Simon Mignolet’s erratic Liverpool career took an upward turn at Anfield as the goalkeeper repelled Diego Costa’s penalty to preserve a 1-1 draw with Premier League leaders Chelsea.
David Luiz caught Mignolet and the Liverpool wall napping with a spectacular 24th-minute free-kick – an effort that mirrored the clinical precision of the first-half work from Antonio Conte’s men.
To their credit, Liverpool did not allow their energy levels or thirst for possession to subside as they faced the prospect of a fourth consecutive home defeat in all competitions and Georginio Wijnaldum headed his third goal of the season 12 minutes into the second half.
Jurgen Klopp’s side appeared to be building momentum towards a first league win this month but Costa had them fearing the worst, only to fluff his lines.
Chelsea’s dominant standing at the summit remains unchecked after setbacks for Tottenham and Arsenal elsewhere on Tuesday – the north London duo are nine points off the pace in second and third having drawn at Sunderland and lost at home to Watford respectively.
Liverpool are a point further back in fourth and will be glad to see the back of a month in which they have bowed out of two cup competitions and only tasted victory against League Two side Plymouth Argyle.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 31, 2017
They showed few scars from their recent woes as they applied suffocating pressure to Chelsea during the opening stages.
Philippe Coutinho’s touch let him down when he was cleverly found by Adam Lallana in the 12th minute but the Brazil playmaker retrieved the situation and fed Wijnaldum, whose piledriver was pushed away at full stretch by Thibaut Courtois.
Chelsea’s first attack of note came from a wretched blind pass from home centre-back Joel Matip, with James Milner getting back to thwart Victor Moses.
The next time the leaders threatened they led, with Luiz thumping a viciously dipping free-kick in off the left post after Lallana brought down Eden Hazard.
Mignolet was still attempting to organise his defence when Luiz sprang into action – it is unlikely he would have got near the shot in any case – and there was another moment of uncertainty for the Liverpool goalkeeper as he palmed a Willian set-piece behind with little conviction.
Luiz received treatment after the half hour, having twisted and gone to ground on the sodden turf, but he recovered to complete a highly satisfactory half for Conte’s men.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 31, 2017
Liverpool spurned a glorious opportunity four minutes into the second period.
Lallana’s deft backheel for Nathaniel Clyne was intercepted by Hazard and fell invitingly for Roberto Firmino, who blazed horribly off target from 12 yards.
Some uncharacteristically slack defending from Milner allowed Chelsea wing-back Moses to shoot into the side-netting and both men were involved at the other end of the field when the equaliser arrived.
Milner was unmarked at the far post to head back across goal when the ball skidded up off the turf and a deflection off Moses necessitated a sharp reaction for Wijnaldum to guide a low effort past Courtois.
A largely subdued Costa was unable to grab a goalscoring touch when he flung himself towards a low Willian cross, Hazard having orchestrated a 68th-minute foray forward.
But Chelsea’s talisman thrust himself into centre stage by taking a tumble under pressure from Matip 15 minutes from time.
He struck the resulting penalty firmly enough but too close to Mignolet, who took the chance to claim the Kop’s acclaim.
Blues substitute Pedro saw a shot skim agonisingly wide, while Firmino nodded too close to Courtois from close range.
A dejected Costa was replaced by Michy Batshuayi deep into stoppage time but could console himself in the knowledge his wastefulness did little to loosen Chelsea’s firm grip on the title race.
Key Opta stats:
– David Luiz has scored his first Premier League goal for Chelsea since April 2013, 1386 days ago.
– He is the seventh player to score a direct free-kick at Anfield v Liverpool in the Premier League (Irwin, Beckham, Geremi, Puncheon, Adam Johnson and Payet).
– All 14 of Georginio Wijnaldum’s Premier League goals have been scored in home games (11 for Newcastle, three for Liverpool). This is the highest ratio for any PL player to score all of his goals at home.
– Simon Mignolet has saved six penalties in the Premier League at Liverpool (14 faced), more than any other keeper for the Reds.
– Jurgen Klopp has lost just one of his 15 Premier League meetings with the other ‘big six’ teams (Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal). He’s won six and drawn eight of these matches.
– The Reds have gone five games without a win at Anfield in all competitions for the first time since October 2012 (a run of six).