Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Mignolet saves Liverpool in Chelsea draw

Published:Wednesday | February 1, 2017 | 2:00 AM
Chelsea’s David Luiz (right) competes for the ball with Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino during the English Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, yesterday. The game ended 1-1.

LIVERPOOL, England (AP):

Simon Mignolet saved a late penalty after being at fault for an early goal, earning Liverpool a 1-1 draw against Chelsea that slowed the leaders' charge to the Premier League title.

The Belgium goalkeeper was caught unawares by an opportunistic free kick from David Luiz in the 24th minute as Chelsea took the lead against the run of play at Anfield yesterday.

Georginio Wijnaldum equalised for Liverpool in the 57th before Mignolet made amends for his first-half mistake, guessing the right way to turn Diego Costa's penalty around the post in the 76th.

That save meant Liverpool avoided a fourth straight home loss in all competitions for the first time since 1923 and stayed 10 points behind Chelsea with 15 games left.

On a night when second-place Arsenal lost at home to Watford and another title rival in Tottenham drew at Sunderland, Chelsea still managed to extend their lead by a point. And taking a point from Anfield is never a bad thing, especially considering Chelsea's dominant position in the title race and manager Antonio Conte was punching the air with joy at the final whistle.

This was more like the dynamic Liverpool of the first half of the season, not the team that had won just one of its last eight games in a season-damaging start to 2017. Yet the home team's electric start was brought to a shuddering halt by Luiz's piece of ingenuity and another moment to forget from Mignolet.

OFF GUARD

The error-prone goalkeeper had just lined up a four-man wall and walked from the post to the middle of the goal when he took his eye off the ball. Willian looked the most likely free kick taker but Luiz, perhaps spotting Mignolet was off guard, quickly stepped up and punted a swerving shot from 25 metres in off the same post that Mignolet had been standing beside.

That was virtually Chelsea's first sight on goal, with the visitors having been penned back in their own half for the first quarter by a Liverpool side desperate to finish a dreadful January on a high.

Liverpool now had to break down a defence that had kept 12 clean sheets in its previous 16 outings. Roberto Firmino wasted one great chance when he skied his shot from 10 metres with only goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to beat, but Wijnaldum made no mistake nine minutes later.

Jordan Henderson's cross to the back post found James Milner, whose header across goal deflected off Victor Moses and into the path of Wijnaldum. The Dutchman's downward header from just outside the six-yard box beat Courtois.

Results:

Arsenal 1 2 Watford

Bournemouth 0 2 Crystal Palace

Burnley 1 0 Leicester

Middlesbrough 1 1 West Brom

Sunderland 0 0 Tottenham

Swansea 2 1 Southampton

Liverpool 1 1 Chelsea