Chelsea’s draw only half the story with Tuchel’s telling reaction at Liverpool

Thomas Tuchel’s reaction at full-time showed his pleasure at securing a point as Chelsea battled with ten men against Liverpool at Anfield following Reece James’ red card

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Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea: Blues player ratings

No wonder the group hug in front of the emptying Kop seemed to last for an age.

No wonder Thomas Tuchel gave a congratulatory back-slap to every single player.

A mere point but a performance that was probably as significant as any in the Premier League under the German.

When Reece James was sent off and Mohamed Salah equalised from the resulting penalty in first-half stoppage time, Chelsea momentarily imploded.

But Tuchel got them in the dressing-room, clearly calmed their minds and bodies and masterminded a fantastic second half resistance movement.

Liverpool were nowhere near their best but, led by stellar defensive performances from the likes of Andreas Chistensen, Chelsea were wonderfully dogged.

No doubt about it, both these teams will be in the title battle next Spring.

As for this match, it was all about the moments just before half-time.

First things first, Chelsea had only themselves to blame for not taking an iron grip on matters ahead of the penalty/red card furore.

Thomas Tuchel saw his Chelsea side battle to a point

In his short time at the club, Tuchel’s training ground drills have turned Chelsea into one of the most efficient exponents of the counter-attack.

And after a Kai Havertz header had spun over Alisson to nudge the visitors ahead, they had plenty of opportunities to add more security to their lead.

Their failing in that regard was not always the finish – although Mason Mount shanked one beauty of a chance – but the final ball. Havertz and, on one glaring occasion, N’Golo Kante, made some odd decisions when a scoring opportunity should have been a formality.

They were a frequent threat up until the kerfuffle in the climax of the first half.

Where do you start with the handball and handbags?

With the indisputable point that Chelsea should have dealt with the schoolyard scramble long before James – after his thigh could not do the job – scooped Sadio Mane’s effort off the line with his arm.

That is the bottom line. Well, along with the fact that once Anthony Taylor had been told to go to the monitor, a penalty and red card were inevitabilities.

And if you treated yourself to a pint every time someone said it was harsh but rules are rules, you would have needed a taxi home.

Alas, rules ARE rules. The handball is either deliberate or it is not.

What made it feel particularly tough on James was that he had made a genuinely valiant attempt to deny Mane without using his arm.

When he did – instinctively, probably – he paid a lumpy price.

And even those who do not understand the law relating to dismissals would have admitted it WAS a penalty.

So when it intervened, VAR did its job. Again.

Since its introduction, the bad press VAR has received has been as much down to the laws of the game as to the implementation of the system.

Chelsea’s anger should have been with the rules not with Taylor, who actually showed a fair degree of patience, dealing with remonstrations.

Reece James was sent-off in the first-half

Chelsea lost a lead, a player and their heads.

Although he did treat the fourth official to a monologue from behind a cupped hand, Tuchel was one of the calmest Chelsea characters inside a nicely-vociferous Anfield.

And considering he probably knew half-time would bring confirmation Kante had suffered a game-shortening knock, that was impressive.

If there was one thing you knew was going to happen in the second half, it was that the team of ten would be supremely organised.

And they were.

Liverpool had plenty of possession, inevitably. They had a good few half-chances, inevitably. But Chelsea defended with intelligence and intensity, inevitably.

Not in numbers, but they even ventured forward now and again.

In the final reckoning, Chelsea held on to a point with some comfort.

And to do that against a team of Liverpool’s title-challenging strength says something everyone probably already knew.

Tuchel’s Chelsea, European champions Chelsea, are the real deal.

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