By Carl Markham, PA
Liverpool’s goalless draw with Chelsea – only their second in 80 league meetings – was as unsurprising as it was disappointing as two struggling sides failed to rise to the occasion.
For the last decade such a result between the two would often have been viewed as satisfactory but this was a missed opportunity for both and was a poor return on Jurgen Klopp’s 1,000th game as a manager.
Both clubs are currently a shadow of their best selves and the fact that this was sides in ninth and 10th place trying – and failing – to significantly close the gap on the top four shows how bad things currently are.
Klopp had kept faith with eight of essentially a second-string team which had won at Wolves in the FA Cup in midweek after praising the energy of that performance.
Tellingly he retained the same midfield, meaning a first Premier League start for 18-year-old Stefan Bajcetic and places on the bench for captain Jordan Henderson and Fabinho along with right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who had only trained on Friday after a minor muscle problem.
While it helped with the effort level it did little to improve the quality, particularly up front where Liverpool were poor and Chelsea were not much better.
However, under-scrutiny Blues manager Graham Potter will have been boosted by new signing Mykhailo Mudryk’s encouraging second-half cameo and a fourth point from two games following one from the previous three.
In his programme notes Klopp had praised fans for their support in helping to eradicate a homophobic chant associated with Chelsea so, among his other disappointments in the first half, he would have been dismayed to hear an announcement saying there had been a report of it taking place followed by a warning it was against the law.
Liverpool’s finishing was poor with new signing Cody Gakpo (twice) and an out-of-sorts Mohamed Salah both blazing shots over.
Honours even but plenty to take forward. 💪 pic.twitter.com/zMH3I6RXg4
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 21, 2023
Such profligacy was something they could ill afford having already been offered a lifeline by VAR in only the third minute when shambolic defending allowed Kai Havertz to turn home Thiago Silva’s effort which rebounded off a post only to be denied on review.
That did at least lift the atmosphere at a bitterly cold Anfield but that was soon punctured when Alisson Becker was forced to save Benoit Badiashile’s close-range header.
Just seconds after the break Ibrahima Konate’s mishit hopeful ball forward almost caught out Kepa Arrizabalaga but any optimism it might spark an improvement in proceedings proved misguided.
Within 10 minutes Mudryk, signed from Shakhtar Donetsk in an £88million deal, was given his debut off the bench.
His first real opening saw him overhit the ball off the end of the pitch as he tried to race clear, from his second he fired into the side-netting after neatly evading a couple of challenges inside the penalty area.
He was then taken out by James Milner, who was booked for the challenge, but even when Liverpool’s stand-in right-back could not get near him the Ukrainian’s control let him down when well-placed at the far post.
Hakim Ziyech’s terrible finish wasted an exhilarating cross-field run from the right wing while Darwin Nunez’s arrival introduced more of a threat and he set up Gakpo’s brilliant pirouette and shot on the turn but it was still not enough to properly test Arrizabalaga.
The sight of substitute Carney Chukwuemeka falling over his own feet when well placed in Liverpool’s penalty area late provided a suitable summary of the game as a whole and the final whistle was greeted with general indifference around Anfield.