Liverpool delivered a powerful statement of intent about their desire to retain the Premier League title with a comfortable dismissal of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on another nightmare day for keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Jurgen Klopp’s champions were already in complete control even before Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen was correctly shown a red card on the stroke of half-time.
Referee Paul Tierney initially opted for a yellow card but reviewed Christensen’s desperate challenge on Sadio Mane as he raced on to Jordan Henderson’s pass.
Mane then punished Chelsea with two swift goals after the break to confirm Liverpool’s vast superiority, the second of which was the result of another calamity for Kepa.
Mane headed in Roberto Firmino’s cross after 50 minutes then chased down Kepa, whose botched clearance gave the forward the simplest of finishes.
Chelsea’s day of misery was complete when Jorginho, normally so reliable from the spot, saw his penalty saved by Alisson after Liverpool’s new £20m signing Thiago Alcantara, on as a half-time substitute, brought down Timo Werner.
Liverpool send ominous message
Liverpool were helped by Christensen’s moment of sheer panic that reduced Chelsea to 10 men right on the break – but they were head and shoulders ahead of a negative home team even before that crucial moment.
The champions dominated from the first whistle and it seemed only a matter of time before they scored, pinning Chelsea back in their own territory and probing for openings at will.
And when the breakthrough came, no-one deserved it more than Mane, now comfortable in world-class and willing to do the dirty work as well as apply the finishing touches.
Mane’s first goal was a superb header but in many ways he summed up what makes him the complete attacker with his second, reacting with fury at giving the ball away before chasing down Kepa.
Super Sadio with a sublime header!
— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) September 20, 2020
The Senegal forward’s pace forced the error from a goalkeeper who does not necessarily need forcing into errors and effectively finished the contest with Liverpool’s second.
It was all so easy for Liverpool after that, Thiago easing his way in as a substitute although there will be a concern about yet another injury for captain Henderson, who went off at half-time.
Chelsea pay for cautious approach
This was a brutal reality check for Chelsea after a summer of big spending by manager Frank Lampard – and surely the final flawed contribution from error-ridden keeper Kepa.
Chelsea’s gameplan appeared to be to sit back and attempt to catch Liverpool on the break with Werner’s pace but in the end it was all too passive, the home team resembling a side that would have been happy with a point.
Werner showed the odd flashes of what he will undoubtedly bring to Chelsea but he was feeding off scraps at best here and his struggles reflected a surprisingly conservative approach.
As for Kepa, the £71m keeper who has never lived up to his lavish price tag, this must surely be the final straw for Lampard, who dropped the goalkeeper last season and is now pursuing Rennes’ keeper Edouard Mendy in a £20m deal.
Kepa had already had a couple of near misses before he cleared the ball straight to Mane, who induced panic in the keeper and scored the visitors’ second.
Lampard’s side will have better days and patience will be required with such an influx of new faces, the likes of Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell and Hakim Ziyech yet to be involved, but this will have been a real disappointment and is a missed opportunity to make a statement of their own.
‘Red card changes the face of the game’ – what they said
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard speaking to BBC Match of the Day: “For chances the first half was very even. The red card changes the face of the game, the talk I do at half-time, and it forces me into a reshuffle. It was always going to be difficult after that.
On the red card: “I think it could be given or not. I was perhaps surprised it was given as a yellow first. If it was given as a red straight away, you continue with that.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp speaking to BBC Sport: “It’s always a tough game here. I liked the first half. It was two teams that wanted to play, create, defend and make things happen.
“They were the dominant side without goals but then a massive game-changer in the last seconds which was good for us. We had to adapt to that and we did.
“We decided to bring Thiago on early because it was 11 v 10 and a player like him can command the rhythm. It was the perfect start for him and the boys helped him massively.”
Busy debut for Thiago – the best of the stats
- Liverpool are the first reigning champions to win away at Chelsea in the Premier League since Manchester United in April 2002, with the Blues unbeaten in 13 such matches since then before today (W7 D6).
- This is only the third time Chelsea have lost their first home match of a Premier League season, also doing so against Blackburn in 1993-94 and Burnley in 2017-18.
- Half of Liverpool’s eight Premier League wins away at Chelsea have come in just six visits to Stamford Bridge under manager Jurgen Klopp (W4 D1 L1).
- Chelsea had both a player sent off and missed a penalty in the Premier League for the first time since February 1999 against Blackburn, when Gianluca Vialli was sent off and Frank Leboeuf missed from the spot.
- Jorginho missed a penalty for the first time in nine attempts for Chelsea in all competitions, while this was Alisson’s first penalty save for Liverpool since joining the club (three faced). The penalty was also Alisson’s first save of any kind in this season’s Premier League.
- This was the 13th time Mane scored more than once in a Premier League game, but the first away from home. The forward has scored in each of his last three away league games for Liverpool.
- Despite him only coming on as a second-half substitute, no Chelsea player completed more passes (75) or had more touches (89) than Liverpool debutant Thiago. His 75 successful passes was the most by a player to play 45 or fewer minutes in a Premier League game since 2003-04 (when full passing data is available).
Chelsea host Championship side Barnsley in the Carabao Cup third round on Wednesday, 23 September (19:45 BST kick-off), before travelling to West Brom in the Premier League on Saturday, 26 September (17:30 BST).
Liverpool travel to Lincoln City for their Carabao Cup tie on Thursday, 24 September (19:45 BST). They are back in Premier League action against Arsenal at Anfield on Monday, 28 September (20:15 BST).