Chelsea battles Liverpool to a thrilling draw despite red card setback

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Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea

Ten-man Chelsea produced a display of remarkable resistance to hold on for a 1-1 draw with Liverpool, in an epic, enthralling contest between two Premier League title hopefuls at Anfield, following Reece James’ hotly-debated sending off in first-half injury time.

The Champions League holders had won at this venue in March and were impressing again on Liverpool’s patch, leading through Kai Havertz’s brilliant header, as an enthralling contest approached half-time. But drama and controversy moments before the break transformed the match.

Joel Matip hit the bar as Chelsea struggled to clear a corner and when Sadio Mane rifled in a follow-up shot the ball cannoned into James’ arm off his knee on the goal-line, before the defender appeared to try to flick the ball away with his hand.

Referee Anthony Taylor consulted the pitchside monitor on VAR’s advice and infuriated the Chelsea players by not only awarding a spot-kick – which Mohamed Salah hammered home – but also showing James a red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.

While former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink argued James couldn’t go to make the block with his knee without moving his arm in the direction of the ball as well, Sky Sports pundits Jamie Redknapp and Gary Neville agreed the Chelsea man had to go. “I know it hits his leg first but it’s just the movement of the arm,” said Neville. “If you’re denying a goalscoring opportunity a red card has to follow, whether you like it or not,” added Redknapp.

The incident left Chelsea level with Liverpool but facing a second-half onslaught in front of the Kop, yet while Salah, Diogo Jota, Virgil van Dijk, Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold were among the players to try to find the winner, the home side struggled to build enough consistent pressure to break through.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel celebrated that resistance – and hard-fought draw against his compatriot Jurgen Klopp – at the final whistle, which brought to the end a brilliant contest which could form an important chapter in a fascinating Premier League title race.

Player ratings

Liverpool: Alisson (6), Alexander-Arnold (7), Matip (7), Van Dijk (7), Robertson (6), Elliott (7), Henderson (6), Fabinho (6), Salah (7), Firmino (6), Mane (6),

Subs: Jota (6), Thiago (6), Tsimikas (N/A)

Chelsea: Mendy (7), Azpilicueta (8), Rudiger (8), Christensen (8), James (4), Jorginho (6), Kante (7), Alonso (6), Mount (7), Havertz (8), Lukaku (6)

Subs: Thiago Silva (7), Kovacic (6), Chalobah (N/A)

Man of the match: Andreas Christensen (Chelsea)