Liverpool retained their five-point lead at the top of the table as they became the first team to win their opening six Premier League games in successive seasons with a fiercely-fought victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Jurgen Klopp’s title pace-setters looked on course to win in comfort as Trent Alexander-Arnold’s magnificent free-kick and Roberto Firmino’s header gave them complete control at the interval.
Chelsea, who had been denied an equaliser when Cesar Azpilicueta’s close-range effort was ruled out for offside by VAR, were in no mood to capitulate and made Liverpool fight every inch of the way to maintain that perfect record.
Tammy Abraham had chances to increase his tally of seven goals this season, particularly when he was denied by Liverpool keeper Adrian when clean through in the first half, but it was left to N’Golo Kante to set up a grandstand finish with a superb strike with 19 minutes to play.
Liverpool, however, held on, surviving missed chances from Michy Batshuayi and Mason Mount, to produce an instant response to Manchester City’s 8-0 win over Watford on Saturday.
Liverpool remain unstoppable in their Premier League duel with Manchester City after one of those victories all potential champions will need to secure if they are to claim the big prize at the end of the season.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have made a habit of unleashing an attacking blitz on opponents in a remarkable run of only one league loss since the start of last season, their winning sequence now extended to 15 games.
This was totally different.
Liverpool may have looked to have been on cruise control with that interval advantage, but Chelsea were always in this game and pressed the league leaders right until the final whistle.
They were far below their best, were more sloppy than usual and on occasions looked jaded – but they still emerged victorious from what is traditionally one of the most hazardous away assignments on the calendar.
Over the course of a long campaign, a season Liverpool will hope will end their 30-year wait for the title, it is victories on days such as this that will be vital, if not more so, than the days when opponents are blown away.
Klopp’s delight at the final whistle, in contrast to some of his expressions of fury during the game, said it all.
This was a crucial victory. Liverpool’s bandwagon rolls on.
Chelsea have still to win at home in the Premier League and Champions League this season, and no defeat by Liverpool is anything other than an acutely painful experience.
And yet, despite this loss coming hard on the heels of the home loss to Valencia in their opening Champions League group game, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard will take great comfort and confidence from the performance of his team.
This is a new Chelsea, leaning heavily on youngsters such as Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Abraham, and being built in a new style by Lampard.
When Liverpool went two up through Firmino’s header after poor marking at a free-kick, the goal coming moments after Azpilicueta’s apparent equaliser had been overruled by VAR, it would have been easy for Chelsea’s heads to drop.
Nothing could have been further from the truth as they pressed and pressurised Liverpool until the final whistle before receiving a warm and appreciative ovation from the Chelsea supporters.
Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga may have kept them in it with a magnificent save from Firmino but Chelsea, driven by the magnificent Kante, were left cursing those late missed opportunities for Batshuayi and Mount that could have earned them a point.
No Chelsea defeat is easy to take, especially against Liverpool, but this was a performance that will give Lampard hope and encouragement.