The game began at a breakneck pace, with neither side willing to retreat an inch. The visitors struck the first blow courtesy Kai Havertz’s looping header in the 22nd minute, and looked set to take a lead to the break. However, drama ensued right at the end of the half, leading to the hosts restoring parity in the game.
A goalmouth scramble saw the ball flick off Reece James’ thigh onto his hand while the Chelsea full-back was stationed on the goalline. A brief look at the VAR monitor prompted the referee to give Liverpool a penalty and James his marching orders. Former Blues attacker Mohamed Salah stepped up to take the spot-kick and dispatched it nervelessly into the bottom corner.
Liverpool were expected to make their numerical advantage count and find a winner in the second half, but Chelsea had other ideas. The ten men in blue delivered a spectacular rearguard action, proving to be extremely difficult to get past. That meant the game ended with the two teams on level terms but with Chelsea undoubtedly the happier of the two.
On that note, here are the five hits and flops from either team from the game at Anfield.
#5 Hit: Harvey Elliott (Liverpool)
As hard as it is to stand out amidst the array of attacking stars Liverpool have in their ranks, Elliott managed to do just that. The 18-year-old displayed maturity well beyond his years in a superb performance down the Reds’ right wing.
It was not blazing pace or astounding trickery that set Elliott apart, but his remarkable intelligence on the ball. The youngster kept things utterly simple: playing short, swift and accurate passes that almost always found their intended target.
While some may have questioned his inclusion in the Liverpool starting lineup, Elliott looks set to be a mainstay in the Reds' starting XI this season.
#4 Flop: Reece James (Chelsea)
In the space of a week, Reece James has experienced the highs as well as the lows of professional football. Coming off a match-winning performance against Arsenal last weekend, the Blues right-back was sent off in the first half against Liverpool.
While some may view James’ actions as purely accidental, the referee’s opinion was that the young Englishman handled the ball deliberately on the line. Not only did that passage of play result in a penalty, but Chelsea were also left to play the second half with a man down.
What made the sending off more frustrating was the fact that James had begun the game extremely well. In addition to claiming the assist for Chelsea's opener, James got forward well down the wing and looked quite dangerous on the ball.
#3 Hit: Edouard Mendy (Chelsea)
Mendy made an instant impact after joining Chelsea last season, stacking up a series of clean sheets in a hugely successful season. The Senegalese shot-stopper seems to have carried that form into this season as well, as he delivered an excellent performance against Liverpool.
From making acrobatic diving saves to clutching crosses out of the air, Mendy was equal to virtually everything Liverpool threw at him. In fact, the only way Liverpool were able to breach his defence was from the penalty spot.
While Chelsea’s entire backline deserves immense credit for the way they defended as a unit, Mendy was undoubtedly one of the stars of the show.
#2 Flop: Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea)
One of the main sub-plots in the lead-up to this game was the prospect of Romelu Lukaku going up against the equally formidable Virgil van Dijk. Unfortunately for the Belgian, it was Van Dijk who had the best of the exchange on the night.
While he was not helped by his side being a man down, Lukaku was unable to replicate his excellent showing from the previous weekend. Both his hold-up play and dribbling fell a bit short of the mark, as he often gifted possession back to his opponents. Furthermore, the occasional physical tussles he did win usually came against Joel Matip rather than Van Dijk.
Lukaku is sure to have several excellent outings in Chelsea blues, but this was definitely not one of them.
#1 Hit: Kai Havertz (Chelsea)
Although he took some time to get accustomed to the English game, Kai Havertz is slowly but surely coming into his own at Chelsea. His performances at the end of last season and at the start of the ongoing 2021-22 campaign show why he is so highly regarded in footballing circles.
Trusted to start games against both Arsenal and Liverpool, Kai Havertz repaid his manager’s trust by scoring the opener at Anfield. The German international’s deft looping header was a fine example of the variety of ways he can contribute in attack.
Reece James’ first-half sending off forced Thomas Tuchel to sacrifice Havertz at half-time, but the German did enough by then to make a hugely positive impression.