Chelsea showed the hallmarks of a Premier League title-winning team in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool, says Gary Neville.
European champions Chelsea dug deep to put on a defensive masterclass as Thomas Tuchel’s side ensured their unbeaten start to the season was not derailed by Reece James’ contentious dismissal for handball in first-half stoppage-time at Anfield.
Mohamed Salah scored the resulting penalty, but Chelsea channelled their anger and frustration at the decision into a superb second-half defensive display which Neville believes will breathe confidence into their title challenge and leaves Liverpool with doubts.
“It was an absolutely brilliant game,” Neville told Sky Sports. “Before the game we thought this would be a much sterner test for Chelsea than they had at Arsenal, but they will leave Anfield confident.
“They played well in the first half and managed Liverpool, who were playing really well, but the resilience they showed in the second half is what we associate with championship-winning teams. They are a long way from that, but they have shown those qualities.”
Neville added: “Liverpool will leave with a couple of doubts that they couldn’t go and punish Chelsea in the second half. Liverpool at full pelt under Jurgen Klopp would have gone and won that game a few years ago.”
Tuchel: James red spoiled game
Chelsea head coach Tuchel claimed James’ contentious dismissal spoiled an enthralling Anfield contest.
Anthony Taylor sent off Chelsea full-back James for handling a Sadio Mane shot during a penalty-box melee after reviewing the footage on the advice of the video assistant referee.
The Chelsea head coach understood how the decision was reached but voiced calls for officials to be granted more time and viewing angles for future decisions.
“I don’t like these early red cards, of course – not at Liverpool when we play but in general,” Tuchel said. “For me it’s a bit the spoiler of the game.
“Nobody I think wants to see that for 45 minutes, they want to see a high-level game and even me when I’m watching on TV, I don’t like it. I have no solution now for it and no better idea in the moment but in general it is a spoiler.
“The situation itself, I can understand the decision and I’m not saying it’s a wrong decision, but I did not like the way the referee checked it because for me he checked only the image.
“I would have wished for a longer consideration, a longer thought and a better view on the whole situation. Maybe he would have taken the same decision. I think it stays a grey situation and he could have maybe taken the same decision and we have to live with it.”
Tuchel confirmed returning midfielder N’Golo Kante was replaced at half-time due to injury, which he says made the point at Anfield all the more impressive.
“I mean, can there be any harder challenge than going one man down and taking N’Golo Kante off at half-time at Anfield? I don’t know,” he added. “And having Liverpool playing towards the Kop.
“[It’s a] pretty tough one but we did excellent, and we are super happy how we did and we feel like we deserved a point.
“With pure will, we took the heat out of the game. That was team effort at its very best. They never lost the shape, they tried to close the half spaces. I was hoping we would survive and take a well-earned point, and we did, the teamwork was absolutely fantastic.”
Klopp: A point a fair result
Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp was frustrated his side were unable to convert their numerical advantage into victory but saluted his players’ effort.
“Today we obviously had bigger chances in the first half already, which we didn’t score,” Klopp said.
“The performance was really good against the strongest Chelsea side for a long, long time. It’s always difficult against Chelsea, so I was really happy with the first half.
“The second half, I’m not somebody that just watches from time to time and says ‘oh 11 against 10, that must be easy’. I saw five million games, I know that’s really not a massive advantage, especially against a quality side like Chelsea with the defending skills they have.
“They knew the job they had to do was just to defend in and around the box more or less, and it was tricky. We could have done better for sure but it’s early in the season. We need this one moment where you get through, where you can finish it off.
“We had our finishers, we had good football moments. We tried everything, we defended the potential counter-attacks most of the time really well – sometimes we had to run a bit further to catch them again but we did.
“Chelsea put a proper shift in as well and I respect that, so it’s a draw. Just take the point and carry on.”