Regardless of where Liverpool and Chelsea have been recently or where they’re going in the near future, the Reds have proven themselves to be superior to the Blues at this moment in time, that means something significant.
Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over Chelsea on Saturday at Stamford Bridge represented the latest twist in one of the Premier League’s biggest and most heated rivalries. The rising Reds profited from Chelsea’s status as a fallen giant in delivering a result and performance that vaults them into contention for a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League. Chelsea’s hopes of securing a return to European soccer’s elite competition now are, at best, remote.
Philippe Coutinho canceled out Ramires’ early goal with one of his own just before halftime. The Brazilian, whom Liverpool fans affectionately call “the Little Magician,” scored another goal in the second half to seal one of the most famous wins in his team’s recent history.
Coutinho’s man-of-the-match display was his first starring performance in four games under new manager Jurgen Klopp. The 23-year-old playmaker eased doubts over his ability to thrive in Klopp’s high-energy system by highlighting his controlling overall performance with a pair of goals.
Liverpool’s current striker crisis prompted Klopp to start Roberto Firmino at center forward and employ Christian Benteke as a substitute. Firmino’s ongoing adaptation to England and lack of rhythm made him conquering Stamford Bridge an unlikely proposition.
The Reds initially struggled to unlock Chelsea’s creaking defense, but Coutinho’s deft touches and accurate, long-range shot produced the first decisive goal when his team badly needed one. Benteke then sealed the result with a late strike of his own.
Benteke eventually will regain the fitness required to lead Liverpool’s attack for 90 minutes, and Daniel Sturridge might become another reliable forward option. Klopp’s Liverpool will need to find another source of goals as it waits for Benteke’s and Sturridge’s full recoveries. Coutinho did the job at Stamford Bridge. Others like Adam Lallana, Divock Origi and perhaps James Milner undoubtedly will be keen to add their names to the scoresheet in upcoming games before the two-week international break in November that begins after next Sunday’s Premier League game against Crystal Palace.
Coutinho’s and Benteke’s successes in this patchwork attack shouldn’t overshadow another fine defensive performance by the entire team. Ramires scored on Chelsea’s first shot on goal, but the Reds lifted their spirits, regained their concentration and harried the hosts’ attack into invisibility.
That Chelsea’s attack is sputtering and defense verging on the comedic should guard Liverpool against over-emphasizing the result, but the extent to which Liverpool controlled the contest is the latest evidence of improvement and cause for genuine encouragement.
Six points and eight places in the standings separate Klopp’s Liverpool from Mourinho’s Chelsea. The managers are two of Europe’s leading tacticians, but only Klopp can claim to be approaching the international break with both momentum and the likelihood of further improvement after the pause in league play.
Liverpool applauded champion-elect Chelsea onto the field on its previous visit to Stamford Bridge. The draw Liverpool earned at Chelsea on May 15 ended the Steven Gerrard-led chapter of the rivalry. Saturday’s win, which Klopp, Coutinho, Benteke and the other Reds authored, signaled both a turning point and power shift in the ongoing Liverpool-Chelsea saga.
Thumbnail photo via Adam Davy/Press Association/The Associated Press
Thumbnail photo via Caption: Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho, left, scores his side's second goal of the game during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. (Adam Davy/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE