In Depth

Mignolet thwarts Chelsea, but Blues go nine points clear

Liverpool end losing run to deny league leaders, but results elsewhere still make it a good night for the Blues

Diego Costa may have blown his chance to put Chelsea 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League but the Blues remain firm title favourites, leading the table by nine points after their draw with Liverpool at Anfield last night.

"On a day of closing windows, Diego Costa left one slightly ajar," says Henry Winter of The Times. However, despite dropping two points, the Blues "still look the best-balanced, savviest and best-managed side in the league, the team that most blend head and heart".

They also benefited from results elsewhere - Arsenal lost to Watford and Spurs were held by Sunderland, meaning that Chelsea's lead actually increased.

Liverpool would have been unfortunate to lose, although the draw does little for their title hopes as they remain ten points behind the leaders. However, after a week in which they lost three times to teams below them (and in one case to a team from a lower division), the draw was an improvement.

Manager Jurgen Klopp has faced a difficult month, but "proved his mettle against his closest Premier League rivals - and once again he emerged unbeaten to maintain his excellent record against Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham since his appointment," says Phil McNulty of the BBC.

"This draw means that he has played 15 league games against that group, winning six, drawing eight and losing only one, a home defeat by United last season."

It seemed as if Liverpool were heading for defeat after David Luiz scored from a free kick midway through the first half, thinking quickly to step up and take advantage of the Liverpool defence dithering over Simon Mignolet's wall.

Liverpool looked sharper in the second period, as Georginio Wijnaldum headed them level just before the hour. Mignolet then redeemed himself by saving Costa's penalty after the Chelsea striker was clipped by Joel Matip in the box.

Avoiding defeat was important for the Reds, "yet it says something that it feels like an achievement to a club of Liverpool’s ambitions simply to stop Chelsea winning", says Sam Wallace of the Daily Telegraph.

For Chelsea, it is upwards and onwards, he adds, saying that manager Antonio Conte - a "curiously intense little man" – made it clear he was relishing the chance to avenge his 3-0 defeat against Arsenal earlier in the season.

The Gunners handed Conte "his worse day in English football back in September and – defeat at White Hart Lane aside – Chelsea have not looked back since", says Wallace. "The prospect of facing the side now third in the league at Stamford Bridge seemed to enthuse Conte more than anything."

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