Chelsea inflicted a fifth straight home defeat on Liverpool for the first time in their history to put a further dent in the Premier League champions’ hopes of making the top four.
Jurgen Klopp’s side approached 2021 at the summit of the top-flight and fancying their chances of completing a successful title defence, but they are now four points off the Blues in seventh place following a 1-0 defeat at Anfield.
Chelsea, who are now unbeaten in ten games under Thomas Tuchel, had Mason Mount to thank for the victory after the England international continued his fine season with a superb strike that ultimately settled the affair.
The Blues’ last win at Anfield in 2014 effectively did for the title hopes of Brendan Rodgers’ side. This one was a blow to Liverpool’s chances of a top-four finish.
The hosts failed to register a shot on target until the 85th minute and Georginio Wijnaldum’s weak header was never going to test Edouard Mendy.
They have taken one point from the last 21 on offer at home since Christmas and scored just two goals, one of which was a penalty.
None of their established front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino managed the feat but the sight of Salah, the Premier League’s leading scorer, being substituted just past the hour looked baffling.
The Egypt international thought so as he sat shaking his head having been replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Chelsea, by contrast, looked full of threat with Timo Werner – a player Liverpool were interested in but decided they could not afford last summer – a constant problem for the hosts.
Despite one goal in his previous 17 Premier League outings he caused problems with his movement, drifting out to the left, then popping in the middle to give Fabinho a real headache on his return to the side.
The Brazil midfielder, replacing Nat Phillips after he became the latest centre-back to pick up an injury, was partnering Ozan Kabak in Liverpool’s 15th different central defensive starting partnership in 27 league matches.
Faced with a statistic like that is is perhaps understandable why there was a lack of cohesion at the back and Werner should really have profited.
He fired one early shot over and then failed to lift his effort over Alisson Becker, back in goal after the death of his father in Brazil last week.
Even when the Chelsea forward did beat Alisson, who had another rush of blood in charging out to meet Werner only for the ball to be tipped over his wild swing of the leg allowing the Germany international to slot home, VAR ruled the attacker’s arm had been offside 20 yards earlier in the build-up.
Liverpool’s one chance fell to Sadio Mane but Salah’s first-time ball over the top got caught under his feet and missed his shot with only Mendy to beat.
Chelsea were still controlling the game and caught their opponents on the counter-attack when N’Golo Kante quickly swung a loose ball out to the left wing from where Mount cut inside to beat Alisson having been given far too much time to pick his spot.
Tuchel spent the first five minutes of the second half screaming at his players to press harder and play higher up the pitch but Liverpool’s players were equally vocal when Firmino’s cross hit the raised arm of Kante from close range but there was to be no penalty award.
Andy Robertson cleared off the line from Hakim Ziyech after Alisson parried Ben Chilwell’s shot as Chelsea continued to look more dangerous.
Jota’s first touch was a half-chance from a deep cross but he was, understandably, not sharp enough to take it.
Werner, meanwhile, was doing everything but score as Alisson’s leg saved another shot as he bore down on goal.
Chelsea’s organisation, drilled into them by Thomas Tuchel in the short time he has been at the club, served them well as Liverpool ran down blind alleys, aimed hopeful crosses into the box but generally ran out of ideas.