Mateo stunner hauls Blues back into game against Liverpool in manic 2-2 draw with Liverpool
By Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 1 v Liverpool 1
Mateo Kovacic was the saviour for the Blues as his sensational strike dug Chelsea out of a hole as they recovered from a 2-0 deficit to draw 2-2 against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
The west Londoners had looked set for a hammering. It had looked like a massive own-goal from head coach Thomas Tuchel who dumped striker Romelu Lukaku from the squad following comments he made about tactics and how unhappy he was at Stamford Bridge.
But the Austrian-born Croatia midfielder produced a sensational 25-yard dipping volley to claw Chelsea back in the game and revitalise a very subdued crowd.
They feared the worst, but were given hope from that Matteo screamer three minutes before the break.
Then on the stroke of half-time, USA winger Christian Pulisic found space in the Liverpool penalty area and lashed home a left-footer to level the score.
Could the second half match the manic opening 45 minutes?
Of course not.
Sadie Mane was booked within five seconds of the start by elbowing Cesar Azpilicueta in the face as they both went for a high ball.
A horror back header by Trevoh Chalobah on seven minutes almost resulted in a goal for Liverpool as Mohamed Sarah latched onto the ball, but Toni Rudiger made a last-ditch lunge to deflect the ball to Mendy who hacked it clear.
Then Christian Pulisic had a free strike on goal but goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher snatched the ball off the USA striker after good close-down work by Mason Mount saw the ball bounce to the forward.
But Mane responded by smashing home the opener on nine minutes when Chalobah again made a terrible hash of a headed clearance allowing the striker to run onto goal, take a touch and hammer then ball past Mendy.
Ex-Chelsea winger Salah notched up the second goal on 26 minutes, when after passing the ball in to midfield, he raced on up the pitch. He latched onto the returned ball arrowed into the Chelsea penalty area and slotted the ball past Mendy from a tight angle.
Mount survived a VAR possible red card decision when he clashed with Konstantinos Tsimikas and appeared to have left his right foot in the prone Liverpool player.
But after a review it was adjudged not to be a sending off.
The Blues got back into the game in spectacular fashion three minutes from the break
Firstly an angled free-kick by Marcos Alonso went goal-bound. Kelleher did well to punch the ball high and clear, but the ball fell to Kovacic who produced a sensational dipping volley from outside the penalty area with Kelleher well beaten.
Bizarrely VAR intervened to suggest a possible offside as Rudiger was moving away from the goal. Tuchel went mad at the dugout, throwing a water bottle into the hoarding.
But common sense prevailed and the goal was given.
Then within two minutes parity was restored as a Rudiger nick fed the ball to N’Golo Kante. The France midfielder knocked the ball on to overlapping Pulisic who, left fly with a venomous left-footer hat sailed past Kelleher.
The Blues were inches away from taking the lead when after a quick counter-attack, Mount could only screw a weak half volley wide of the Liverpool goal.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
Alonso had the first chance but he skied a right-footer over the crossbar after cutting in from the left.
Salah almost put the visitors into the lead after Pulisic failed to control the ball in midfield after a hack into the air.
Salah tried an audacious 35-yarder which Mendy did well to parry away. The goalkeeper, who was on fine form seconds later steering clear a Mane right-footed drive.
Up at the other end Kelleher was showing equal levels of class when he parried away a close-range half-volley from Pulisic.
Off came Chalobah on 68 minutes, to be replaced by Jorginho.
That required Pulisic to play right wingback with Azpilicueta taking a central defensive role beside Thiago Silva.
Callum Hudson-Odoi entered the fray 79 minutes, replacing Havertz.
But that were no more goals - both sides seemingly content to go home with a point.
The main winners are Manchester City and the chasing pack of Arsenal, West Ham and Spurs, who the Blues play on Wednesday night in the fist leg of the League Cup semi-final.
Teams: Chelsea: Mendy, Rudiger, Alonso, Silva, Kante Kovacic, Pulisic, Chalobah, Mount, Azpilicueta, Havertz
Subs: Kepa, Jorginho, Saul, Barkley, Hudson-Odoi, Ziyech, Sarr, Vale, Hall
Liverpool: Kelleher, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Konate, Milner, Mane, Sarah, Henderson, Jota, Tsimikas, Alexander-Arnold
Subs: Adrian, Keira, Gomez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Beck, Williams, Morton, De Araujo Pitaluga
Referee: Antony Taylor