Advantage City As Chelsea And Liverpool Draw Thriller  (Sky Sports)

Chelsea 2 Liverpool 2

Mateo KovacicChelsea produced a stunning first-half fightback to salvage a 2-2 draw against Liverpool as Manchester City's rivals served up a Premier League classic which did little for either sides' title aspirations.

Liverpool looked on course to emerge as the primary challengers to City's crown as goals from Sadio Mane, who escaped a first-minute red card for an elbow on Cesar Azpilicueta, and Mohamed Salah saw the visitors race into a two-goal lead and silence Stamford Bridge inside the opening 26 minutes.

But Chelsea, who dropped club-record signing Romelu Lukaku, produced a spirited comeback in the space of four first-half minutes as Mateo Kovacic's spectacular volley and Christian Pulisic's brilliant lob levelled the pulsating contest on the stroke of half-time.

The platform was there for both Chelsea and Liverpool to push on and claim a victory which would have taken a chunk out of Manchester City's 11-point lead at the top of the table, but inspired saves from Caoimhin Kelleher and Edouard Mendy ensured the spoils were shared.

The result means Chelsea remain second, 10 points behind leaders City, and a point and a place ahead of third-place Liverpool, who have played a game fewer than their title rivals.

Player ratings

Chelsea: Mendy (8), Chalobah (5), Silva (7), Rudiger (6), Azpilicueta (6), Kante (7), Kovacic (8), Alonso (6), Mount (7), Pulisic (8), Havertz (7).

Subs: Jorginho (6), Hudson-Odoi (5).

Liverpool: Kelleher (7), Alexander-Arnold (7), Konate (7), Van Dijk (7), Tsimikas (6), Henderson (6), Fabinho (6), Milner (6), Salah (8), Jota (7), Mane (8).

Subs: Keita (6), Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Jones (n/a).

Man of the match: Mateo Kovacic

Chelsea, keen to ensure the glaring omission of striker Lukaku would not derail their challenge, started like a side possessed, penning Liverpool in their defensive third from the outset.

Liverpool's bid, meanwhile, could have been derailed inside 15 seconds had Mane been shown red and not yellow for catching Chelsea captain Azpilicueta in the face with a leading elbow.

It would take just eight more minutes for Mane to take full advantage of referee Anthony Taylor's lenient reprieve as he pounced on Trevor Chalobah's poor defensive header, rounded Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy, and slotted Liverpool into an early lead.

Chelsea rallied but to no avail and were two down after 26 minutes. Kai Havertz's inability to hold-up play resulted in him being dispossessed and Trent Alexander-Arnold floating a pass up to Salah, who skipped effortlessly around Marcos Alonso before producing an unerring finish at Mendy's near post.

Chelsea were floored and on the brink of seeing the game slip away from them, with the hosts indebted to a goal-saving challenge from Chalobah, who atoned for his earlier mistake by preventing Salah from adding a third on the counter and putting Liverpool out of sight.

But, just as Chelsea looked out of ideas, a lifeline was provided thanks to a bolt from the blue from Kovacic, whose pinpoint volley from the edge of the box swerved away from stand-in Liverpool goalkeeper Kelleher before cannoning in off the post.

With Chelsea's hopes ignited on the pitch, the hosts completed the most thrilling of comebacks before the half was up, with N'Golo Kante hooking a pass in behind the Liverpool defence which Pulisic latched onto before lobbing over Kelleher and sparking wild celebrations inside Stamford Bridge.

Having looked set to reach the interval in control, it was Liverpool who were begging for the referee's whistle, with a rampant Chelsea denied a quickfire third when Mason Mount sent a volley trickling inches wide deep into first-half stoppage time.

Liverpool regrouped during the interval and fashioned three clear chances to restore their lead but found Mendy in inspired form. The Chelsea goalkeeper thwarted a fine Diogo Jota volley within seven minutes of the restart, and then reacted brilliantly to tip Salah's attempted lob over after the Liverpool forward had spotted him off his line, before Mane was denied a second at the end of a flowing one-touch move involving Salah and James Milner.

Anything Mendy could do, Kelleher could do better, with the Liverpool stopper producing a stunning save at point-blank range to keep Pulisic's hooked effort from finding the net just after the hour, and it proved to be the final clear-cut opening of a Premier League classic, which may have just sent the title back to Manchester.

What the managers said…

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel: "Brilliant match of football, everybody not in the stadium missed something - energy, some mistakes. We started excellent and were 1-0 down out of nothing because we did two or three big mistakes, then we concede a second one which makes the task very hard.

"The team did not give in and Mateo Kovacic's goal brought the belief back into the stadium. There was almost the perfect comeback in the first half with a third goal on the transition.

"Nice goals, no? The first one was absolutely brilliant but also the second was difficult. To coach was high level and it was on the edge, it could have gone either way. A good Sunday afternoon and new year."

Liverpool assistant Pep Lijnders: "It's never boring with us, eh? Never. We're really proud of the boys because they made a proper football match. We could have made a lot of excuses, but we didn't, we attacked the game.

"It was not easy - Chelsea really tried to use the spaces we left, sometimes we couldn't deal with that. What I would loved to have seen more was more control.

"The moments we were quick in mind and were really connected, switched side, when we used the space they left, we were lethal. Coming here in the situation we're in, it's a really good point."

Azpilicueta: Mane elbow a 'clear red'
Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta to Sky Sports:

On Mane's booking for an elbow inside the first minute: "It's a clear red. I don't mind if it's five seconds into the game, it's the first action and it's a clear red. It doesn't want to challenge, he doesn't see the ball he just wants to lead with the elbow. I honestly don't understand it.

"We've had these types of decisions recently. The other day, we had two penalties where VAR wasn't used. It was a clear red card and we're getting these decisions against us which could change the course of the games."

Opta stats

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah has scored four goals against Chelsea in the Premier League, the joint-most any player has scored against them after playing for them in the competition, along with Kevin De Bruyne.

There were just 245 seconds between Chelsea's two first-half goals scored by Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic, which saw the Blues cancel out Liverpool's two-goal lead going into the break (2-2 at half-time).

Liverpool's Sadio Mané received the earliest booking (15 seconds) on record in a Premier League game (since 2006-07), following his foul on César Azpilicueta.

Man of the Match - Mateo Kovacic

What's next?

Chelsea host Tottenham on Wednesday at 7.45pm before Liverpool travel to Arsenal on Thursday at 7.45pm in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup - both live on Sky Sports Football.

Click Here For Official Team Sheet


Chelsea Mendy, Chalobah (Jorginho 70), Silva, Rudiger, Azpilicueta (c), Kante, Kovacic, Alonso, Mount, Havertz (Hudson-Odoi 79), Pulisic
Subs Not Used Kepa, Sarr, Hall, Saul, Barkley, Vale, Ziyech
Booked Pulisic
Goals Kovacic 42, Pulisic 45+1

Liverpool Kelleher, Alexande-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Tsimikas, Milner (Keita 69), Henderson (c), Fabinho, Salah, Jota (Oxlade-Chamberlain 69), Mane (Jones 90)
Subs Not Used Adrian, Pitaluga, Beck, Williams, Gomez, Morton
Booked Mane, Konate
Goals Mane 9, Salah 26

Attendance 40,072

Referee Anthony Taylor

VAR Paul Tierney