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Momentum retained as Jurgen Klopp's battling Reds enhance chances of title challenge

By James Pearce

Rarely has the end of a winning run been greeted with scenes of such elation.

As Chelsea fans headed for the exits in stunned silence, the party in the away end was only just getting started. 'Allez Allez Allez' boomed around Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool 's perfect start to the Premier League season is over but momentum has been retained. This is a result which enhances rather than damages their prospects of mounting a title challenge. 

There are draws which feel like victories and this one belongs firmly in that bracket.

Substitute Daniel Sturridge's sensational late strike ensured that Jurgen Klopp's side emerged with a precious point from an enthralling encounter in the capital.
Eden Hazard's first-half strike looked to have condemned the Reds to a first league defeat of the campaign but that never-say-die spirit came to the fore once again.

Sturridge had only been on the field for three minutes when he demanded the ball and whipped a curling 25-yarder beyond Kepa Arrizabalaga and into the top corner. The world's most expensive goalkeeper was beaten all ends up. 

It was a moment of magic against his former club – a piece of awe-inspiring brilliance which truly announced Sturridge's thrilling resurgence at the highest level.
Four months ago his Liverpool career lay in ruins. He was in the depths of despair after a miserable loan spell at relegated West Brom. A succession of injuries appeared to have taken their toll.

But rather than throw in the towel, Sturridge dug deep. Being away from Anfield gave him an extra appreciation of what he had and through sheer dedication he has forced his way back into Klopp's plans. He's fitter, stronger and hungrier.

What a way to bring up a half century of Premier League goals for Liverpool. Redemption was quick following that glaring miss in front of the Kop in the midweek Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Chelsea.

The jubilant travelling Kop chanted his name vociferously after the final whistle. Sturridge's fourth of the campaign means he's the Reds' joint top scorer - despite only starting two out of nine matches.

The dramatic late twist ensured the Reds avoided what would have been a cruel setback in the capital. A point was the least they deserved having outplayed Maurizio Sarri's side for long periods.

However, once again they were hampered by the lack of a ruthless streak in the final third. Chances went begging as Mohamed Salah struggled on his return to Stamford Bridge and was taken off.

But, crucially, Alisson Becker delivered. The Reds No 1 showed why Klopp broke the bank to secure his services with a commanding display. In front of him, the defensive double act of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez excelled.

Buoyed by the fact that Van Dijk was passed fit for duty after his rib injury, Liverpool flew out of the blocks and they stamped their authority on the contest early on.

There was real intensity to their work as they hassled and harried Chelsea into coughing up possession. When they had the ball, the Reds zipped it around at pace and stretched the Londoners. Klopp stood in the technical area applauding what he was witnessing.

However, just like at Anfield in midweek, Liverpool were wasteful. Salah curled weakly at Arrizabalaga after Sadio Mane had forced an error from N'Golo Kante.
The Egyptian winger then did well to hold off Jorginho and get away from Antonio Rudiger but blazed high and wide. His composure was conspicuous by its absence.

With Trent Alexander-Arnold providing some quality service from the right, there was plenty to admire about the Reds' build up play. When the teenager was left one-v-one with Hazard, James Milner tore across the turf to provide cover.

Andy Robertson was indebted to the alertness of Alisson, who raced off his line to thwart Willian after the Brazilian got in behind the Reds' left-back.
Liverpool were still in the ascendancy when they were rocked by Chelsea breaking the deadlock on 25 minutes.

It was a slick counter-attack from the hosts but Klopp's side were guilty of a lapse in concentration and communication.

Nobody tracked Hazard's run from halfway and he raced through a gaping hole, latched on to Mateo Kovacic's pass and fired across Alisson into the far corner.
Liverpool responded well to falling behind and should have quickly restored parity.

A classy touch from Roberto Firmino played in Salah, who held off Marcos Alonso and skipped around Arrizabalaga. He looked destined to equalise but Rudiger got back to hack off the line.

The misses clearly preyed on Salah's mind and when he failed to pick out the unmarked Firmino soon after he shook his head in disgust.
The second half brought more of the same with Liverpool on the front foot and Chelsea battling to protect their narrow advantage.
Firmino's relentless work ethic helped create an opening for Mane but Arrizabalaga produced a smart save at his near post.

With the Reds chasing the game, they ran the risk of getting picked off again on the counter. Willian burst clear but the outstanding Van Dijk got back to take the ball off his toe before he could pull the trigger.

Hazard could have settled proceedings when Liverpool were caught napping by Kante's quick free-kick. But Alisson came out to meet him and saved expertly with his legs.
Fresh legs were required to mount a late rally. Xherdan Shaqiri replaced Salah, while Naby Keita and Sturridge followed for Jordan Henderson and Milner.
The calibre of those substitutes showcased the strength in depth at Klopp's disposal as the Reds cranked up the pressure.

Shaqiri should have opened his account for the club but sliced wide from Robertson's inviting centre.

When Firmino's header was cleared off the line by Luiz, Liverpool were cursing their misfortune once again. Sturridge then took centre stage and transformed the mood.

The Reds collected just one point out of a possible 15 away to their top six rivals last term. This time around they have already won at Tottenham and taken a point at Chelsea.
Manchester City now sit top of the Premier League table on goal difference but on this evidence it will be a three-way fight for glory.

Klopp is convinced that Chelsea are genuine contenders. This gutsy display served to reinforce the belief that Liverpool are too.

MATCH FACTS 

Chelsea : Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso, Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic (Barkley 80), Willian (Moses 73), Giroud (Morata 65), Hazard.
Not used : Caballero, Fabregas, Zappacosta, Cahill.
Liverpool : Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson, Henderson (Keita 78), Wijnaldum, Milner (Sturridge 86), Salah (Shaqiri 66), Firmino, Mane.
Not used : Mignolet, Fabinho, Moreno, Matip.
Referee : Andre Marriner
Attendance : 40,625
Goals : Hazard 25, Sturridge 89.
Bookings : Mane, Milner.
Man of the match : Alisson Becker. Commanding performance from the Reds No 1 who made some crucial saves.

Copyright - The Liverpool Echo

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