Liverpool pulled together an impressive 4-1 win against Chelsea on Wednesday night to maintain their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
Diogo Jota gave Liverpool the lead after weaving his way through the Chelsea defence in the 23rd minute of the game. Conor Bradley then drove down the right flank before finishing across Djordje Petrovic to score the first senior goal of his Liverpool career.
Dominik Szoboszlai looked to have confirmed Liverpool’s win when he headed home the third goal in the 65th minute. There was a brief scare for the hosts when Christopher Nkunku struck in the 71st minute, but Luis Diaz wrapped the game up for Jurgen Klopp’s side shortly afterwards.
Here, Philip Buckingham, Liam Twomey and Mark Carey analyse Wednesday night’s game.
Has Bradley given Jurgen Klopp a headache?
Bradley was lining up against Charlton Athletic and Cheltenham Town this time last year as part of a season-long loan at Bolton Wanderers in League One.
Chelsea in the Premier League ought to have been a very different challenge but the right-back delivered another endorsement of his vast potential.
Bradley excelled during his first league appearance at Anfield on a flank where Chelsea fielded England internationals Ben Chilwell and Raheem Sterling. The 20-year-old never blinked, fully vindicating Jurgen Klopp’s call to leave Trent Alexander-Arnold among the substitutes.
A first Liverpool goal capped the latest landmark night for Bradley. Running on to Luis Diaz pass, the Northern Ireland international fizzed a sumptuous drive beyond Petrovic late in the first half.
Bradley already had an assist to his name by that point after helping to set up Diogo Jota for the opener, first with his tenacity in the press and then with a pass. He had galloped in support for good measure.
It was not his only assist of the night, as he set up the third with a lovely cross from the right wing.
Ten days on from his Premier League debut in the 4-0 win away to Bournemouth, Bradley has doubled down on an introduction that begs for more. From unknown quantity to dependable asset in the blink of an eye.
What do Chelsea need to change for the Carabao Cup final?
Pretty much everything about their attitude and approach. Liverpool are brilliant at whipping up a whirlwind intensity, and particularly so at Anfield, but nothing they did was a surprise — yet Chelsea carried themselves like a group of players who had never even watched a game at this stadium on television before.
They played at their own pace long after it became clear that their own pace was nowhere near fast enough to compete. While rarely being physical enough to foul Liverpool they still managed to rack up two bookings for dissent and another for diving in a dire first 45 minutes.
Conor Gallagher can feel justifiably aggrieved by the inexplicable decision not to award him a penalty when Virgil van Dijk’s knee clipped him in the box, but nothing that happened either side of that incident suggested that Chelsea scoring first would have meaningfully changed the dynamic of the game.
It took until the 48th minute for the visitors to have a shot at Alisson’s goal, a tame Enzo Fernandez effort from long range. Mauricio Pochettino’s triple substitution at half-time reflected his fury at Chelsea’s performance, but also the reality that his starting XI was probably always drawing dead against a team as good as Liverpool.
He will hope to have Christopher Nkunku and Nicolas Jackson fit and available when next month’s Carabao Cup final comes around. Even then Chelsea will be heavy underdogs, but the minimum they owe their supporters is to be spirited, competitive ones.
Why was Jones able to play with so much freedom?
The contrast was almost poetic.
With the riches spent by a visiting Chelsea, it was Liverpool’s academy products who flexed their muscles under the Anfield lights.
Bradley’s goal will grab the headlines, but 23-year-old Curtis Jones has quietly become one of the most consistent performers in the Premier League this season.
Jones’s main strength is the freedom that he plays with. It is difficult for opponents to mark him because he will pop up in so many different places on the pitch. When Liverpool built out from the back, Jones would often tuck in alongside Alexis Mac Allister to provide an option to work through central areas.
If that option wasn’t on, he would keep his width along the left touchline with left-back Joe Gomez coming inside to pin Chelsea’s winger and provide Jones with the space to receive higher up.
Out of possession, Jones would be leading the press as the most advanced player in one phase, but be tracking back to cut out the final pass in his own third seconds later.
It is a trait that has become notably stronger this season, as his manager revealed after Liverpool’s 5-2 victory over Norwich last weekend.
“If Curtis Jones can learn defending, everybody can learn defending!” Klopp disclosed. “Offensive play, this high press, the intensity he is setting the rhythm for us. If he can do it everybody can do it.”
For all of the money spent on Liverpool’s own midfield in the summer, it is one of their homegrown talents who has made himself indispensable in Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool 2.0.
Do Chelsea have a decision-making problem?
Chelsea’s profligacy in attack has been a key theme of their season.
Only Everton have underperformed against their expected goals more than Pochettino’s side this season, with the numbers suggesting they should have scored eight goals more than they have in reality. Chances were few and far between at Anfield, but Chelsea’s decision-making earlier on in the attacking sequence could do with as much improvement as the shot itself.
That final pass, that extra bit of movement to open up an angle, that head looking up in the crucial moment. These might look like small things when you see them on the pitch, but it can be the difference between a draw or a win — a push for a European spot or treading water in mid-table.
The only shining light is that Christopher Nkunku is building up to full fitness. His only goal for Chelsea was taken sharply and is the exact injection of quality that is needed in the second half of the season.
There are plenty of positives to take for Chelsea, but the subtle details matter at the top end of the pitch.
How important is Anfield to Liverpool?
The last time Liverpool won the Premier League title in 2019-20, they did so without losing a single game at Anfield. Repeat the trick this season, with Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur still to visit, and there is every chance Klopp’s era can end on the ultimate high.
The breezy victory over Chelsea made it 29 points from 11 home games this season, the best in the division. It might have been more had those frustrating draws before Christmas against Manchester United and Arsenal not drained momentum but Anfield has been made a fertile hunting ground.
Not since Real Madrid’s Champions League win in February of last year have Liverpool lost a home game. The 2-1 loss to Leeds United in October 2022 remains the only time a Premier League visitor has left Anfield with a victory in almost three years. Klopp will walk away from a fortress this summer.
What next for Liverpool?
Sunday, February 4: Arsenal (A), Premier League, 4.30pm GMT, 11.30am ET
Liverpool have a strong record against Arsenal in recent years, only losing one of their last nine games.
What next for Chelsea?
Sunday, February 4: Wolverhampton Wanderers (H), Premier League, 2pm GMT, 9am ET
Gary O’Neil’s side have already shocked Chelsea this season, with Mario Lemina and Matt Doherty scoring in a 2-1 win five weeks ago. Can they make it a double over Pochettino’s side?
(Top photo: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)
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