Draw at Anfield leaves Liverpool, Chelsea stuck in mid-table mire

Both sides have struggled this year, but the addition of Mykhail Mudryk brightened up Chelsea’s attack

Yashfinul Haque
Published : 22 Jan 2023, 01:30 PM
Updated : 22 Jan 2023, 01:30 PM

Anfield had hoped Jurgen Klopp’s 1,000th game as Liverpool boss would see the club turn a corner on a dreary season. Chelsea, meanwhile, prayed the signing of Mykhail Mudryk would jumpstart a disappointing opening to Graham Potter’s tenure. But it was a forgettable game on Saturday and both sides came away frustrated from the encounter, though Chelsea will be pleased with an impressive shift from Mudryk.  

The home side, struggling with injuries and personnel problems, put on a lacklustre show lacking in confidence. The Reds’ high points came in fits and starts toward the end of the first half and the start of the second, but the Chelsea Blues were in control for most of the game and even dangerous near the end. 

Klopp entrusted the midfield to Thiago, Keita, and young Bajcetic after the joy in the FA Cup replay against Wolves. But the trio seemed more willing to snuff out attacks than move the ball forward. Liverpool barely made it into the final third in the first half and when they did, they lacked coordination and finesse.

Chelsea, despite their lower standing in the table, played better. They were coming to Anfield with more measured expectations - to pick up any points on offer - and they played positively with a 3-4-2-1 formation that bolstered the midfield and put new recruit Badiashile alongside Silva and Chalobah.

Despite Liverpool’s weak middle, Chelsea opted to play through the wings. Early on, they looked to have found a breakthrough. A corner fell to Bariashile, who cushioned it brilliantly into the path of Silva, only for the shot hit the woodwork. The ball bounced to Havertz, who managed to poke it into the net, but was judged offside by VAR.

It was a relief for Liverpool, who seemed far from their best. They took only a couple of attempts in the first half, both of which fell to Cody Gakpo. The new signing managed to find space for himself both times but missed. 

Chelsea, however, seemed to grow in confidence and began surging through Liverpool’s weak defence. Hakim Ziyech got into ideal crossing positions several times, but couldn’t find a blue shirt in the box to convert.

Before the break, Liverpool’s pressing improved, but they couldn’t find the net. Klopp was fuming on the sidelines and might have given his squad a shellacking at the half because they raced out of the dressing room with fire and determination. A string of substitutions – first replacing Keita for Nunez and eventually Bajcetic, Elliott, and Gakpo with Fabinho, Henderson, and Curtis Jones, helped, but couldn’t get them over the line. 

Potter’s side, on the other hand, felt like they were on the verge of a breakthrough as the game went on. The introduction of Mudryk in the 54th minute swung the game in the Blues flavour as the Ukrainian’s deft touch and awareness of his teammates led to some fantastic chances for Ziyech and Chukwuemeka.

Mudryk also showed his skills with the ball, dancing through three red defenders to hit the side netting on one occasion. He tore through James Milner whenever he was matched up with the elder statesman and their scrappy encounter even led to Milner scything down Mudryk in desperation to pick up his first booking of the season. Chelsea look to have made an excellent signing, but their lack of firepower up front continues to worry.

Still, Potter was satisfied with the outcome. 

“The group is fighting," he said.

For Liverpool, the game only highlighted their deficiencies. With Van Dijk out, they lack height and composure in set pieces, as evident from the disallowed goal. Meanwhile, the absence of Nunez and Henderson from the starting 11 meant they lacked physicality too, and the substitutions were too little too late. 

“We know the scenario we’re in,” Milner said after the match. “Everything appears to be more difficult.”

But Klopp tried to stay upbeat, calling their move up the table to 8th a ‘positive little step’. Though the Reds were hoping for a win, one point is better than nothing. 

With barely four months left in the season, the match did not add to either side’s hopes for European football. Given their squads and personnel issues, it seems the two Premier League giants will be looking for others to slip up rather than charge up the table themselves. 

This article is a part of Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication with a focus on culture and society from a youth perspective. 

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher