A bridge too far even at home

Reds' Alisson clearly the better buy as Kepa blunders again, with Mane netting twice

Sadio Mane tapping the ball into an empty net for Liverpool's second goal, after Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga cleared straight into the Senegalese striker's path.
Sadio Mane tapping the ball into an empty net for Liverpool's second goal, after Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga cleared straight into the Senegalese striker's path.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • The gulf that still exists between Liverpool and Chelsea was on show on Sunday, as the Premier League champions secured a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge in a match that was defined by the differing fortunes of the world's two most expensive goalkeepers.

Alisson Becker's record £67 million (S$117.2 million) move from Roma to Liverpool in 2018 lasted just three weeks, before Chelsea paid £72 million to buy Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao.

Just over two years on, there is no doubt who got value for money with Chelsea prepared to spend again to solve their goalkeeper crisis with the imminent arrival of Edouard Mendy from Rennes.

Arrizabalaga's latest calamity saw him gift possession to Sadio Mane for the Senegalese's second goal after he had headed Liverpool into the lead early in the second half.

Chelsea's decision to spend £200 million in recent months before addressing their goalkeeper situation raised questions before the season started as to their title credentials.

Just two games in, doubts over Arrizabalaga's ability to start for a title contender have proven well founded as he also let Leandro Trossard's long-range strike under his arm in last Monday's 3-1 win at Brighton. Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, however, insists that Arrizabalaga needs more support.

He said: "He's our player and it's clear there are two games where we feel (he made mistakes).

"It's a clear mistake that's cost us because at that point we go on to have a penalty which we might score and those fine margins change games at this level.

"Kepa has to keep working, he has to have support around him."

The Spaniard was dropped twice by Lampard in favour of 38-year-old Willy Caballero last season and it was not a surprising call.

Arrizabalaga had the lowest save percentage of any goalkeeper to play at least 10 games in the Premier League last term and conceded 10 more goals than he should have, according to Opta's expected goals metric.

COSTLY ERROR

It's a clear mistake that's cost us because at that point we go on to have a penalty which we might score and those fine margins change games at this level.

FRANK LAMPARD, Chelsea manager, on Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga messing up for the second straight game.

Liverpool now boasts one of the best goalkeepers in the world as Alisson showed by saving Jorginho's penalty on Sunday, having had barely anything to do for the first 75 minutes.

However, it was not so long ago that Klopp found himself in a similar situation to Lampard. After reaching the Champions League final and finishing fourth in the Premier League in 2017-18, Klopp's side were clearly on the rise.

But two catastrophic errors from Loris Karius in the 3-1 final defeat by Real Madrid in Kiev convinced the German and the Liverpool hierarchy that they needed a top goalkeeper to win major trophies again.

Six weeks later, Alisson arrived at Anfield and has played a major part in winning the Champions League and Premier League over the past two seasons.

"Even at 2-0, we could have scored more but we didn't and the game is open," said Klopp, whose side played against 10 men after Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen was red-carded for pulling down Mane just before half-time.

"We produce the penalty, then Ali had to make the save. This is a proper team performance, everybody had to work hard."

Chelsea have spent big on the likes of Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz and Ben Chilwell. But without a world-class goalkeeper behind them, the title may be beyond their reach.

Liverpool, with a sturdy Alisson between the posts, ended the week with an even stronger squad than they boasted the previous weekend, and Klopp could barely contain a smile.

Thiago Alcantara, signed for £20 million from Bayern Munich on Friday, came off the bench at half-time to slot seamlessly into the midfield. The Spaniard did concede the penalty which Jorginho missed, but according to Opta, he completed more passes (75) in 45 minutes than any Chelsea player managed in the entire match.

"I liked his game a lot. Defensively it was tricky for him, but offensively, with the ball, that's him, he wants to pass the ball," Klopp said. "Everything he did today was completely natural."

Factor in the signing of Portuguese forward Diogo Jota, recruited from Wolves on Saturday, and no wonder Klopp looked happy.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2020, with the headline 'A bridge too far even at home'. Print Edition | Subscribe