When Chelsea somehow found themselves 2-0 down against Liverpool before the half-hour mark, the home support at Stamford Bridge probably feared the worst.
Premier League: Chelsea are out of the title race, but they stopped Liverpool rut
While Tuchel’s team slipped 10 points behind Manchester City, ending their run of home defeats against the Reds was one positive from Sunday.
The performance had been good in the main, but the Reds, who did not start particularly well in West London, netted two goals through Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
Mane’s ninth-minute goal, which ended a nine-match run in all competitions without one, was his third at the home of the Blues since the start of last season, thus becoming the first Liverpool player to score in successive away games at the Bridge.
As for Salah, his goal just before the half-hour mark was his fourth against his old side since moving to Merseyside in 2017.
Blues supporters must be sick of the sight of the pair.
Two goals down, it felt like recent history was repeating itself. Liverpool had picked up wins on their last two visits to the Bridge, claiming a 2-0 success last term and defeating the Blues 2-1 the year before.
With the firepower of the visitors and the home team infuriatingly self-destructive, extending their winning run in West London to three in succession was the expected result.
However, four crazy minutes as the half drew to a close turned the tide. Matteo Kovacic’s incredible volley halved the deficit in the 42nd minute and Christian Pulisic drew Thomas Tuchel’s team level in first-half stoppage time.
A subdued crowd was suddenly up for it again. Within four minutes, Chelsea had gone from hoping to avoid a damaging defeat to believing a turnaround could be in the offing.
When a Mason Mount effort trickled past Caoimhin Kelleher’s far post in the final minute of the half, it further fed the conviction of the home crowd with 45 minutes to play.
As it turns out, they could not nick the winner despite Pulisic and Rudiger going close after the break but the glass ought to be half-full, rather than half-empty.
Owing to the furore around Romelu Lukaku’s controversial interview and the striker’s subsequent non-appearance on Sunday, the encouraging showing lifts spirits in the short term, especially after Wednesday’s appalling outing against Brighton & Hove Albion.
Indeed, avoiding a third consecutive home reverse against a Liverpool side that seemed to enjoy their recent visits to the Bridge adds to the relief after the final whistle. The fact shoulders did not drop after Salah’s goal demonstrated the fight in this Chelsea side whose character was evident in both games against the Merseyside club this season.
Tuchel’s troops picked up a 1-1 draw at Anfield having battled for 45 minutes with 10 men and they fought back from two down to draw 2-2 on Sunday. Throw in last season’s 1-0 success at the home of the Reds, and Blues fans will feel more confident in this rivalry following a few years where it felt the gap between both clubs had widened.
Of course, the big picture shows Manchester City are this weekend’s biggest beneficiaries. Guardiola’s team stole a late 2-1 win at Arsenal on New Year’s Day, meaning both Chelsea and Liverpool faced off a day later knowing the importance of picking up maximum points.
For the defending European champions, a 10-point gap seems a bridge too far even in January, and their recent proclivity for stalemates has greatly undermined their Premier League title push.
Tuchel’s team have lost only two games all season, but a staggering seven draws have seen them fall far behind the Cityzens. Five of these draws have been at the Bridge, vexing followers of the side who have endured several frustrating results on their turf.
The upshot of four wins in their last 11 league games leaves them all but out of the race at the turn of the year with their prospects of a sixth crown slipping away every gameweek.
Without a doubt, maximum points are imperative when they face City at the Etihad Stadium in a fortnight, where a defeat will seal their fate in the title race.
While the disappointment of recent results have seen Chelsea all but drop out of the hitherto three-team tussle, being third-time lucky against Liverpool at the Bridge undoubtedly offered much-needed encouragement for Tuchel’s floundering Blues.