Liverpool started their title-winning party before Jordan Henderson got his hands on the Premier League trophy. A little slice of Anfield history was made as the newly-crowned champions put Chelsea’s hopes of Champions League qualification on hold until the final day with a rousing victory.
Success for Jurgen Klopp’s side, started by Naby Keita’s sublime goal and sealed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s clinical finish, ensured Liverpool remained unbeaten throughout a third successive league campaign at Anfield. No other team in the club’s illustrious history have achieved that feat previously.
A 59th home league match unbeaten was open, thrilling and richly entertaining but, for Chelsea, it was a reminder of the levels they still have to reach to be considered genuine challengers. Their prospects of finishing in the top four will be decided on the final day.
The fireworks started over an hour before kick off in nearby Stanley Park while a group of approximately 100 Liverpool fans ignored pleas to keep away and gathered on Anfield Road to greet the team bus. A security cordon kept them at a distance from the stadium, however, as Merseyside Police ensured there would be no repeat of the scenes that followed Liverpool’s confirmation as champions last month. After a late u-turn by the local safety advisory group, players’ families were allowed to attend on condition they watched the game on televisions inside the stand before heading outside for the trophy presentation.
To Liverpool’s credit there was no evidence of post-match partying distracting from their duty to deliver on the pitch, although Chelsea were the more dangerous team until Keïta produced a firework of his own midway through the first half.
Mason Mount should have given the visitors an early lead when Willian and the excellent Reece James combined to find the midfielder free inside the Liverpool penalty area. Mount timed his run to perfection to meet James’ first time cross but, having ghosted in between Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, his header sailed over from six yards out. It set the tone for a wasteful display from the England international. Willian was then released through the middle by Marcos Alonso only to squander the opening with a loose first touch and James went close with a rising drive when invited to try his luck from 20 yards.
Chelsea were in the ascendency when everything turned in the blink of Liverpool’s relentless pressing and Keïta’s unstoppable finish. A combination of Keïta and Georginio Wijnaldum dispossessed Willian deep in the visitors’ half. The Guinea international, his true value to Liverpool too often cloaked by injury, seized on the loose ball and clearly had only one intention in mind as he bore down on Kepa Arrizabalaga’s goal. His thunderous shot beat the Chelsea goalkeeper convincingly from 25 yards, kissing the underside of the crossbar on its way as the Liverpool bench exploded with joy. A stunning goal.
Trent Alexander-Arnold doubled the champions’ advantage with another memorable strike that was almost identical to his recent free-kick against Crystal Palace. Mateo Kovacic was eventually, and correctly, adjudged to have fouled Sadio Mané by referee Andre Marriner, prompting a furious exchange between Lampard and Liverpool assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders. Chelsea’s manager was unhappy at Lijnders leaping from the bench following the Kovacic foul. He sat back down, only to spring back up again as Alexander-Arnold swept the set-piece past a rooted Arrizabalaga from almost 30 yards. The keeper’s movement, and lack of homework on the Liverpool full-back, were both poor.
Number three arrived moments before the break when Andy Robertson’s corner caused havoc inside the Chelsea penalty area. Olivier Giroud’s headed clearance struck Jorginho’s arm and, while Mohamed Salah appealed for a penalty, Wijnaldum volleyed the loose ball into the roof of the Chelsea net. It was the 11th goal that Lampard’s team had conceded in their last four away matches. They have kept only one clean sheet away from Stamford Bridge in the Premier League all season.
Liverpool were a class apart from the moment Keita struck but Chelsea received a glimmer of hope when Giroud reduced the deficit in first half stoppage time. Alisson had produced a superb save to deny Willian from close range, after Alonso flicked on Mount’s cross, but the rebound fell kindly for Giroud to poke home at full stretch.
A strange quirk of Liverpool’s title-winning campaign was Roberto Firmino’s failure to score a single league goal at Anfield despite being fundamental to their success. That little blemish was erased in fine style when Alexander-Arnold produced a perfect cross from the right and the Brazilian, powering in ahead of Kurt Zouma and Azpilicueta, headed past Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea could have been routed before a triple substitution by Lampard sparked improvement. Salah missed two excellent chances to become the first Liverpool player since Roger Hunt in 1965-66 to score 20 goals in three successive seasons. The visitors then reduced the arrears once again when Christian Pulisic weaved his way past three Liverpool defenders and centred for fellow substitute Tammy Abraham to tap home.
Abraham returned the favour to set up a gripping finale when his cross found Pulisic with his back to goal in the home penalty area. The USA international chested, spun away from Alexander-Arnold and drove an emphatic finish past Alisson. Liverpool hit back with an outstanding team goal that started from a Chelsea free-kick, however, Andy Robertson breaking for Oxlade-Chamberlain to seal the win.