Three things we learned from Liverpool v. Chelsea

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LIVERPOOL — Liverpool and Chelsea each grabbed a point in an encapsulating clash which did little for their title hopes but proved just how evenly matched the two clubs are.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replay ]

Former Chelsea player Mohamed Salah put Liverpool 1-0 up but substitute Willian rescued Chelsea a point late on as his cross drifted over Simon Mignolet and in.

Here’s what we learned from an intriguing clash between two title hopefuls.


LIVERPOOL’S LOW BLOCK HALTS CHELSEA

Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard had been ripping teams apart with their new partnership up front for Chelsea, so Jurgen Klopp put a roadblock in midfield to stop them linking up.

It worked a treat. Yes, Hazard was sublime (more on that later) but his flashes of individual brilliance didn’t lead to direct chances for himself or Morata.

Klopp sat Jordan Henderson and James Milner in central midfield in a more defensive lineup with Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on the bench. Some will call it a lack of ambition from Klopp but after the defensive collapse at Sevilla in midweek they needed to stay solid and not open themselves up to rapid Chelsea counters.

It worked and Klopp should be applauded for changing his tactics and showing he can grind out results against a fellow top four contender. A draw was probably a fair result but if Willian’s cross wouldn’t have looped in late on, not many would have argued with a win for Liverpool.


RED-HOT SALAH PROVES CHELSEA WRONG

Mohamed Salah left Chelsea after two seasons with two goals in 13 Premier League appearances. In his first 13 PL appearances for Liverpool the Egyptian winger has scored 10 goals and is the main man at Anfield.

At $37 million he is the best signing of the summer transfer window and he is proving Chelsea wrong for offloading him in 2014-15. Salah, 25, has developed his game and physicality during three years away at Fiorentina and AS Roma in Italy and now he is the real deal.

When he scored Liverpool’s goal to give them the lead he refused to celebrate. Salah obviously still respects all that Chelsea have done for him in his career, even though he had to leave west London to reach his now lofty heights. He was denied a game-winner by Thibaut Courtois late on as he always looked Liverpool’s most dangerous player with his mix of pace, trickery and directness deadly.

During his Chelsea days he had Hazard, Oscar, Willian and Andre Schurrle ahead of him in the pecking order and this week Hazard said his former teammate was unlucky to not get a decent run of games at Stamford Bridge.

Jose Mourinho didn’t give him a chance to shine in the Premier League and like Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku offloaded him in 2014-15.

Chelsea don’t wait for players to develop. They want the finished article right away so they won’t lose much sleep over allowing Salah to leave. That said, Roman Abramovich may be wondering “what if” as Salah, De Bruyne and Lukaku are all the main men for Chelsea’s main title rivals this season.


HAZARD ON ANOTHER PLANET

Hazard deserved to be on the winning team on Saturday.

In the first half the Belgian ran ring around Liverpool, flicking through passes, jinxing by defenders and playing in Danny Drinkwater for a glorious chance.

Hazard, 26, is at the peak of his powers and with three goals in his last two games heading into this clash his link up play with Morata was the main concern for Liverpool. They managed to disrupt that pair but Hazard still shone.

In a central role he can set the tempo for the Blues and after recovering from a broken ankle over the summer he is ready to push Chelsea on.

Hazard’s fine form will be the main positive from this draw for Antonio Conte and the main source of hope if they’re going to claw back the growing gap to Manchester City atop the Premier League table.

Mourinho on muted celebrations from Lukaku, himself

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There’s a lot of buzz about celebrating, and not celebrating, when it comes to Manchester United.

Star striker Romelu Lukaku‘s post-goal actions were muted for a second-straight week, and manager Jose Mourinho appeared nonchalant on the bench.

[ RECAP: WBA 1-2 Man Utd ]

For Lukaku, that could be down to his status as a former West Brom player (and to be sure he was quite energetic in support of Jesse Lingard‘s insurance goal).

As for Mourinho, this is a man who was quite critical of Man City’s celebrations after winning a derby at Old Trafford. And Jose isn’t one to let a story line die unnecessarily.

