LIVERPOOL, England Reuters) - A fortunate 85th-minute goal from Brazilian Willian earned Premier League champions Chelsea a 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Saturday after Mohamed Salah’s 15th goal of the season looked to have given the hosts the three points.
Just two minutes after coming on as a late substitute at Anfield, Willian whipped in an attempted cross from the right which floated over Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet and into the net.
Salah, who was outstanding for Liverpool, had put his team ahead in the 65th minute when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain poked the ball away from a hesitant Tiemoue Bakayoko and the Egyptian pounced to fire past Courtois.
The result leaves Chelsea in third place on 26 points, eight behind leaders Manchester City who play on Sunday, while Liverpool are fifth on 23 points.
It had been an entertaining encounter on a chilly night on Merseyside and while the Londoners ended the happier with the result, a draw was a fair outcome.
“I thought on reflection in the second-half we deserved to equal the game up,” said Chelsea skipper Gary Cahill.
“They had some good spells in the first half, we had some in the second. They did cause us some problems at times and I‘m sure we did them,” he said.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp pulled several surprises with his team selection, leaving strikers Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on the bench and giving a start to forward Daniel Sturridge and midfielder Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Eden Hazard was bright and inventive for Chelsea and in the 21st minute produced the first effort on goal when he picked the ball up on the left flank, cut inside and his right-foot shot forced a good save out of Mignolet.
Hazard was the threat again moments later when his beautifully threaded pass split open the Liverpool defence and Mignolet had to respond quickly to beat Danny Drinkwater to the ball.
It was a busy spell for Mignolet who pushed wide a fierce Davide Zappacosta shot in the 25th minute as Chelsea pushed hard for the opener.
While Chelsea continued to look dangerous going forward, Liverpool struggled to find the same level of fluency and their best effort of the half came from Salah, four minutes before the interval, who jiggled to make some space for a left foot shot which curled just wide of Thibaut Courtois’s right-hand post.
Liverpool came out strongly after the break and it took a superb block from Cesar Azpilicueta to stop a fierce Sturridge strike. But moments later Klopp’s side had the lead.
Salah’s alertness allowed him to take advantage of the sloppiness from Bakayoko and the forward’s confidence was evident in his finish.
Klopp promptly strengthened his midfield, taking off Sturridge for Georginio Wijnaldum, but that move did not have the desired effect as Chelsea began to gain the upper hand.
Chelsea’s chance to level looked to have gone when Marcos Alonso volleyed wide from a promising position in the 82nd minute but Willian’s effort somehow found its way into the net, right in front of the wildly-celebrating Chelsea fans.
There was still time for Salah to test Courtois again in injury time but in the end it was a result that will truly please only Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ian Chadband and Toby Davis