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Chelsea’s game against Liverpool was dominated pre-match by Romelu Lukaku and his clumsy interview with Italian media in midweek.

Thomas Tuchel axed the £97.5million striker from the 18 for the pulsating 2-2 draw against the Reds as for 90 minutes of brilliant Premier League football, the Lukaku sideshow was completely forgotten about.

 

 

 

The game was frantic but it suddenly became a bit on a knife edge with neither side wanting to make a critical mistake that could have led to a winner for their opponents.

Tuchel said post-match: “We were so strong from the very start and it made it even harder to be 2-0 down because we had the feeling we should be 2-0 up.

 

 

“It makes things against Liverpool super, super tough. It’s a big match against a big opponent full of individual quality and energy, so it was a big response.

“Given the circumstances and where we come from, how we played was exceptional. We had 22 high ball recoveries and chances in transition.

 

 

 

“ We could’ve been even more clinical to create more. Coming back from 2-0 was immense and there were no worries except the result.

Liverpool, without the absent Jurgen Klopp on the touchline owing to a positive Covid test, raced into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from the incredibly fortunate Sadio Mane and Mo Salah.

 

 

Mane could count himself lucky to be on the pitch having elbowed Cesar Azpilicueta in the face after just six seconds of the game but he showed composure, that Christian Pulisic a few minutes earlier didn’t, to round Edouard Mendy and slot home.

 

 

Salah’s goal was one of real quality. The Egyptian played the ball inside to Fabinho, he played it to Trent Alexander-Arnold and it was his exquisite through ball that found Salah, who had ghosted behind the sleeping Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger, to finish at the near-post.

 

 

 

But the final five minutes of the first half showed that this Chelsea team, who have now won just four of their last ten games, still have a lot of fight in them and no matter the “noise” off the field, are very much still playing for their head coach.

Mateo Kovacic burst his side into life with a goal of the season contender, volleying off balance past Caiomhin Kelleher with an outrageous dipping volley from 20 yards that ricocheted in off the post.

 

 

 

The Blues had their tails up, the crowd were whipped up at Stamford Bridge, and they equalised just three minutes later. Christian Pulisic, who was having a bit of a stinker up to that point, got on the end of N’Golo Kante’s lifted pass and Pulisic steadied himself before smacking past Kelleher.

 

 

 

It was one of those 45 minutes where you didn’t want it to end. The quality from both sides was outstanding, the defending a bit kamikaze but the attacking was world class.

 

 

 

The second half was a tough act to follow and it didn’t quite live up to the brilliance of the first but that doesn’t mean it was any less exciting. Edouard Mendy produced two fabulous saves from Salah and Mane before he departs for the Africa Cup of Nations on Monday, while Kelleher produced fine saves from Mason Mount and Pulisic.

“It was a brilliant match of football.”

He wasn’t wrong. It was a brilliant match of football.

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