Liverpool couldn’t close the gap on Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table as they fought out a 1-1 draw with Antonio Conte’s table-toppers at Anfield.
Gini Wijnaldum’s second half header cancelled out David Luiz’s superb first half free kick and Jurgen Klopp’s men were indebted to Simon Mignolet’s penalty save from Diego Costa with 15 minutes left to preserve a point.
It was probably a fair result in a pulsating encounter which wasn’t always of the highest quality but was absorbing none the less.
It leaves the Reds still 10 points behind the Londoners and it will be Conte who will leave Anfield the happier manager.
Nathaniel Clyne returned to the Liverpool starting line-up having overcome a rib injury but Sadio Mane was considered only fit enough for the bench after his dash back from the Africa Cup of Nations.
The Reds started well, with a good tempo to their game as they attacked the Kop in the first period.
Gini Wijnaldum stung Courtois’ hands with a shot as he brought the first save of the game 12 minutes in.
A Joel Matip error allowed Eden Hazard the first chance to stretch his legs but Milner got back well to block the subsequent effort from former Liverpool loanee Victor Moses.
Then it was over to Luiz as he caught Mignolet by surprise after Lallana had bundled into Hazard.
The Brazilian’s quick free-kick flew in off the post from 25 yards out with the keeper still organising his wall to leave Anfield stunned. It probably didn’t make any difference such was the quality of the strike after 25 minutes.
Willian’s swinging free-kick was then pushed away by the Belgian at the last second as the visitors grew in confidence following their goal.
Liverpool huffed and puffed but struggled to create any clear chances and Conte’s men led at the break.
Roberto Firmino missed Liverpool’s clearest chance of the night early in the second half, ballooning his effort over when the ball broke to him alone six yards out after good work from Lallana and Clyne.
Victor Moses avoided a poor James Milner tackle to clip the post but Liverpool were level on 57 minutes.
Henderson clipped a good ball to the back post where Milner headed back across to find the oncoming Wijnaldum who beat Courtois with his header.
Anfield was rocking and Liverpool pushed for a winner but were rocked when Costa fell over Matip’s out-stretched with 15 minutes left and Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot. There was contact but it was soft.
Mignolet though flew to his right to keep out Costa’s blast, much to the crowd”s delight.
Substitute Pedro threatened for the visitors and it took a good tackle from Henderson to deny him while Sadio Mane – off the bench to a hero’s welcome – almost set Firmino up late on but his header was straight at Courtois.
Much. much better from Liverpool but tonight, not enough.