Willian saves Chelsea as Mohamed Salah stars again for Liverpool
LIVERPOOL, England -- Three thoughts on Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Chelsea as Willian's late lob equalised another goal from Mohamed Salah.
1. Willian denies Salah revenge
Willian denied Mohamed Salah a match-winning strike against former club Chelsea by sealing a draw for the Premier League champions with a late leveller against Liverpool.
Salah, who made just 13 league appearances for Chelsea during a frustrating two-year spell at Stamford Bridge, had broken the deadlock on 65 minutes to put Liverpool in control of a tight game at Anfield.
Tiemoue Bakayoko's failure to properly cut out a Philippe Coutinho ball on the edge of the penalty area gifted Salah the chance to score in front of The Kop, with the Egyptian claiming his 10th goal in 13 league games since arriving at Liverpool from Roma during the summer.
But Willian's strike on 83 minutes, a misplaced cross that caught out goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and looped into the back of the net, earned Chelsea a point.
The draw does little for the aspirations of either side, with Chelsea and Liverpool now eight and 11 points, respectively, behind leaders Manchester City.
Chelsea were the better team, however, despite only returning to London at 4:15 a.m. on Thursday following their Champions League win against Qarabag in Azerbaijan. And their ability to cancel out Salah's opener and fight back will ensure that Antonio Conte regards the point as one gained.
Jurgen Klopp, however, will regard it as two dropped for Liverpool after seeing his side take the lead.
2. Hazard too good for his teammates
Such has been Manchester City's dominance of the Premier League so far this season, it would be a challenge to find an outfield player from any of the other 19 top-flight clubs capable of breaking into the team of the year as the campaign approaches its halfway stage.
But Eden Hazard would have as good a claim as anyone, with the Chelsea midfielder showing his outstanding quality once again.
Chelsea's last two title triumphs have been inspired by their Belgian No. 10 and, at times against Liverpool at Anfield, he was almost unplayable.
In the first half, Hazard dominated the game after being allowed to roam freely by the home side.
Last season, Jose Mourinho deployed Ander Herrera to man-mark Hazard out of the game in Chelsea's 2-0 defeat at Manchester United, but Klopp took the opposite approach, and it nearly cost Liverpool dearly.
Hazard was able to find time and space, and he stung the fingers of Liverpool keeper Mignolet after creating an early opportunity. He also unlocked the door for teammates such as Danny Drinkwater and Alvaro Morata to score, but neither were able to take advantage.
Liverpool eventually grew wise to Hazard's threat, with Joel Matip and Joe Gomez shadowing him much more closely in the second half. But every time Hazard had the ball, he was a danger. The only problem for Chelsea was that not enough of his teammates were on the same wavelength.
3. Did Klopp get lucky with his selection?
There were gasps of surprise when Liverpool's team sheet was produced an hour before kick-off, with both Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino named as substitutes.
The two forwards have been key to Liverpool's attacking play this season, with Mane's pace and Firmino's movement providing half of the team's "Fab Four" forward quartet alongside Coutinho and Salah.
Knocks suffered by both Mane and Firmino during the 3-3 Champions League draw with Sevilla on Tuesday night were given as the reason for Klopp's decision to start with the two players on the bench, with Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain selected instead.
But while it is unlikely that Klopp would have picked a team without Mane and Firmino had they been fit, his selection ultimately enabled Liverpool to be more solid and tough to break down.
Yes, they lacked pace on the counter-attack without Mane and Firmino, but the presence of Oxlade-Chamberlain in the team gave Liverpool a more durable look.
The question is whether they would have posed more of a threat with more attacking players, or if a team containing the "Fab Four" would simply have been too attack-minded against a team of Chelsea's experience and quality.
The end result, a draw that does little for either side, ensures that the question will remain unanswered, but Klopp at least now knows that he can put out a more-defensive team and get a positive result at the end of it.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_