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In the much-hyped showdown between Chelsea and Liverpool, the big winner was Manchester City. The Premier League leader and reigning champion saw its lead remain at double digits after the two teams behind it battled to a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in an electric encounter.
A contributing factor in the excitement was the fact that both teams were looking for a win in the hope they could reduce the deficit behind Man City to single digits. As it stands, Chelsea (2nd, 43 points) is 10 points back and Liverpool (3rd, 42 points) is 11 points away though the Reds have a game in hand.
Liverpool looked to be cruising early with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah staking it out to a 2-0 lead after just 16 minutes, exposing the Chelsea defense on both goals.
Defender Trevoh Chalobah misjudges the ball and attempts a low header, but he fails to clear. Sadio Mane picks it up, rounds Mendy, and scores. Mane, who is lucky to be on the field, did what Pulisic failed to do earlier. That ended a streak of nine appearances without a goal for Mane.
Mohamed Salah first beats Marcos Alonso on the right side of the box with a stutter step and then from a tight angle he shoots past Edouard Mendy at the near post. Liverpool's attackers are simply better quality so far. That's his league-leading 16th of the season.
But the home team mounted an improbable comeback with a spectacular Mateo Kovacic volley proving the spark and a Christian Pulisic strike in transition completing the comeback just before the halftime whistle.
Chelsea pulls one back on the heels of a set-piece thanks to a tremendous volley from Kovacic. He was at the top of the box and flicked it into the top corner. He was positioned there to clean up any rebounds and he got one.
Pulisic ties it! N'Golo Kante pushes the ball into space on a quick transition and the American takes it in stride and lofts a left-footed shot past Kelleher. He needed that goal in the worst way.
In the second half, the goalkeepers came up big and stopped further goals
The two teams had enough energy for a handful of incisive attacks to start the second half, but the two goalkeepers were up to the challenge.
Chelsea’s keeper Edouard Mendy was especially busy, denying both Sane and Salah good opportunities.
Chelsea could have used the help of $135 million star forward Romelu Lukaku, but he was dropped from the squad after his comments to Italian outlet Sky Sports Italia which were critical of manager Thomas Tuchel. The German coach said he axed Lukaku because there was too much noise created by the unauthorized interview. Another discussion between the two is scheduled for Monday.
Tuchel's counterpart, Jurgen Klopp was not on the sideline for Liverpool due to a positive COVID-19 test, which is also the reason starters Alisson, Joel Matip, and Roberto Firmino were not available. Liverpool will lose Mane, Salah, and Naby Keita for the month of January at the Africa Cup of Nations, while Chelsea will lose Mendy to the same competition.
What's next for both teams?
Both Chelsea and Liverpool will be involved in Carabao Cup (League Cup) semifinal action in midweek against Tottenham and Arsenal, respectively. After an FA Cup weekend, Chelsea's next league match will be away to leader Man City on Jan. 15, while Liverpool is at home to Brentford on Jan. 16.