Liverpool had far too much pace for Chelsea’s lumbering defence, and it was obvious why Conte wanted reinforcements in that area in the summer.
The problem was that the first choice men he wanted, like Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, they were unable to get. The problems of last season, which saw Mourinho depart and the team finish in 10th place, have clearly not yet been solved by the Italian.
Mane was a blur of movement for Liverpool, and Coutinho simply ran the match with his ability to spot a pass. But then hope.
Eden Hazard found Nemanja Matic, up until then utterly anonymous, and the Serb went on a weaving run into the area and along the byeline to pull the ball back, and Diego Costa stabbed the ball home for his fifth goal of the season.
It was virtually Costa’s first effort of the game, and suddenly Liverpool, for the first time, looked rocky. Chelsea could then have been level, when Matic nodded the ball down, and Costa swivelled only to see Mignolet push away his shot.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois 6; Ivanovic 5, Cahill 6, Luiz 6, Azpilicueta 6; Kante 6, Matic (Fabregas 84) 6; Willian 6, Oscar 6, Hazard 6; Costa 6. Booked: Willian. Goal: Costa (61).
Liverpool (4-3-3): Mignolet 7; Clyne 7, Lovren 7, Matip 7, Milner 7; Lallana 8, Wijnadum 7 (Stewart 90), Henderson 7; Mane 7, Sturridge 7 (Origi 57, 6), Coutinho 8 (Lucas 82). Goals: Lovren 17, Henderson 36.
Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).