Chelsea made their debut on Friday Night Football and met defeat for the first time this season, losing 2-1 to Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. First-half goals from Dejan Lovren and Jordan Henderson were enough to cancel a second-half goal from Diego Costa, as the Reds once again come away with three points at Stamford Bridge.
It’s matches like this that will give manager Antonio Conte a couple sleepless nights and will remind supporters of the ghosts of last season’s 10th place finish.
If the West Ham and Watford matches gave everyone hope that the resilience and the resolve of old had returned to this Chelsea side, this match against Liverpool reminded everyone that the memory of last season’s malaise may still linger in the players’ minds.
That’s not to discredit Liverpool in any way, who were much the better side in the first half, quicker to every ball, counter attacking at pace, and making this Chelsea side look as if they were chasing shadows.
Philippe Coutinho once again tormented Chelsea with his ability to ghost into space and find a pass, but it was his delivery from a set piece that gave Liverpool the opening goal.
Branislav Ivanovic’s foul on Georginio Wijnaldum gave Liverpool a free kick on 17 minutes. From the resulting short free kick, Coutinho’s deep cross found Dejan Lovren unmarked at the back, and the defender produced a wonderful side-footed effort to beat Thibault Courtois. Questions, however, should be asked about the Chelsea marking on that set piece, as no fewer than three Liverpool players found themselves unmarked, but it was Lovren who got the final touch.
Liverpool should have had a second moments later when a throw-in found Daniel Sturridge in space. A few tricks later, Sturridge fired an effort across the face of goal, though no Liverpool player gambled at the far post.
They would take the lead 10 minutes before the half when Gary Cahill’s half clearance landed at the feet of Henderson, whose shot from 25 yards out curled and dipped beyond the reach of the diving Courtois.
The Blues finally woke up in the second half and finally began to gain possession of the ball, but Liverpool’s work rate and pressing continued to prevent any real chances from being created by the London side.
It was Costa who struck on the hour-mark to give Chelsea hope of another mighty comeback, fittingly since he had barely had a kick in the first half. Matic sauntered through the Liverpool midfield, exchanging passes with Eden Hazard, before getting to the byline and pulling the ball back for Costa, who flicked it in past James Milner on the line.
Costa nearly picked up an equaliser and his second of the match when a flicked header from Oscar found him inside the box. The Spain international was allowed to turn and shoot, but his effort was straight at Simon Mignolet.
Liverpool nearly got their third, but were foiled by a great save by Courtois. Ivanovic, who had a poor game by his standards, deflected a cross from James Milner with his head, and Divock Origi met the deflection with a strong header that forced Courtois into a save low and to his left.
Conte made a last ditch effort to rescue a point, making a triple substitution and bringing on Pedro, Cesc Fabregas, and Victor Moses, but the Liverpool defence held firm and sent the Merseysiders home with a deserved three points.