Chelsea prove a point by scoring one at Liverpool

LIVERPOOL, England – Romelu Lukaku’s second half was not particularly glamorous. There was plenty of running, rushing into bursts of sp...


LIVERPOOL, England – Romelu Lukaku’s second half was not particularly glamorous. There was plenty of running, rushing into bursts of space on either side of Liverpool’s center-backs, hoping for a ball that rarely came. There have been a lot of brawls and struggles with Joel Matip, in particular, with the two struggling for every inch of the ground.

Conversely, there were not many hits: only 20 in total after half-time, not quite one every two minutes. There was only one chance to score, in the entire duration of those 45 minutes, a single moment that Lukaku spent all night trying to conjure up, a snapshot just inside the penalty area. . He caught it well. No sooner had he left his foot when Virgil van Dijk blocked him.

This is of course the fate of the attacker: all those moments of glory, as they walk away with their arms in the air, the adulation pouring out on them from the stands are the product of countless hours. invisible, inflexible and often underestimated work. Each goal is a reward for all efforts made in silence. Lukaku, now in his second term at Chelsea, has been doing this long enough to get used to it.

Even then, Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool will have been a tough night. Circumstances had dictated that Lukaku spent much of the second half looking back rather than ahead. Chelsea were leading, thanks to a smart header from Kai Havertz, with time passing at half-time as Reece James handled the ball over the goal line.

James was eventually sent off, Mohamed Salah converted the penalty and Anfield smelled blood. From that point on, it was clear Chelsea’s second half would be all about hanging on, without pushing, and Lukaku, returned to the club for $ 135million this summer, would endure an evening of silent toil.

Thanks to his two costs – Lukaku is now the most expensive player in football history in terms of cumulative transfer fees, at least up to Kylian Mbappé joins Real Madrid – and this status, there is a natural tendency to assume that the last piece of the puzzle is also the most important, that this Chelsea side are now built for and around Romelu Lukaku.

His first posting, at Arsenal last week, did little to disillusion anyone with that notion. He played it with all the intent and threat of a vengeful hero, scoring within 15 minutes of starting his second stint in England; perhaps he single-handedly stole from Pablo Marí, his direct opponent that day, any piece of his self-confidence for several years.

His second game on Saturday was a reminder that there can only be a final piece if the puzzle is almost complete. Lukaku was, through no fault of his own, an optional extra for much of this game, against one of Chelsea’s putative title rivals, and yet the club’s traveling fans hailed the final whistle anyway. with a roar of approval.

Thomas Tuchel’s team hadn’t won, of course, not in the strict and literal sense, but the championships are also built on moral victories, and this one was resounding. Chelsea – even playing at a disadvantage after James left, in front of a barking crowd, against a team with one of the most powerful attacking tridents in world football – produced a display of control, poise and composure that was quite amazing. .

For much of the first half, Chelsea had frustrated their host, seemingly reducing Anfield’s great green sprawl – the open stretches in which Liverpool thrive – to a mere postage stamp. In every way Jürgen Klopp’s team turned, there was a blue jersey. Chelsea have an inexorable ability to fill space, to blind every alley.

Liverpool had become a bit of a rush, a bit tattered as they searched for a way out of that vise, with van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold at one point reduced to loudly despairing across the width of the pitch: Van Dijk wanted his teammate to move forward; Alexander-Arnold couldn’t see where he was supposed to go.

The penalty and the red card eased that pressure, but it redoubled Chelsea’s resolve. Tuchel reorganized: Thiago Silva entered the heart of the defense, César Azpilicueta shifted to the right, the indefatigable Mason Mount played as a starting midfielder and attacking midfielder and rear auxiliary right winger as well.

Chelsea had lost N’Golo Kanté to injury at the break, the third cause of regret, and yet his spirit seemed to permeate his team. In the 45 minutes in which Liverpool had a monopoly on the ball, in which Lukaku barely featured, it hasn’t created a single clear opportunity. There was a handful of effort at a distance, but no way, no way around, no way out. Even Klopp, overnight, could barely contain his admiration. “An extra man is not a huge advantage against a team with the defensive skills they have,” he said.

It is that, as much as the threat of Lukaku, which makes Chelsea such a threat: the air of invulnerability, of a formidable immobility, that Tuchel conferred on his team in eight months as a coach. Chelsea have the firepower to take out the majority of Premier League sides. But just as important is that it has the battery to keep the big and the good.

It’s easy, in the frenzy of summer, as new players roll in from old teams, to believe that what matters is who can call on the most talent, that the titles go to the teams. with the most dazzling membership lists and the biggest expenses.

But that’s not quite how it works. There is another step in the process: these resources must be shaped into a functional unit, all of these gifted individuals must be transformed into a team. Lukaku could still prove to be the last piece of the puzzle for Chelsea. What matters most, however, is that Tuchel had the rest already in place.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Chelsea prove a point by scoring one at Liverpool
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