How one reacts to missed chances depends on what was at stake.
Liverpool and Chelsea played to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday at Anfield in the Premier League, with the outcome affecting the teams differently. While the result kept Chelsea’s pursuit of the Premier League title on track, Liverpool’s failure to win probably ends its hopes of winning the title. Chelsea could have blown its lead the in title race wide open, but the Blues nonetheless celebrated the result against one of its fiercest rivals.
Liverpool dominated the game’s opening phase, but David Luiz shocked Anfield with a stunning free kick, which caught Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet off guard.
The Reds reacted well but had to wait until the 57th minute to restore parity. Georginio Wijnaldum headed James Milner’s deflected cross into Chelsea’s goal, rewarding Liverpool for its control of the game.
Both sides could have won had they not wasted late opportunities. Diego Costa won a penalty kick in the 75th minute when he went down inside Liverpool’s penalty after Joel Matip tripped him. But the Chelsea striker’s spot-kick lacked authority, and Mignolet capably saved it.
Roberto Firmino’s night might have been quiet and uneventful but the Liverpool forward missed clear-cut chances, first in the 49th minute and then agonizingly in the first minute of added time in the second half. Liverpool was depending on him to spearhead its attack, but his performance reflected a player who might have been distracted by his looming court date to answer drunk-driving charges.
Overall, Liverpool lacked the sharpness and ingenuity in the final third that’s required to unlock Chelsea’s stingy defense. The slumping Reds won’t return to their attacking best until Philippe Coutinho, Firmino and Sadio Mane recover their devastating early-season form.
Chelsea had no reason to take unnecessary risks, given its sizable lead in the standings. Its shape was good enough and defensive acumen high enough to limit Liverpool’s attacking threat to a trickle.
Here are some other notable aspects of Liverpool vs. Chelsea:
Luiz’s free kick
With Willian standing closest to the ball, no one expected Luiz to take the free kick. He even had been talking to manager Antonio Conte, then some of his teammates before his long run-up to the ball. His mix of awareness, cunning and technique were a sight to behold for all but Liverpool.
Mignolet was out of position and organizing his wall when Luiz shot. The Liverpool goalkeeper claimed to have not heard the referee’s whistle signaling Chelsea could resume play and didn’t appear to be the only Red who missed it. Yet, the broadcasters stationed high above the field heard it clearly.
Mignolet has struggled with his focus and decision-making in the past, and this gaffe will only erode the low confidence many have in Liverpool’s goalkeeping corps.
Mignolet vs. Costa
However, the Liverpool goalkeeper is an excellent shot-stopper and his save on Costa’s penalty kick preserved a deserved point. Mignolet has been the Premier League’s greatest bulwark against penalty-kick goals in recent seasons.
Maybe Costa shouldn’t have committed the cardinal soccer sin of taking a penalty kick he earned.
Wijnaldum’s home comforts
The Liverpool midfielder reacted quickest to score his team’s lone goal. He scored through technique, power and sheer desire, with the scrappy goal reflecting the nature of the game.
If Wijnaldum played every game at Anfield, he just might win the Ballon d’Or.
Thumbnail photo via LiverpoolFC.com