Chelsea 0 Liverpool 2: Mane at the double after Kepa howler and Christensen sees red
THERE is no chance of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool standing still.
No chance of the Premier League champions losing their desire.
No chance of their appetite for constant improvement being sated.
The signings of Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota said much aboutLiverpool’s burning ambition.
Then, after a first-half red card for Chelsea’s Andreas Christensenhad opened up the game, Sadio Mane killed off the game by going theextra yard to score twice in four minutes.
And Thiago arrived at half-time for his Liverpool debut to prove whatwe already suspected - that the deep-lying pass master will improvewhat was already a great team.
Against last season’s Chelsea defence - and last season’s frazzledkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga - Klopp’s men were always likely to prove toostrong.
Chelsea had done more than any club this season to bridge the gap onlast season’s runaway champions.
Yet there was a feeling that this stiffest of tests might have cometoo soon for Frank Lampard’s men with Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell,the two men brought in to stiffen up a shoddy defence are not yetmatch-fit.
Chelsea were cautious before Christensen was sent off for flatteningMane as Liverpool broke rapidly just before the break.
With ten men, they were soon undone.
First Mane stretched his neck muscles to score an impressive headerafter Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah had combined to set him up.
Then, after Mane had infuriated himself by misplacing a pass he madeamends by haring down on calamity Kepa and intercepting a poor passfrom the keeper to net his second.
It was a goal which said so much about the manic workaholism which didso much to make Liverpool the champions of Europe, the world and,finally, England.
Edouard Mendy will join Chelsea from Rennes this week and surely getan early chance to displace poor old Kepa, who needs to be put out ofhis misery.
But this was an early indication that Lampard’s new-look Chelsea willneed time to gel - probably too much time to genuinely challenge forthe title.
Even when Thiago Alcantara made a rare blunder in upending Timo Werner to earn Chelsea a penalty, Allison plunged low to his left to keep outJorginho’s free-kick.
It was tight for most of the first half although Liverpool were themore enterprising side and Salah was always a menace.
And when Kepa was caught off his line by a clearance cannoning backinto the Chelsea box, the Egyptian rounded the keeper and centred forRoberto Firmino whose shot was blocked.
Timo Werner bent a low shot just wide but then Salah was in the thickof it again, shooting across goal after he was picked out by avisionary lofted pass from Virgil Van Dijk.
Werner shot wide when he ought to have found the net only to have hisembarrassment spared by an offside flag.
Then the crunch moment, a minute before half-time, when Liverpoolbroke swiftly and Christensen flattened Sadio Mane. The Dane was thelast defender and Kepa was outside of his box.
Somehow ref Paul Tierney failed to show a straight red but after aword in his shell-like from VAR Michael Oliver and a look at thepitch-side TV screen, Christensen was rightly sent packing.
The red card forced Lampard to withdraw Havertz at half-time to bringon Fikayo Tomori, while Klopp sent on Thiago in place of skipperHenderson.
It did not take long for Mane to strike twice and for Allison to snuffout any chance of a Chelsea fight-back.
Liverpool march on. At this rate, it is hard to imagine anybody stopping them.