LONDON: Liverpool continue to walk alone at the top of the Premier League. A 2-1 victory at Chelsea maintained their 100pc record and a five-point lead over Manchester City.
Success at Stamford Bridge surpassed Arsenal’s 2002 record of 14 consecutive league wins and means Jurgen Klopp’s men need ‘only’ three more to equal the Premier record of 18 set by Pep Guardiola’s City in 2017.
Both Chelsea and Liverpool had needed to improve on their midweek Champions League performances when they lost at home to Valencia and away to Napoli respectively.
Until then Chelsea had been happy with the form of youngsters Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori. The England under-21 stars had shared all 11 of the club’s league goals. Manager Frank Lampard kept faith with the trio but also displayed signs of caution by switching from a three-man defence to a four-man back line.
Clearly he was concerned about the dangers posed by Liverpool’s attacking pace, particularly in the further injury absence of Antonio Rudiger.
Liverpool, who defeated Chelsea in an Istanbul shootout to win the UEFA Super Cup last month, made no secret of their own positive intention. Manager Jurgen Klopp felt he needed to make only one change from midweek with Gini Wijnaldum replacing James Milner for Liverpool’s attempt to become the first club to win their opening six games in consecutive top-flight seasons.
The duel between old rivals who have been meeting since 1907 turned Liverpool’s way after only 15 minutes. Mohamed Salah backheeled a free kick for rightback Trent Alexander-Arnold to thump home his first goal of the season. Chelsea suffered a further blow as injured leftback Emerson had to be substituted by Marcos Alonso.
Abraham missed a chance as Chelsea sought an instant response then captain Cesar Azpilicueta was denied an equaliser by VAR for a fractional offside against Mount. Liverpool capitalised immediately. Roberto Firmino rose above Alonso and Andreas Christensen to head a second goal from a left-wing free kick by Andy Robertson.
Christensen was then injured and also had to be substituted before half-time.
Liverpool appeared to have decided to sit on their lead in the second half. Their time-wasting tactics angered the Chelsea fans, earned a warning from the referee for Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and then a yellow card for Alexander-Arnold.
In fact, Liverpool’s tactic provoked Chelsea into raising the pace, taking command of the game and pulling one goal back through N’Golo Kante. Chelsea deserved the goal and charged forward for the rest of the match. Michy Batshuayi and Mount went close but their efforts proved in vain as Klopp brought on Milner, Adam Lallana and Joe Gomez to shore up midfield and defence.
Liverpool launch their League Cup campaign away to third division Milton Keynes Dons on Wednesday night. Presumably Klopp will give his main men time to catch their breath while he assesses some of his eager and talented youngsters.
Arsenal battle back
Ten-men Arsenal hit back dramatically from 2-1 down to beat promoted Aston Villa 3-2.
Frankfurt hero Bukayo Saka made his Premier debut but was replaced at half-time in a tactical change after Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent off for a second yellow card. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s scored the winner with his seventh goal of the season. Mesut Ozil was an unused substitute, watching the Gunners move up to fourth place.
Manuel Pellegrini became the first manager to win a Premier League game against four different Manchester United bosses (David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer) after West Ham’s 2-0 home victory.
Andriy Yarmolenko and Aaron Cresswell scored. United have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last 11 away matches in all competitions, their worst run since December 2002.
** Liverpool have reportedly paid Manchester City £1m to settle a dispute dating back to 2013 over the alleged hacking of City’s player scouting data.