LONDON (Reuters) - Of the extraordinary total of 38 Chelsea players out on loan to other clubs this season, none can have done the Londoners a bigger favour than Nathan Ake, whose dramatic stoppage-time goal brought Bournemouth a 4-3 win over Liverpool on Sunday.
It meant that instead of moving back into second place, only a point behind Chelsea, Juergen Klopp’s side remain four points adrift in third position.
Furthermore, although Klopp made light of his team’s dramatic collapse in conceding three goals in the final 18 minutes after leading 2-0 and 3-1, there may well be psychological damage to their title challenge in the fallout.
German goalkeeper Loris Karius had looked uncomfortable long before his fumble allowed Ake a tap-in in the 93rd minute, and Lucas Leiva was an unconvincing deputy for the injured Joel Matip in central defence.
Liverpool may be the Premier League’s top scorers, but their 14 conceded on the road is a cause for concern.
“Any pressure on them and they completely fall apart,” said the club’s former stalwart Jamie Carragher in the Sky Sports studio.
Klopp was generous in defeat to both teams, claiming of his own team’s performance that: “Nothing happened today apart from losing three points. Everything else is OK.”
Supporters watching the televised game all over the world and especially those who made the long trip from Liverpool to the south coast, may well disagree, even if this was a first defeat in 12 league games and only the second in 18 matches in all competitions this season.
For Ake, popping up in the right place from left back at a crucial moment enabled a happier finish to his day than had seemed likely when he allowed Sadio Mane to brush past him and score the opening goal of an extraordinary afternoon.
Bournemouth are the 21-year-old’s third loan club after spells with Reading in the Championship (second tier) and then in the Premier League last season at Watford, where he was named Young Player of the Year.
He has signed a five-year contract with Chelsea, having made five league appearances and played in the Champions League, but the time is surely coming when the Stamford Bridge club must decide whether he has a future with them or not.
Sunday’s intervention should at least ensure his popularity there.
Reporting by Steve Tongue; Editing by Toby Davis