Chelsea come from two down to claim point in Stamford Bridge thriller

Chelsea 2 Liverpool 2

It had been tempting to fixate on Thomas Tuchel’s decision to drop Romelu Lukaku from the Chelsea squad after that interview. But it was a measure of what followed once the first whistle had blown that the club’s record signing – and all the drama around him – was swiftly relegated to footnote status.

Tuchel said that he did not select Lukaku because his situation had represented too much of a distraction – what with him saying that he was unhappy at the club and questioning the manager’s system. Not for the first time, Chelsea coped pretty well without him.

During a thrilling first half, they rallied from two goals down, restoring parity through a Mateo Kovacic wonder goal and a tidy finish from Christian Pulisic. When Chelsea can summon this sort of surge, it makes a mockery of their recent Premier League form, which now shows only four wins out of nine.

Liverpool played a full part in a richly entertaining spectacle, their goals coming from Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah; the former snapping a nine-game scoring drought, the latter continuing his red-hot touch. Both of them now depart for the Africa Cup of Nations, providing the latest curve ball for Jürgen Klopp, who was missing here after testing positive for Covid.

Never mind that the second half did not match the first, both teams still had the chances to snatch victory and yet, as the dust settled, there was one manager who was the happiest of all. It was Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, who can now see a ten-point lead over Chelsea and 11 over Liverpool, albeit the latter have a game in hand.

The match had been framed by City’s last-gasp win at Arsenal on New Year’s Day – a result to reinforce the feeling that it looks set to be City’s season – and victory here had felt essential for both of these teams. Then there were the absentees, with Liverpool hit by the losses of the Covid positives Alisson, Joel Matip and Roberto Firmino – not to mention Klopp. The Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta, who is also in Covid-enforced isolation, had said that he would need a “big room” to watch the City game. What about Klopp here? A country estate?

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