Sadio Mane scored two as Liverpool made an early statement of their intent to retain their title with a confident 2-0 victory at 10-man Chelsea.
The Senegalese forward headed in a superb second-half opener before doubling his tally four minutes later when he showed great work-rate to chase down Kepa and force a shocking error out of the Blues stopper.
It all turned the champions’ way after a cagey first period of few openings exploded into life on the stroke of half time. Andreas Christensen’s caution – for tumbling Mane as he raced through – was quite rightly upgraded to a red card by VAR.
It proved to be a major moment in the game as Liverpool, who were already dominating and restricting Chelsea to occasional counter-attacks, took firm control through Mane’s brace.
The Merseysiders brought on a new signing, Thiago for his debut at the interval, but he almost gave Chelsea a lifeline when he tripped Timo Werner in the area 15 minutes from time. Jorginho stepped up but saw his perfect record from the spot come to an end thanks to Alisson’s smart save.
Next up, the two sides are in League Cup action in the week. Chelsea host Barnsley on Wednesday while Liverpool travels to Lincoln on Thursday.
For all the talk of Chelsea potentially laying down a marker, this was a mature and confident performance from Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Fabinho was magnificent at center back, allaying all pre-match concern over his makeshift partnership with Virgil van Dijk. Instead, it was at the other end where a more recognized central defender was caught out for a red card that proved crucial to the outcome.
Liverpool could easily have scored more and Chelsea’s penalty came more from complacency more than anything. The fact it was as a result of new recruit Thiago’s clumsy tackle was perhaps a surprising side note. He looked immediately at home in the Reds’ midfield and at ease with the expectation that comes with his arrival.
Of course, it’s hard to fully judge Chelsea at this point. They played 45 minutes with 10 men and were missing some signings that will surely improve them, especially in defense with Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell still to come in. It also looks like Kepa’s time is up – and many Blues supporters will be delighted by that.
Edouard Mendy appears set to move to the Bridge with Frank Lampard already convinced he needed a new stopper before another shocker from the Spanish keeper here.