The only place we can start is the 53rd minute. Liverpool had just taken the lead in a game of utmost importance when Virgil van Dijk switched play out to the right flank.
There, waiting, was Mohamed Salah. His control was assured and, in a flash, he was away from Chelsea left back Emerson but, still, he was 25 yards from goal on an angle. Where some see difficulties, others see opportunity. No prizes for guessing which option the Egyptian chose.
Back came his left foot and dispatched was a shot that arrowed into the top corner before Kepa Arrizabalaga had even been able to dive; it was a goal from the moment it left his boot, a strike that caused pandemonium around Anfield.
Mohamed Salah scored a memorable left-foot pile-driver by cutting inside from the right flank and letting rip from distance
The goal came just two minutes after Sadio Mane had finally found the breakthrough and set Liverpool on course for victory
Liverpool’s second goal opened up the match and led to an electric second half that saw chances at both ends of the pitch
Salah kissed the turf after showing his match-winning qualities for Liverpool in a hugely important fixture in the title run-in
Jurgen Klopp was thrilled to see off Maurizio Sarri’s side and roared with celebrated in front of the home supporters
Eden Hazard missed two great opportunities for Chelsea but was unable to find the net and haul his side back into the game
Sadio Mane finally found the breakthrough for Liverpool at the start of the second half with a header at the back post
Mane was completely unmarked at the back post and was found by a superb chip from Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND LEAGUE TABLE
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson (Milner 77mins), Fabinho, Keita (Wijnaldum 66); Salah (Shaqiri 90), Firmino, Mane
Subs not used: Lovren, Sturridge, Mignolet, Origi
Goals: Mane 51, Salah 53
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
CHELSEA (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger (Christensen 40), David Luiz, Emerson; Kante, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek (Barkley 75); Hudson-Odoi (Higuain 56), Hazard, Willian
Subs not used: Pedro, Caballero, Kovacic, Giroud
Manager: Maurizio Sarri
Referee: Michael Oliver
- Premier League
- Premier League
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga
This moment needs such description because it might yet prove to be the pivotal incident in arguably the highest quality title race we have seen in the Premier League era, as it lifted Liverpool across the line in a contest that for long spells was in the balance.
Chelsea are deeply troublesome opponents for Liverpool and they arrived on Merseyside in the mood to be menaces, just as was the case in April 2014. They caused plenty of problems, not least the wondrous Eden Hazard with his balletic grace and his glorious touch.
Liverpool know a false step will mean Manchester City become champions; the pressure could not be more acute so for Salah to come up with such glorious inspiration when his team most needed it told you everything: Jurgen Klopp and his men are going to the wire.
A minutes silence for the victims of the Hillsborough disaster was observed impeccably by supporters from both clubs
England manager Gareth Southgate was spotted in the stands at Anfield casting his eye over the English players on show
There were a nervy few moments for Chelsea when Eden Hazard went to ground but no damage was done and he played on
David Luiz fends off pressure from his compatriot Roberto Firmino in the early stages of their pivotal Premier League meeting
Winger Callum Hudson-Odoi made the second Premier League start of his career at Anfield on the right flank for Chelsea
Mohamed Salah grimances in the early stages of the contest; he was a constant threat for Liverpool on the right hand side
Maurizio Sarri throws his right arm in the air in disgust but Chelsea acquitted themselves well in the early stages of the match
Firmino finds himself caught between three Chelsea players but he was able to win a foul for his side while on the break
Sadio Mane playfully attempts a novel way to half the ball-winning work of N’Golo Kante during the first half at Anfield
Ruben Loftus-Cheek collides with Liverpool centre-back Joel Matip as they two vie for possession in the first half at Anfield
Across in Manchester, Pep Guardiola must be sick of the sight of this red foe. Each time City post a big win, Liverpool return the message with interest. Whatever is said of this team on May 12, one accusation that won’t be levelled at them is they lacked the stomach for the fight.
Salah might have produced a goal for the ages but the bedrock for this performance was hard work and a refusal to panic; they were clinical and removed from the emotion, staying in control during a first half the resembled the tentative early rounds of a heavyweight fight.
There was clear and present danger every time the twisting and turning Hazard received possession and it explained the heavy treatment to which he was subjected; twice in the opening 18 minutes he was left wincing on the ground following challenges from Fabinho and Joel Matip.
To his absolute credit, Hazard never made a fuss and simply tried to roll with the punches. On the touchline, though, his manager looked ready to explode and the third time Hazard was clattered into (Fabinho again) that set him off and he erupted on fourth official Craig Pawson.
Scotland international full-back Andy Robertson rises high to head the ball past N’Golo Kante in the direction of Naby Keita
Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger required treatment twice and was eventually replaced by Andreas Christensen
Jurgen Klopp issues instructions to his Liverpool players as the home side tried to find a way through the Chelsea defence
It would take until the second half before Mane finally broke the deadlock and turned the match into a thrilling contest
Mane celebrated Liverpool’s opening goal by running up to the fans and knee-sliding before being mobbed by team-mates
Moments later Salah scored one of the Premier League’s great goals by firing past Kepa Arrizabalaga from more than 25 yards
Fabinho roars with delight as Salah poses in front of the Kop after scoring a brilliant and vital second goal for the home side
Salah’s goal put Liverpool in control of the match on paper but Chelsea came out firing and missed two great chances to score
Sarri looked like he might lose control but the same could not be said of his team, who were well drilled and organised to the minute. They stayed deep on the edge of their area but it meant Liverpool had no little pockets of space to exploit.
Liverpool were neat and tidy and had bundles of energy but, in terms of putting pressure on Kepa Arrizabalaga, all they had to show in the opening 45 minutes was a volley from Salah that the Spaniard beat away and shot from Sadio Mane that whistled past the upright.
Really, it wasn’t too dissimilar to five years ago. Chelsea’s ability to inflict damage of their own was limited to counterattacks and the closest they came to inducing panic was when Willian charged on to a ball from David Luiz.
Had Chelsea scored first, it would not have been difficult to see a scenario developing similar to the one of five years ago when Demba Ba punished Steven Gerrard’s slip and the visiting fans – who behaved impeccably through a minute’s silence for the 30th anniversary of Hillsborough – reminded the Kop at every opportunity.
Both were squandered by Belgian star Eden Hazard who was played through on goal twice after switching to the left flank
England full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold battles for possession of the ball with Chelsea’s Brazilian wideman Willian
On the opposite flank Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilcueta faced a tough task keeping Senegal internatinal Mane quiet
Salah tries to skip away from the attentions of Blues midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Brazilian defender David Luiz
Jordan Henderson was substituted in the second half after having put in a commanding performance from midfield
In the second half, however, Liverpool went ghostbusting. They took the lead in the 51st minute when Salah caused confusion and allowed Jordan Henderson to scuttle to the byline and produce a cross that invited Mane to provide the simple, headed finish.
You could feel the tension lifting but, before composure had been restored, Salah – who had been the subject of online racial abuse from a group of his old club’s fans on Thursday – added to the bedlam with a picture book strike.
Quite how the game would have turned out had Hazard found the corner of the net rather than striking a post in the 59th minute can only be debated but what is not up for argument is the importance of these three points for Liverpool. They are playing like champions.