Former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness has called out three Reds players over their performances in Sunday’s draw with Chelsea.
Jurgen Klopp’s men suffered a potentially fatal blow to their hopes of regaining the Premier League title at Stamford Bridge, blowing a two-goal lead to be held to a point.
The result leaves them 11 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City, a gap that looks increasingly insurmountable with Pep Guardiola’s men on an 11-match winning run.
A defeat to Leicester in midweek left Liverpool needing to beat Chelsea to rescue their bid to overtake City, with Thomas Tuchel’s side also hoping to get the challenge back on track.
Things started better for the visitors, as they were handed the lead within the first 10 minutes by Sadio Mane.
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Mane capitalised on a defensive error by Trevoh Chalobah to go through on goal, before staying cool to go past Edouard Mendy and fire the Reds ahead.
Though Chelsea put them under pressure, Mohamed Salah but Klopp’s side in control with wondergoal just before the half-hour mark.
The Egyptian controlled Trent Alexander-Arnold’s lofted pass, shimmied past Marcos Alonso and blasted the ball past Mendy at his near post.
But that two-goal advantage proved to be anything but safe as the first-half entered the final five minutes.
First, Mateo Kovacic scored a wonderful volley from outside the box following Caoimhin Kelleher’s punched clearance to pull a goal back.
And Christian Pulisic capped off a pulsating opening 45 minutes by latching onto Antonio Rudiger’s clearance and lifting his finish over Kelleher and into the net to equalise.
Neither side could find a winning after the break, with City now looking all but certain of winning their second successive title.
Souness believes the cause of Liverpool’s collapse was the dominance of Chelsea’s midfield over the Reds’ trio.
James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho started the game, with Thiago Alcanatara ruled out through injury.
And Souness insisted that the Spaniard was sorely missed as the Blues “bullied” their opponents in the middle of the park.
“Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and James Milner were not at the races today,” Souness told Sky Sports.
“They were bossed and bullied by Chelsea’s midfield. It wasn’t the Liverpool we’re seeing of the last three, four years where they bullied teams.
“Liverpool need more of a maestro in there, they go and get Thiago which is certainly better than what they’ve had.
“But doing that you lose that momentum in terms of pressing, being aggressive and always on the front foot.
“They were exposed today Liverpool by the midfield not really being able to manage Chelsea’s midfield. You always felt as if Liverpool were on the back foot.”
Milner played 69 minutes before being replaced by Naby Keita, with the Englishman having a pass success rating of just 65 per cent, losing six duels and being dispossessed twice.
Fabinho also had an off day, losing 10 duels, conceding two fouls and being dispossessed twice, while Henderson arguably fared the best of the trio.