Liverpool hold on to beat Chelsea, maintain searing pace

24 Sep 2019

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LONDON: Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian grabs the ball during the Premier League match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.—AP
LONDON: Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian grabs the ball during the Premier League match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.—AP

LONDON: Liverpool showcased title credentials while exposing Chelsea’s defensive frailties. Arsenal demonstrated powers of perseverance against Aston Villa.

Across London on Sunday, there was a snapshot of challenges and optimism for teams at the top of the Premier League, or with aspirations to be.

Liverpool continued to set a relentless pace at the top as they beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge to make it six wins from six matches.

A day after second-placed Manchester City’s 8-0 demolition of Watford, Liverpool were made to work much harder but hung on after first-half goals by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino had put them in control.

N’Golo Kante reduced the arrears after the break but Chelsea remain without a victory at home under manager Frank Lampard.

Arsenal moved into fourth spot as they twice came from a goal down with 10 men to beat Aston Villa 3-2 at the Emirates thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s late free kick.

Liverpool, whose serene start to the season was jolted by a midweek defeat to Napoli in the Champions League, lead City by five points with Leicester City in third on 11 points. Arsenal and West ham also have 11 points. Chelsea are one of six clubs on eight points along with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.

“We are only six matches in,” said manager Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool look to end a 30-year drought to win the league. “We have to be ready for each opponent. They are all waiting and want to give us a knock, rightly so but we have to be ready to do what we have to do.”

Liverpool stretched their Premier League winning run to 15 games thanks to two well-worked set-pieces in the first half-hour.

Trent Alexander-Arnold was teed up by Mohamed Salah’s free kick to get the opener in the 14th minute. Roberto Firmino headed in Andy Robertson’s cross after Cesar Azpilicueta’s equaliser had been ruled out when the VAR spotted an earlier offside.

“Two wonderful goals, a lot of brilliant pressing situations where we won the ball in the perfect space,” Klopp said. “But then we didn’t use the ball in that situation well enough, so we could have had much more chances in these situations.”

Chelsea showed great spirit following the break and after Kante’s superb curled effort, they had chances to level through Mason Mount and substitute Michy Batshuayi.

Chelsea have now conceded 13 goals in the opening six league games under Lampard. Their plans were disrupted by two injury-enforced defensive changes in the first half with Andreas Christensen and Emerson Palmieri forced off.

“It’s hard to accept congratulations after a loss, we can’t be there but we must say that the way we played in the second half is towards the way we want to be,” Lampard said. “Energy, passion, moving the ball quickly, changing the play, getting crosses in the box, things that we work on and we did it against Liverpool.”

ARSENAL DIG DEEP

Only Arsenal’s late rally prevented West Ham ending the day in the top four as the Gunners bounced back from a nightmare first half to edge a five-goal thriller against Villa.

Already trailing to John McGinn’s goal, Arsenal were reduced to 10 men before halftime when Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent off for two yellow cards.

Nicolas Pepe equalised from penalty spot on the hour after midfielder Matteo Guendouzi was fouled in the area by Bjrn Engels but Villa were back in front inside 90 seconds later through Wesley.

However, in a frantic finale, Calum Chambers equalised in the 81st with his first goal in more than three years before Aubameyang then pounced to complete a remarkable win for Unai Emery’s side.

“Playing with one less player, not easy,” Emery said. “We lost some control but we took some risks to come back. We are creating good spirit with our supporters and the players are feeling that.

“Our commitment, our behavior, fighting each ball, taking some risks. That is good. That character, that connection with our supporters, that spirit. We can be happy.”

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2019