Timo Werner fired an early effort over the bar, then wasted another good chance when the ball broke his way in the home team’s box. The German made no mistake with his third chance, running onto a lofted pass to beat Alisson and poke home, but VAR adjudged the goal offside by the most marginal of decisions.
At the other end Sadio Mane had a great chance to score on the volley, but entirely missed his kick, while a three-on-three counter-attack ended with Mohamed Salah misplacing a pass. The deadlock was broken before the break, though, as Mason Mount embarked on a solo run across the box and buried a low shot into the corner.
Hakim Ziyech had a shot cleared off the line in a fast start to the second half from Chelsea, but the Reds came back into the match as Thomas Tuchel’s side sat off. Even so, real chances were almost non-existent for Jurgen Klopp’s team, who suffered a fifth home league defeat in a row for the first time in their history.
Here are five things we learned as Mason Mount’s winner sent Chelsea fourth.
Direct to Timo
Chelsea’s gameplan was apparent from the first minute: the usual patient build-up in the main, but going direct to Werner whenever possible.
The forward, playing right through the centre this time, had three or four first-half chances to race in behind Liverpool’s defence, playing high upfield for the most part but having nowhere near the pace to keep up with Chelsea’s front man.
He missed a couple and netted one, ruled out, but after comments from Thomas Tuchel about him not being a natural fit for the Blues’ style, it should be a big confidence boost to be included here with a specific remit - and more so for having made it work.
Mount in two halves
Considering he was the odd man out for Tuchel’s first game, Mason Mount has quickly become an indispensable part of the team.
He scored the opener, yes, and it was an extremely well-taken effort: good control, fine manipulation of the ball to cut infield and a typically unerring finish into the bottom corner.
But the England international also had plenty to offer in build-up play, finding gaps between the lines and linking play with one-touch combinations, the likes of Ben Chilwell and Werner particular beneficiaries.
Defensively, he lacked nothing. There were two good tackles in quick succession just outside his own penalty box in the second half and his work rate was non-stop throughout.
Mount is no longer merely a Lampard favourite, just a Chelsea first-choice.
Lack of attack
Liverpool’s front three were feared around Europe a year ago, but they have been badly affected by the lack of consistency in the rest of the team as well as their own falling clinical edge.
It isn’t, however, just down to the forwards: a woeful lack of cutting edge has been present in Jurgen Klopp’s side for some time, with too many blanks of late and a stale approach in the final third evident both in this awful Anfield run and on the road.
It was a definite surprise to see Mohamed Salah - the league’s top scorer - subbed off first, and Jurgen Klopp can’t simply put all his attacking eggs in a Diogo Jota-shaped basket.
But if further proof of this being a team-wide issue were needed, it’s visible in the fact that it took 84 minutes for the home team’s first shot on target and the Reds as individuals rarely looked like beating either of Antonio Rudiger or Andreas Christensen in one-on-one situations.
Reds’ comeback men
A number of Liverpool’s players have looked rather overworked in recent weeks, largely on account of not having the senior names available to make rotations, particularly in midfield.
To that end, perhaps three faces on show signify a potential upturn in fortunes, albeit without too much of an impact on the night here.
James Milner made a late sub appearance, continuing his comeback from injury, while Diogo Jota played the final half-hour, his first outing since December. He didn’t make a telling difference to the threat Liverpool posed, but Klopp will hope that comes with sharpenss and rhythm.
And Fabinho will likely now return to being a first-choice centre-back, hopefully establishing some kind of a regular pairing at last - with another new partner, Ozan Kabak.
Champions League chase
Advantage Chelsea, for sure. The recent points drops for Leicester and West Ham mean a top-three finish, never mind just fourth, remains up for grabs.
Everton took fourth just before this game got underway, but the Blues now overtake the Toffees by a point.
Given their defensive solidity, the consistency in this regard is likely to keep them ahead of other challengers.
Liverpool, meanwhile, remain seventh, with five defeats in the last six meaning there’s still an awful lot to do to push back up and claim a Champions League spot of their own.