Liverpool were finally pegged back on Saturday evening as they dropped points for the very first time at Stamford Bridge but, on balance, it was a point they should be thoroughly pleased with.
Jurgen Klopp’s electric front-three of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane teased, turned and twisted inside the final-third to no avail during the first-half, and Eden Hazard punished them for lacking the finishing touch with a decisive left-footed strike beyond Alisson after 25 minutes.
Liverpool probed for an equaliser but Chelsea’s new-found sense of defiance under Maurizio Sarri enabled them to keep the visitors at bay until Daniel Sturridge produced a special strike to clinch a deserved point at Stamford Bridge.
It was a compelling fixture which underlined the credentials of both sides to usurp Man City at the top of the league this season, even if the result enabled Pep Guardiola’s men to finish the weekend as league leaders, albeit on goal difference.
There were a handful of Liverpool players who played well without setting the world alight, but one player in particular stood out for Garth Crooks.
That man was Georginio Wijanldum, the box-to-box midfielder who hates an away goal but once again proved he has refined more important aspects of his game in recent times.
In his team of the week column as published by the BBC, Crooks stated: ‘Wijnaldum had one of the best 90 minutes of football I have seen him have in years.’
Although sensational exaggerations and left field opinions are what Crooks is famed for, it’s fair to say that Wijnaldum was in excellent form against the Blues, but he has previously performed at that level in games of a similar magnitude.
The Holland international has frustrated Liverpool supporters throughout his stint with the club, but he has turned a corner in his development in 2018 and he’s beginning to perform with the confidence of one of Europe’s most effective box-to-box midfielders.
Considering it was not rare to see a performance worthy of a mid table midfielder just twelve months ago, there’s no question that he stands out as Liverpool’s most improved player since the turn of the year.
Wijanldum has shaken off the inconsistency which previously tarnished his reputation, and his domineering combination of forward-thinking dynamism and tenacious defensive work-rate could prove pivotal as Liverpool bid to clinch their maiden Premier League title.
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