An injury-time Christian Benteke goal earned Liverpool a point against unlucky Chelsea in a hard-working 1-1 draw at Anfield on Wednesday.
Eden Hazard’s first-half opener was a thrilling finish worthy of winning any contest and it looked like it would be enough until Benteke nodded in Sheyi Ojo’s cross late on as Liverpool’s unbeaten record at home was extended to 13 matches.
The result preserved the 10-point gap between the teams, with Europa League finalists Liverpool eighth and outgoing Premier League champions Chelsea ninth.
It has been a season of change at Anfield, with Jurgen Klopp replacing Brendan Rodgers as manager in October, and more transformations will take place during the close season.
This match was the last time Anfield’s Main Stand will be seen in its current guise as the famous ground is redesigned to increase the stadium’s capacity.
Chelsea will also undergo significant change over the coming months, but mainly on the pitch.
Long-time captain John Terry is set to leave the club, but he cannot enjoy a public farewell as his red card in Chelsea’s last encounter against Sunderland meant he was suspended for the club’s final two games.
It robs the Stamford Bridge faithful of the opportunity to show their thanks for Terry’s commitment over the past decade and beyond, and protests in the away end here showed how much a large section of Chelsea’s fans want the 35-year-old to be given a further one-year contract.
As well as their club captain, Chelsea were also without Diego Costa at Anfield, while Liverpool were at virtual full strength as Klopp looked to test his preferred starting XI ahead of their Europa League final against Sevilla next Wednesday.
This match in years gone by has been one of the most tense and tumultuous in the English game, but although the start was bright, it had little of the fire of old.
HOME FANS HAIL HAZARD
Liverpool have clicked in recent weeks and that was shown by their early attacking ambitions as Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino all tested the Chelsea defence.
The visitors, meanwhile, looked to hit Liverpool on the break and Bertrand Traore had a decent chance from close range that Simon Mignolet comfortably stopped.
The best early opportunity fell to Firmino after 19 minutes when Daniel Sturridge’s clever pass put him clean through, but his touch let him down at the crucial moment and he could not steer his effort past Asmir Begovic.
After half an hour, and against the run of play, Hazard scored a simply sublime goal that many home fans applauded, such was its quality.
The Belgian’s fine strike against Tottenham Hotspur last week might have settled the Premier League title race in Leicester City’s favour, but this finish was even better, gliding through three attempted Liverpool tackles before slotting past Mignolet into the bottom-right corner.
The Liverpool goalkeeper then almost gifted Chelsea a second goal as he hesitated when coming of his line, but Traore could not quite curl his free shot into the top corner.
After the re-start, Chelsea saw more of the ball, but it was Liverpool who made the better chances.
On the hour mark, Sturridge nearly grabbed an equaliser from Lallana’s brilliant through ball, but Begovic did well to block, while Kolo Toure then missed a glorious headed chance.
After Mignolet denied Traore at the other end, Benteke equalised with virtually the last touch of the match, heading home after Begovic could only parry Ojo’s cross.