Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool
I had billed this as a clash of two Premier League big beasts, familiar faces with a new look.
How wrong I was as soon as the hosts had been reduced to 10 men.
There may have been a time when, even with a numerical disadvantage, Chelsea would have dug deep and shown resolve against such rivals, ensuring the outcome was in the balance until the final whistle.
Not anymore; their class of 2020 lacked belief and were instead pinned back and picked off by the reigning champions.
If the first-half dismissal of Andreas Christensen was the turning point, the howler from home goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga nine minutes into the second half simply showed that so many players in the current Chelsea ranks are nowhere near good enough.
In contrast, Liverpool were simply too good.
Highlights of the game
The decisive Premier League highlights arrived at the start of the second period.
A man down after Christensen was rightly dismissed (with the help of VAR) for denying Sadio Mane a clear goalscoring opportunity on the stroke of half-time, the Senegalese exacted revenge twice in the space of four minutes.
First, he powered home a header from a Roberto Firmino cross.
Then he stuck out a leg to block an Arrizabalaga pass and composed himself before rolling the ball into an open net.
Mane, who had failed to score in all his five Liverpool appearances at Stamford Bridge, had put that record right and settled the contest.
Too easy for the champions; too woeful for the hosts who need to replace their goalkeeper who clearly lacks self-confidence as well as that from his team-mates.
At that point, the SBOTOP Premier League betting odds were strongly in favour of Liverpool heaping further misery on Chelsea.
That they didn’t will hardly worry Jurgen Klopp and his players who looked every inch the composed champions they are.
For those with some sympathy for Chelsea, there were mitigating circumstances.
For example, this game came too soon for experienced defender Thiago Silva and fellow summer signings Ben Chilwell and Hakim Ziyech to make their debuts, while Christian Pulisic remains out.
Equally, they lost their other big signing, Kai Havertz, in their enforced half-time re-shuffle, just as Liverpool were bringing on new recruit Thiago Alcantara following his £20 million arrival on Friday.
And finally, visiting Stamford Bridge without fans is hardly the same daunting experience it can often be.
But even before they were reduced to 10 men, Chelsea rarely looked like winning a seventh league match in a row at home for the first time since December 2017.
Even the decision to award them a 75th-minute penalty when Thiago fouled the isolated Timo Werner didn’t impact the match as Alisson kept out a poorly taken spot-kick from the usually reliable Jorginho.
Liverpool set a club record of 14 top-flight away wins last season, including at Stamford Bridge. They are now on their way in the new campaign. Can anyone stop them? Certainly, Chelsea won’t come close.
This win equalled Liverpool’s longest winning streak against Chelsea in the Premier League – four matches – set between November 2010 and May 2012. It is also the first time they have won their opening two league fixtures in three consecutive top-flight seasons.
The Reds have won seven of their past 13 league games at Stamford Bridge (drawn three, lost three), including four of six under Klopp.
Mane is only the third Liverpool player to score a Premier League brace at Stamford Bridge after Steve McManaman in December 1995 and Philippe Coutinho in October 2015.
Christensen is the first player to be sent off in a Premier League fixture between Chelsea and Liverpool since Frank Lampard in February 2009.
This was the first penalty Jorginho has missed in nine attempts for Chelsea in all competitions, while this was Alisson’s first penalty save for Liverpool since joining the club in 2018.
Chelsea have lost their opening home match in only three of 29 Premier League seasons: 2-1 against Blackburn in 1993, 3-2 versus Burnley in 2017 and today.
Until today, Chelsea were unbeaten in their past 13 home league games against the reigning champions (won seven, drawn six).
Roberto Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold both scored home and away against Chelsea in last season’s Premier League; the last Liverpool player to score in three consecutive league matches in this fixture was Ian Rush between December 1989 and October 1990.
Chelsea host Barnsley in the League Cup on Wednesday evening before making the trip to newly-promoted West Brom next Saturday teatime.
Liverpool go to Lincoln City in their midweek League Cup tie before hosting Arsenal – who recently defeated them in the Community Shield – on September 28.
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