Football: Conte focuses on Chelsea's title push

Simon Mignolet saving Diego Costa's penalty in the 76th minute. Chelsea drew 1-1 at Liverpool and are nine points ahead of closest Premier League rivals Tottenham and Arsenal.
Simon Mignolet saving Diego Costa's penalty in the 76th minute. Chelsea drew 1-1 at Liverpool and are nine points ahead of closest Premier League rivals Tottenham and Arsenal.PHOTO: REUTERS

Blues will see it as a point gained rather than two points dropped at Anfield as rivals falter

LONDON • On a day of closing transfer windows, Diego Costa missed a chance to shut out the opposition completely when his penalty late on was saved by Simon Mignolet.

With Arsenal losing to Watford and Tottenham drawing at Sunderland, Chelsea could have finished Tuesday 11 points clear of their rivals. Instead, Antonio Conte's pacesetters still came away with a deserved point following a 1-1 draw, and their lead over the two London clubs stands at nine points. The Reds are a further point behind.

David Luiz stunned Liverpool by scoring a first-half free kick while the goalkeeper was still organising his wall.

"Sometimes you need to try the surprise," the defender said of his first league goal for the club since 2013. "I'm not in the best position to take free kicks because my knee is hurting and I can't train every day, but in a game you need to see the opportunity."

The hosts equalised through Georginio Wijnaldum's header in the 57th minute.

SHOWING CHARACTER

I am pleased with my players for the personality they have showed me. For sure it is a good point.

ANTONIO CONTE , Chelsea manager, believes his high-flying side stood up well to a testing game at Premier League rivals Liverpool.

Conte praised Chelsea's personality while Jurgen Klopp was left apologising for a furious outburst towards the fourth official.

The Liverpool manager claimed he had no dispute with Chelsea's penalty, given for a trip by Joel Matip on Costa, but believed Liverpool should have had a free-kick in the build-up for a foul by the striker on Dejan Lovren.

When Mignolet saved the penalty, Klopp squared up to the fourth official, Neil Swarbrick, but insisted the confrontation was not as ugly as it appeared on camera.

"I turned to him (Swarbrick) and said: 'Nobody can beat us.' Obviously that is absolutely not true but that's what I said in this moment.

"I went back to the fourth official and said: 'Sorry - you are the wrong person to speak to.' He said: 'No problem, I like your passion.' I have never heard that from an official before. That was cool."

Despite missing the chance to seal another important victory with Costa's penalty and condemn Liverpool to their worst run of home defeats in a little over 93 years, the Chelsea manager insisted he was proud of the team's performance.

"Half and half," Conte said of his emotions. "I am pleased with the performance because it isn't easy to play Liverpool after three defeats, or in the atmosphere at Anfield. I was a footballer and know it is very difficult. For that reason I am pleased with my players for the personality they have showed me. For sure it is a good point.

"When you have a good chance with a penalty in the 76th minute then you think you could win and take three points, but Mignolet made a great save."

Conte believes Chelsea can underline their improvement on Saturday when they host Arsenal.

"This could be a good chance for us to show in the second half of the season we are a totally different team if you compare to the previous game (3-0 loss at the Emirates)," he said. "We play at home, which is very important, but it will be a really tough game."

THE TIMES, LONDON , THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2017, with the headline 'Conte focuses on Chelsea's title push'. Print Edition | Subscribe