Chelsea go nine points clear of the top of the table with a 1-1 draw an Anfield — but could have made it 11 points clear had Diego Costa converted a late second-half penalty.
The Blues opened the scoring with Luiz outsmarting the Liverpool wall and Mignolet from a free-kick from 30 yards, but Wijnaldum headed his side’s deserved equaliser with nearly an hour on the clock.
But with 15 minutes to go, Costa, who won the penalty after being felled by Matip, failed to inflict maximum punishment on the hosts by seeing his weak penalty saved by Mignolet.
The Blues still managed to extend their lead at the top of the table thanks to favourable results elsewhere, but Conte would have been keen to make amends from the reverse fixture defeat earlier in the season and will class this as two points dropped.
It was a fast start by the hosts, who were keen to avoid their fourth successive home defeat in a record stretching back to 1923, and who were evidently keen to restore some equilibrium after a very poor start to 2017. Whilst they captured 87% of the possession in the opening 10 minutes, there was little pressure on Courtois’ goal.
Wijnaldum caused the first save — a stinging 25 yard drive — which needed a smart save by Courtois, whilst Lallana was caught offside from an equally promising position.
At the other end, Hazard and Willian worked a ball well to Moses on the right wing who was in acres of space but whose shot was blocked by Milner.
Chelsea were starting to assert their presence into the game and it was from more chances down the Chelsea right, this time through Willian, the only change to the line-up in the place of Pedro, whose square ball nearly found Diego Costa in the middle but was cut out.
Sustained pressure did bring about the game’s first goal. Hazard was felled from a tempting 25 yards out, and whilst it looked for all the world that Willian would send it in, instead it was the quick-thinking Luiz who swooped at the ball as soon as the whistle blew, over the wall and past Mignolet.
The Liverpool defence was not even ready as Mignolet can be seen still clearly instructing his defence by the time the ball passes him, but Mark Clattenburg had clearly blew his whistle for the ball to come back in play and Liverpool have only themselves to blame, but what a special free-kick it was to mark Luiz’s first goal since re-emerging in a Chelsea shirt.
Willian did have a free-kick opportunity that was his moments later, and when he did swing it in two Chelsea bodies flung themselves forward, both missed and it looked like Mignolet would to for it to settle in the back post, but the Belgian did well when caught in no man’s land.
Milner then rose tallest forcing a corner off Azpilicueta after an inswinging ball from the right, whilst Willian was wasteful when two on one.
Stern words will have been said by Jurgen Klopp as he aims to arrest the Liverpool rot, and it nearly paid dividends instantly when the Liverpool attack walked through Luiz, but the cut-back found no player in red hogging in or around the penalty spot and Chelsea cleared fortuitously.
If that was not enough of a scare, moments later Chelsea left gaping holes down their left, Hazard made a last-ditch tackle to stop a certain goal but when the ball fell to Firmino it still looked a certain goal, but the Brazilian leant back and sent the ball closer to Row Z than the back of the net. It was a glorious opportunity and Chelsea should have paid the price, and if not then then moments later when Coutinho raced through on goal.
The Chelsea defence had totally gone for a rash five minutes, but at the other end Moses nearly doubled his side’s advantage when he raced through after good work by Costa. Sadly the angle was against the Nigerian and he could only find the woodwork.
However the attacks continued at the other end and Liverpool scored their deserved equaliser in the 57th minute.
Another excellent ball from Liverpool’s right — a tactic Chelsea could not contend with all game — found Milner at the back post, who headed back towards the centre of goal to Wijnaldum to head home. It was a sloppy goal to concede as Chelsea ball-watched.
The goal revitalised Liverpool, who sensed blood with the home faithful rejuvenated, and Can then had an opportunity from a Milner free-kick but was too slow to get the ball out of his feet, with Alonso eventually managing to recover.
Willian relieved some pressure by bringing the ball up the other end, but his attempt was neither a shot nor cross and Costa was inches away from sliding in.
Pedro then came on to lift Chelsea, but the biggest lift came from Mark Clattenburg’s next big call, adjuding Matip to have brought down Costa as he raced through on goal.
With Hazard having just come off for Pedro, it was deemed Costa to be Chelsea’s second-best penalty-taker, but what a mistake as the Spaniard nonchalantly strolled up to hit the ball and Mignolet just had to guess the right side to save it, with the ball neither being too in the corner or hit with too much power.
Pedro was undone by a superb last-ditch tackle by Jordan Henderson after a fantastic pass by another substitute Cesc Fabregas, whose free-kick moments later created havoc in the Liverpool box but neither Cahill nor Kante nor Pedro could convert.
Firmino then had a chance to make a name for himself had his header from a Mane cross been anywhere but straight at Courtois, whilst Chelsea had one last chance through Costa and Fabregas, but nothing materialised.
In the end it was honours even and, just like tonight where Chelsea partially made amends for September’s reverse loss, Conte will be making to make a full recovery against Arsenal on Saturday after a similarly unimpressive September reverse outing.
What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!
Man of the Match
N’GOLO KANTE: No Chelsea player shone on a night they needed to, with Costa and Hazard both going missing and the back-line vulnerable to Liverpool attacks. Given all the hosts’ possession, you need a sturdy rock in midfield to break up play and Kante did his duties well this evening, manning his defence well and stopping opportunities before they arise. Alas he could do nothing about the goal. 6/10
Conte was overall reflective: “It’s a pity Diego Costa missed the penalty because he played very well… but we must be happy with the result and the performance because it is not easy to play away at Liverpool. It was a very tough game. Both teams tried to play with intensity. I’m pleased. We saw a different game to when we played Liverpool and lost at home.”
Klopp was defiant: “Not everything is bad because we lose. This team is outstanding in attitude so let’s do the best we can and see where we end up at the end of the season. The results tonight were good for us, but we must continue to fight.”