Here’s Mourinho when asked about Lukaku’s non-celebration, from the BBC:

“Maybe he looks to the bench and sees his manager doesn’t celebrate. Maybe he loves West Brom. Maybe he remembers the team that helped him early in his career.

“I will celebrate if my team scores a winning goal in the last minute. But you have to have more maturity and keep your feet on the ground. If some guys want to be kids until the last day of their careers or if they want to act to the cameras then they can. But if we score an important goal then I can do anything.”

United is back to within 11 points of leaders Man City, and it’s a massive mountain to climb for the Red Devils. Yet Ander Herrera, who was terrific again on Sunday, said the directive is simple: control what you can.

“We won three titles last season, which was very good. It is true that the top of the table is difficult to reach right now but this is Premier League, you never know. Our aim is just to keep winning games.”

The side’s 41 points through 18 matches would’ve been enough to lead the Premier League in two of the previous four seasons. No one’s going to tell United to be content with where they stand, but it’s been a fine season for Mourinho’s men so far.

WATCH: Liverpool battering Bournemouth with highlight reel half

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Philippe Coutinho is capable of elite magic, and he conjured up some fantasy on Sunday at the Vitality Stadium.

[ MORE: Watch via NBCSports.com ]

Liverpool and Bournemouth were scoreless when the Brazilian dribbled past Simon Francis and Lewis Cook on a mazy run, taking Andrew Robertson‘s square pass and dancing through daylight.

If only there were a body cam on Adam Smith, who was chasing Coutinho the whole time!

Dejan Lovren — does this require we say “of all people?” — then scored a diving header after Roberto Firmino saved a wayward corner kick.

And Mohamed Salah, what else can you say about the 20-goal scorer (in all competitions)?

Salah would get his goal in stunning fashion, bodying off a defender before dribbling past two more to finish with an off-balance belt past Begovic.

Kaka calls it a career; Won World Cup, Ballon d’Or

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He’s the last Ballon d’Or winner neither named Messi nor Ronaldo, and he’s calling it a career.

Kaka announced his retirement on Sunday after a gleaming career on three continents.

Born Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, Kaka won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil and also boasts two Confederations Cup wins amongst his 92 caps and 29 international goals.

[ MAN CITY-SPURS: 3 things |  Studs and duds ]

Kaka debuted for Sao Paolo in 2001, and left for AC Milan three seasons later. Thrice names in the UEFA Team of the Year and twice the Serie A Footballer of the Year, Kaka won Serie A with Milan and La Liga with Real Madrid.

He spent the final three seasons of his career in Major League Soccer with Orlando City SC, and was magnificent. The 35-year-old scored 25 goals with 19 assists for the Lions.

West Brom 1-2 Manchester United: Red Devils hang on

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  • United back into second
  • Lukaku scores 10th PL goal of season
  • Baggies winless in 16

Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard scored first half goals and Manchester United held on to beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 at the Hawthorns on Sunday.

Gareth Barry scored the Baggies’ lone goal, as Alan Pardew‘s men sit 19th and without a win since August.

United pulls three points ahead of Chelsea, and is 11 points back of Man City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

West Brom wasn’t intimidated by the task at hand, and James McClean was particularly lively as the Baggies tried to find an opener.

But United quickly settled into control through possession, albeit without any effective incisiveness.

That changed when Lukaku rose to deposit a trademark header beyond the reach of Ben Foster, converting Marcus Rashford‘s cross with power.

After a moment of danger provided by Allan Nyom and Salomon Rondon, United made it 2-0 when Lingard took a lay-off from Juan Mata and hit a shot that Ahmed Hegazi deflected past Foster.

Jake Livermore forced David De Gea into a low save in the 44th minute.

 

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The Baggies pulled one back as both Evans and Barry could’ve tapped in a loose ball off a corner kick.

Barry did, and United was on its heels. Credit Alan Pardew for his substitutes of Barry, Chris Brunt, and Jay Rodriguez (though they were, after all, on the bench).

Rodriguez powered a header off Brunt’s cross wide of the near post with about five minutes to play.

And a scramble in front nearly put the Baggies level, but De Gea was there. The keeper was kicked by Ahmed Hegazi and came up smarting.