Chelsea Gets Wild Comeback Draw Vs. Liverpool Thanks To Kovačić Wonder Goal And Pulisic Strike

Liverpool raced to a 2-0 lead after 26 minutes at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, only to watch Mateo Kovačić and Christian Pulisic bring Chelsea level before halftime in a match that finished 2-2 and gave Manchester City a 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League.   

Such has been City's relentless pace that both Chelsea and Liverpool entered knowing that a draw was as good as a defeat, and the Reds had to navigate the match without Jürgen Klopp on the sideline because of COIVD-19. 

But the pre-match talk was largely centered around Thomas Tuchel's decision to drop club-record signing Romelu Lukaku from the squad in a game with massive implications in the title race. That brought Kai Havertz into the striker role with Pulisic returning to his preferred position in attack.   

The opening 10 minutes were played on a knife-edge with Mohamed Salah forcing a save from Édouard Mendy before Pulisic was gifted a glorious opportunity to give Chelsea the lead on seven minutes.

However, Pulisic looked more like a wingback in the area after allowing 23-year-old backup keeper Caoimhín Kelleher, starting after Alisson was ruled out with COVID, to deny him on the doorstep following a miscue by Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Two minutes later Sadio Mané did what Pulisic couldn't by capitalizing on a defensive error from Trevoh Chalobah, taking the ball around Mendy and finishing to give Liverpool a 1-0 lead.

On 26 minutes, Alexander-Arnold played Salah through the channel and the Egyptian toyed with Marcos Alonso before finishing at Mendy's near post. It seemed like the cracks in Tuchel's man-management were beginning to show.  

But with less than five minutes to go until halftime, the narrative was entirely changed with one moment of brilliance from Kovačić. 

A Chelsea free kick was punched out of the area by Kelleher, but the Croatian midfielder lashed it back on frame from 22 yards out with a right-footed volley that thundered in off the inside of the post.

That wasn't it.

One minute into stoppage time, Pulisic — who'd also been booked and given an earful from his defenders after a turnover in midfield presented Salah with a chance — totally redeemed himself after being played through by N'Golo Kanté. 

The 23-year-old settled with his chest before striking a left-footed effort over the keeper and into the far corner. Pulisic had been looking like a player who was, to quote Tuchel, "fighting for his confidence and for the flow," so a third league goal this season was massive for both club and player.     

Chelsea almost made it 3-2 in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time, but Mason Mount twisted an effort just wide of the post to end a ridiculous opening 45.  

The absurdity continued in the second half with Diogo Jota, Salah and Mané all forcing good stops from Mendy. Not to be outdone at the other end, Kelleher denied Pulisic from close range with a reflex save.     

Here's how the top four looks.

EPL top four

Current Premier League top four.

Tuchel said after the match that Lukaku is always welcome back into the team, but the situation will be taken care of "behind closed doors" at the club's Cobham training ground.

Chelsea now plays in the League Cup semifinals (Jan. 5 and 12 against Spurs) and the FA Cup third round (Jan. 8 against Chesterfield) before playing Manchester City on Jan. 15. Liverpool also has a League Cup semifinal (Jan. 6 and 13 against Arsenal) and FA Cup third round fixture (Jan. 9 against Shrewsbury) before playing Brentford on Jan. 16. 

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