‘Unbelievable’: Kovacic scores screamer in Chelsea thriller
Midfield marvel Mateo Kovacic thumped in one of the goals of the season as title hopefuls Chelsea and Liverpool's Premier League showdown lived up to its billing on Sunday.
On an afternoon when all the pre-match talk had been about the man Chelsea had hoped would score hatfuls this season, Croatia stalwart Kovacic thundered in an effort Romelu Lukaku would have been proud of.
Chelsea needed something special after falling 2-0 behind early on, Sadio Mane pouncing on Trevoh Chalobah's ninth-minute error before Premier League top scorer Mohamed Salah left Marcos Alonso and Edouard Mendy flat-footed to make it two less than 20 minutes later.
Just when social media was alight with claims that Blues boss Thomas Tuchel had made a terrible call by banishing Lukaku from his squad, Kovacic hit a glorious 42nd-minute volley from outside the penalty area to give Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher no chance.
Mateo Kovacic insane goal vs Liverpool pic.twitter.com/q0r3xduHpt— MK8 (@KovacicXtra) January 2, 2022
VAR checking the contents of Kovacic's locker— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) January 2, 2022
"What a goal," responded one fan, while another called the perfectly-hammered shot "insane".
Boos rang out at Stamford Bridge as VAR officials, almost inevitably, ordered a check on the goal because Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger was standing near Kelleher in a position that made no difference to the helpless goalkeeper.
Buoyed by Kovacic's brilliance, Chelsea then equalized on the stroke of half-time when Christian Pulisic raced onto a Rudiger through-ball and finished emphatically into the roof of Kelleher's net.
Gary Neville when Kovacic equalised pic.twitter.com/3QyTkfiT9f— SPORTbible (@sportbible) January 2, 2022
As impressive as Pulisic's composure and technique were, there could be little doubting the moment of the half – and one of the finest goals ever seen at Chelsea's home.
"Oh my god," former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who was known for piledrivers of his own during his prolific career, told Sky Sports.
"He takes this so well. Unbelievable. When it comes to him, I'm thinking 'no, not to him.' What a goal."
Mateo Kovacic with the goal of a LIFETIME 🤯 pic.twitter.com/JNEdlLdk5r— GOAL (@goal) January 2, 2022
Hasselbaink also offered measured praise to USA star Pulisic. "Take nothing away from Pulisic; he needed that goal because he's not been in this match whatsoever," said the pundit.
"[He was] not pressing, he had the best chance [before then], but he's taken that goal really well."
Leaders Manchester City may be the key beneficiaries if the scoreline remains 2-2 at full-time: the reigning champions started the match 12 points ahead of Chelsea and 13 clear of Liverpool. They host Tuchel's side on January 15.