LONDON: Leaders Liverpool maintained their perfect start to the Premier League season as they staved off a second-half fight back from Chelsea to secure a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge that left them five points clear at the summit.
Liverpool opened a two-goal lead in the first half as Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino found the net from clever free kicks, before Juergen Klopp’s side showed just enough resilience after the break to keep Chelsea at bay.
It was a sixth straight league win from the start of the campaign for the European champions and extended their club-record streak to 15 in total.
The victory, however, owed as much to their steely work ethic under pressure as their more heralded attacking attributes.
“The boys did really well and fought really hard. I don’t think there is any other way to win here,” Klopp said.
Chelsea made a spirited fightback in the second half, pulling a goal back with a superb effort from N’Golo Kante, but they missed late chances to equalise and fell to a second defeat of the season that left them 10 points off the pace in 11th.
For Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, there were numerous positives to take from the game, even if his side are still without a home league win this season.
“It is hard to accept congratulations after a loss, but the second-half display is close to where we want to be,” he said.
Liverpool began the match at a frenetic pace as the intensity of their pressing game kept Chelsea pegged firmly against the ropes, struggling to hold onto possession or build any momentum, and it was not long until the pressure told.
Mohamed Salah backheeled a free kick to Alexander-Arnold on the edge of the box, who let fly with his right foot, drilling the ball past goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to give the visitors the lead after 14 minutes.
Despite being second best for much of the first half, Chelsea still had their moments.
They were denied an equaliser by VAR after 26 minutes when Cesar Azpilicueta bundled the ball in only for replays to show that Mason Mount had strayed a fraction offside in the build-up, swiftly curtailing the home crowd’s raucous celebrations.
Salt was then rubbed into the wound when Liverpool doubled their lead four minutes later.
Alexander-Arnold tapped a free kick on the left to Andy Robertson, whose cross was met by Firmino and he powered his header home from close range.
Liverpool should have added to their advantage early in the second half when Firmino was left unmarked at the far post but he scuffed his volley and the Brazilian’s effort was parried away by Arrizabalaga before Chelsea began to find their feet.
Kante pulled one back in spectacular fashion, turning midfielder Fabinho, before attacking the heart of the visitors’ defence and curling the ball into the far corner, before further chances came and went.
Substitute Michy Batshuayi headed wide after 88 minutes and Mount scooped a Marcos Alonso cross over the bar at the death to leave the home side rueing their missed opportunities.