flick the ball into a dangerous area. Having watched the replay back you can see that they had worked on that particular corner though. Havertz purposely made a run in front of Robbo at the front post and the way the Chelsea players celebrated you could tell it was a plan they had come up with.
5. I wasn’t especially worried about going behind, indeed i’d predicted that we would on the preview pod. As half time approached though I have to admit to being a bit concerned because our attacks were breaking down a bit too easily and Chelsea were creating chances with their counters. Mount missed a decent chance to make it 2-0 and I was hoping to get to half time and make some adjustments.
6. Those few minutes before half time were absolutely amazing! It all started when Jota picked up the ball and just drove at the Chelsea back line and won a corner. From the corner, all hell broke loose. From my spec on the Kop it just looked like your bog-standard penalty box scramble. Matip clearly had a chance but after that it was hard to see what had happened.
Something clearly wasn’t right because our lads were going apeshit at the referee (i’ll get to that prick later). It was no surprise when the board came up with a VAR check. The moment the ref goes to have a look you think there’s a good chance you’ll get a decision, although I had my doubts with this prick. He gave the pen but the red card took me by surprise and was a massive bonus. I didn’t once consider that may happen, I was just happy to have the penalty.
I know a few people have since said that the rule should be changed because of double jeopardy and all that but having watched the incident back on MOTD I don’t agree with that. For me, Reece James knew exactly what he was doing. He blocked the effort with his arm and scooped it out. It was completely deliberate. Whether it was instinctive or not doesn’t matter, it was a deliberate act that prevented a goal so i’m happy with that being a red.
If you deliberately hack someone down in the box when you’re the last man, that’s a red too. Double jeopardy only applies if it’s not deliberate, i.e. you go for the ball in a tackle or the handball is accidental. That wasn’t the case so for me they got this one right (it was exactly what VAR should be used for).
Mo slotted the pen and that was basically half time so we had 45 minutes to break them down and lay down a marker. I was bullish at this point; the noise from the Kop in those few minutes towards the end of the first half was just boss! I’ve missed it so much.
I had my 10 year old son with me and although he’s been to a couple of games before this was his first ‘big’ game and his first proper Anfield experience in terms of the noise. He was physically shaking from it but had a big grin on his face, it was a real proud dad moment for me to see it.
7. To be totally honest I thought the second half was really disappointing. We had a couple of efforts from long range but the best chances came from a Jota header and Mo with a really tame effort on his weak foot. None of those were big chances though, we really struggled to create. It was clear that they would be hard to break down but I thought we moved the ball far too slowly and were also very predictable in our decision making. It just felt like the ball was moving from side to side at snails pace and it wasn’t especially tricky to defend against.
It felt like a lot of the ball came down our left side and both Robbo and Sadio had poor halves. Instead of whipping balls in when we had half a yard, the ball would come back inside and we’d try to create something with intricate passing. That was never going to work, we needed to stretch the game more and move it far quicker. Our lads looked really leggy to me so whether this was down to a gruelling pre-season or not I don’t know; that might be something to keep an eye on going forward.
8. It was really pleasing to see Virgil looking almost back to normal. There were times where the ball went up to Lukaku and he just handled him with ease, almost nonchalantly moving him out of the way as if he was just a kid. You know Virg is getting back to normal when he’s doing that. Joel also handled him well apart from the one time he got too tight in the first half and was easily rolled (I think it was in the build up to Mounts chance?) As I said in the preview pod, our lads are built to handle the likes of Lukaku so I had no concerns on that front and was happy to be proven right for a change!
9. Now onto the referee. I can’t stand this c***, i’m not even mentioning his name. What happened to letting the game flow?! He let the game flow whenever one of our lads went down but when we breathed near a Chelsea player, this prick was whistling. It was absolutely infuriating. Some will say “oh yeah but he gave you the pen and red card” but no he didn’t did he? He missed that, it was the VAR who gave us those, he had no choice in the matter. In fact, he spent the entire second half trying to pay Chelsea back for it. I cannot stand him and shudder every time he gets one of our games. Plenty has been said and written about VAR but thankfully we had it as a back-up to this whopper. I’m not wasting any more of my energy on this gobshite.
10. Overall, a draw against title rivals is a never a bad result however it does feel like a lost opportunity considering the circumstances. A win here would have been great heading into the international break (international football again, already?!) but it wasn’t to be. One thing is clear after this game for me though, we are definitely challenging for the league this year. Chelsea are supposedly a better team than us according to all of the experts and although they did impress me to a degree, it was hardly frightening stuff was it? We’ll be there or thereabouts I have no doubt about that.