Brilliant Eden Hazard sparkles to win personal duel with Mohamed Salah

first_imgChelsea Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge hits back after Eden Hazard’s Chelsea strike Premier League Read more Jürgen Klopp backs out-of-sorts Mohamed Salah to overcome tough spell Share on Pinterest Topics Hazard it was who opened the scoring, spinning in the centre circle and firing the thrusters away from the left side of the Liverpool defence, feet battering the turf at extraordinary speed, like a drum roll before the finish. Mateo Kovacic found him with an expert through pass. As Alisson came out, Hazard found the far corner of the net with a lovely clipped finish.As for Salah, well, no doubt some will exaggerate his bluntness here for effect. Four goals in his last 14 games for Liverpool is a decent enough return, just small potatoes next to the glorious deluge of last season. Salah was also below his best against a stronger team again. Since April, the Premier League player of the year has scored against Brighton, Saudi Arabia, West Ham and Southampton. In the same period, he’s also failed to score against Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Roma and now Chelsea – again. Flat-track bully, the unkind whispers have suggested, those thrilling performances against Manchester City and Roma in the spring banished too eagerly.Such is the nature of football at the level Salah has reached, a brutal business of starkly metered progress and constant comparison. And yet, even on an off day, he might have scored a hat-trick and still made most of the chances he managed to miss. Chelsea didn’t mark Salah closely, allowing him space at times. Twice he found space for a shot inside David Luiz, who spent those opening minutes running around like a labrador getting its first taste of the beach after a 100-mile car journey, turning somersaults, biting his own tail, chasing squirrels up trees.There was a shot ballooned into the crowd, a fluffed pass across goal. Perhaps the best part of this for Liverpool was the fact that it didn’t seem terminal, mitigated by points of strength elsewhere. Virgil van Dijk was immense again, accepting the offer to wrestle with Olivier Giroud and marching Chelsea’s centre-forward around the pitch like a man making a successful citizen’s arrest. But then, such is Van Dijk’s basic physical scale that bringing him to conservation-area west London probably breaches some kind of planning rule, erection of a semi-permanent Dutch defensive edifice.Liverpool were able to bring genuine strength from the bench, Xherdan Shaqiri missing the chance to level the scores, then Sturridge taking it with a stunningly conceived dipping shot – a moment of brilliance pulled out of the air in the most taut and congested finales.As for Salah, it will be fascinating to see how he resolves a mild but predictable slump after the adrenal success of last season. For now, there will be encouragement for Jürgen Klopp in Liverpool’s ability to keep scoring goals, to dig out results like these, and to show a different kind of strength. Share on LinkedIn Sportblog Share on Facebook Share via Email Mohamed Salah Share on WhatsApp And while there will be concern at the sheer number of chances missed, there was a resilience to Liverpool here. Not to mention some significance in being able to match Chelsea with their star attacker so obviously off form. Salah left the pitch with 25 minutes to go and in that period Liverpool grew stronger, seemed more rather than less likely to score, just as all season they have ground out the odd result and shared the goals around.It is bit of a puzzle: which is the real Liverpool? The fast-breaking dervishes of the second half of last season, powered by the chancy brilliance of Salah’s goal rush? Or the more gristly, more controlled team that has tended to grind a little more, to come on strong rather than devour opponents from the start?What is certain is that Salah does look below his best level. This game had been billed, rightly or wrongly, as a head-to-head in the creative areas, a measure of Eden Hazard’s current sublime form against the memory of Salah’s brilliance last season. If this always seemed like a simplification, then Hazard was brilliant here all the same, confirming his status as the outstanding player in the league right now. Under Maurizio Sarri, Hazard has been asked to engage only the forward gears. This must be the right way to use him. Just give us the good stuff, as much as you’ve got. features Eden Hazard Read more Share on Messenger Liverpool Share on Twitter Twenty minutes after the final whistle, with the sky above the stands fading to a deep pinky-blue, the Liverpool fans were still singing. This was an excellent game with elements of cheer for both teams in a 1-1 draw – and indeed for Manchester City, too, who saw both their main title rivals gouge a piece out of each other at Stamford Bridge.For Liverpool’s supporters, there was a little extra feeling in taking a well-deserved point through Daniel Sturridge’s brilliant late equaliser. There are two elements to this. Most obviously, Liverpool drew at Chelsea despite Mo Salah seeming once again to have his gears misaligned, haring around the Stamford Bridge pitch like a soap box cart with a wonky wheel. Reuse this contentlast_img

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