Thomas Tuchel has started his reign as Chelsea boss by going 10 games unbeaten after his side won at Liverpool on Thursday, condemning the reigning champions to a fifth straight home defeat for the first time in their history.
Owner Roman Abramovich and his board of directors increasingly look to have found the right manager for their gifted and expensively assembled squad in Tuchel, although how much of a masterstroke the move can be considered on their part is debatable given that the 2020 Champions League finalist is thought not to have been their first choice to replace Frank Lampard in January.
Neither they nor the tactician will care after Chelsea earned a fifth clean sheet in sixth and a seventh win in nine in all competitions. There were murmurings on social media about his decision to leave Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz on the bench, only for the mainstay of Chelsea’s midfield this season, England midfielder Mason Mount, to score a superb opener three minutes before half-time.
Collecting possession outside the Liverpool penalty area on the left, Mount pushed the ball to his right, outpacing the uncomfortable-looking Fabinho with apparent easer before bending an unstoppable shot into the left-hand corner of goalkeeper Allison’s net, ensuring that Liverpool would not build on the first clean sheet in eight they secured by beating bottom side Sheffield United on Sunday.
“It’s a massive win. Every win now is big,” Mount told Sky Sports after, admitting that he had been pleased to score because of Chelsea’s concerns over not producing enough goals.
“We had to be brave, push forward and try to win the ball back up high. Most of the time their defensive line is quite high, and we tried to explore that.
“Me, Timo and Hakim [Ziyech] tried to run in behind and in the end that paid off. I’m not the quickest but I have a yard of pace.
“We want to keep pushing. We’re in and around it and these are the games we want to win.”
18 – Only Manchester City (24) have earned more points than Chelsea (18) since Thomas Tuchel took over eight games ago; Frank Lampard earned only seven points from his final eight games in charge. Spark. pic.twitter.com/59Hdnt5ueb
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 4, 2021
Liverpool never really threatened. Home boss Jurgen Klopp emerged for the second half with his arms around Sadio Mane, hoping the livewire striker would recapture the kind of form that saw him score both goals when his side won 2-0 at Chelsea in September.
As it was, they did not have a shot on target all night, and Timo Werner, who looked lively in attack with clever movement and rapid running, came closest to scoring a second, breaking free inside the penalty area in the right to shoot against the onrushing Allison’s legs.
Reds fans who feel they have missed out on the joy of congratulating their title-winning team at Anfield now have the consolation of knowing that they have not watched the worst run of home defeats in the club’s history.
Had they been able to attend home games this year, they would have seen one goal in six matches – a Mohamed Salah penalty in the 4-1 drubbing by Manchester City – as part of a run of more than 10 hours without a goal from open play.
10 – Liverpool have earned just 10 points from 11 Premier League games in 2021, with only West Brom (nine), Newcastle (seven) and Southampton (four) picking up fewer points since the turn of the year. Struggle. pic.twitter.com/6Zr36uOnJ8
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 4, 2021
Top scorer Mohamed Salah failed to find the net for a third league match in the row shaking his head in a visible show of frustration as he sat in the stands after being substituted with less than half of the second half played.
Liverpool had gone 68 matches unbeaten at home before Burnley beat them in January. They are now seven without a win at Anfield, and their crisis is such that even third-bottom Fulham, battling to stay up and only narrowly beaten by Tottenham earlier on Thursday, pose a conceivable threat when they visit on Sunday.
Only an early Tosin Adarabioyo own-goal gave Spurs victory after they survived late pressure from the hosts, and that will have been enough for Jose Mourinho, whose side have now improved on a dire run of form with three wins in a week.
Elsewhere, Everton continued their fine season and temporarily went above Chelsea by winning 1-0 at second-bottom West Brom.
Brazil international Richarlison headed the 65th-minute winner for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, keeping them firmly in contention for the fourth-placed finish that would guarantee Champions League football next season.