As the referee blew the full time whistle, a familiar feeling took over at Stamford Bridge; so close yet so far. The feeling of what could have been. The same mistakes costing us again.
Lampard decided to revert back to 4-3-3, the formation which worked well against today’s opponents in Istanbul. There was a huge sigh of relief among the Chelsea community to see the return of Kante and Emerson to the starting eleven, with Mount deemed fit to start as well. The relief turned into anxiety as Liverpool started the game very aggressively. 12 minutes in, Christensen brought Mane down at the edge of the box. Trent Alexander-Arnold was able to pick the top corner from the resulting free kick in a well rehearsed move where Salah just touched the ball before the right back smashed it into the back of the net. Soon after, Emerson could not continue, with Alonso coming on to replace him. Our injury woes did not end there, with Christensen forced off later in the first half. Zouma was his natural replacement.
The second goal was deja vu for every Chelsea fan, as we conceded from another set piece. Robertson whipped in a good ball and Firmino had a free header in the six yard box, with zonal marking in the spotlight again. We went into the break two goals down, despite having several chances to get one back. It was a very unusual sight when Tammy Abraham’s shot was saved by Adrian, where our top scorer could’ve passed it to Mount who had a seemingly open net in front of him. VAR did not do us any favours either, when Azpilicueta’s scrappy goal was ruled out as Mount was offside.
Unlike our recent games where we have an excellent first period and seem to fall off the pace in the second, we improved massively in the second half today. Lots of chances fell to the feet of several of our players, but no one could put it in the back of the net. Up stepped Kante, who played his first game since the Super Cup. He did a fantastic job to get past Fabinho and guided the ball into the top corner from the edge of the box before the defensive duo of Liverpool could charge at him. Our final change saw Batshuayi replace Tammy, making it three games in a row without an appearance for our £60 million signing Christian Pulisic. It was also shocking to see Giroud not even included in the match day squad. The Belgian striker was unmarked at the edge of the box towards the end of the game but could not make the most of it. Fine margins playing their part yet again, but it is what it is.
It was certainly an encouraging performance and on our day could’ve certainly got a draw or even the three points, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Looking ahead, we take on Grimsby in the Carabao Cup at the Bridge, for which we can expect a highly rotated squad as well as much-anticipated first team appearances for Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi under Lampard. Liverpool take on MK Dons in the Carabao Cup, looking to continue their fine form in English football.