An injury-time header from substitute Christian Benteke cancelled out a stunning goal from Eden Hazard as Liverpool and Chelsea drew 1-1 in the Premier League on Wednesday.
Benteke made the most of an error from visiting goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to grab Liverpool an unlikely point in manager Jurgen Klopp’s 50th game in charge.
Hazard’s fourth goal in as many Premier League matches, a fine solo effort in the 32nd minute, had appeared enough for Chelsea to become the first visiting side to win at Anfield in the league since January 17.
Despite being without suspended captain John Terry, Guus Hiddink’s understrength team were within touching distance of spoiling Liverpool’s home farewell a week before they face Sevilla in the Europa League final.
However, Begovic presented Benteke with the chance to level matters in the third minute of stoppage time when he palmed a deep cross to the Liverpool forward, who gratefully headed home into an unguarded net.
With their trip to Basel for the decider against Sevilla looming large on the horizon, Klopp selected the same XI that had started the 3-0 home win over Villarreal in the second leg of the Europa League semi-final.
Daniel Sturridge looked eager to impress against one of his former clubs, drawing a foul from makeshift centre-back John Obi Mikel – replacing the absent Terry in the heart of Chelsea’s defence – inside the opening minute.
Yet Liverpool – wearing a new kit complete with gold trim around the neck – too often let Mikel and his defensive colleagues off the hook.
Roberto Firmino summed up the home side’s slack play when he wasted a glorious one-on-one opportunity. Carried wide by a needlessly heavy touch, the Brazilian’s effort beat Begovic but ended up in the side-netting.
Liverpool’s sloppiness was not just in attack either, as they backed off Hazard to allow him the chance to break the deadlock.
The Belgian picked up the ball out wide and despite being confronted by four red shirts during his mazy run, never had to deal with a challenge. Allowed to progress to the edge of the area, Hazard aimed a shot low into the right corner of the net.
Bertrand Traore had a wonderful chance to double Chelsea’s lead when he beat the hesitant Simon Mignolet to an over-hit pass just before the break. However, with Liverpool’s goalkeeper caught out of position, the forward missed the target.
Mignolet was in the right place to keep out a low drive from Hazard early in the second half, while he also had to beat away a stinging drive from Pedro, complete with face mask to protect a broken nose.
Begovic was occasionally called into action at the other end, including denying Sturridge at close range after the forward had been played through by Adam Lallana’s wonderful reverse pass.
Liverpool seemed to have run out of ideas in attack until Begovic made a mess of substitute Sheyi Ojo’s cross, his inability to deal with the delivery allowing the hosts to level right at the death.
Klopp will hope the result keeps confidence levels high going into the final match of the league season away to West Brom, followed by the showpiece game in Switzerland.
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