The need to defeat Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday has become more urgent for Liverpool. Just when it seemed that the Premier League champions had reinvigorated their title defense with successive away wins at Tottenham and West Ham, they succumbed to a second straight home loss as Brighton executed a perfect game plan to record their first league win. at Anfield since 1982.
Steven Alzate, with a large chunk of fortune, delivered a memorable victory for Graham Potter’s team, who defended superbly all night and possessed the quality of upsetting Liverpool on the few occasions they did get ahead. Creatively and clinically, Jürgen Klopp’s team found themselves in the mood again and are seven points behind the league leaders ahead of Sunday’s game.
On the day of the deadline, the signing of Ben Davies began his Liverpool career on the bench, but there was no room for newcomer Ozan Kabak, who awaits international clearance following his loan from Schalke. Starting goalkeeper Alisson was also absent due to illness, not Covid-19, Klopp said, resulting in a fifth start to the season for Caoimhin Kelleher. Brighton, who had not conceded in their previous three Premier League games, made two changes to the team that beat Tottenham on Sunday with Dan Burn and Steven Alzate replacing Joel Veltman and Alexis Mac Allister.
The visitors’ clean sheet streak could have ended in three minutes when Jordan Henderson presented Mohamed Salah with a glorious opportunity to score his fifth goal in four games. The Liverpool captain, starting once again alongside Nat Phillips in central defense, threw a perfect pass from the midline into Salah’s run behind Adam Webster. The Egyptian international controlled well, but passed his second touch over the crossbar and only edged goalkeeper Robert Sánchez. It was a rare opening for Liverpool, and a lag of Brighton concentration, in a first half that again tested the champions’ ability to knock down a well-organized opponent committed to defending in numbers.
Sanchez did not have to make a save before the break as Solly March, Lewis Dunk and Webster, Brighton’s three central defenders, provided imposing protection against Liverpool’s centers and eight, sometimes nine, outfield players fell deeply each time the home team had possession.
That hampered their efforts to hurt Liverpool with sharp, smart passes of their own, though it was obvious and almost produced a breakthrough against Dan Burn’s career. A fluid move from Brighton resulted in Neal Maupay breaking behind the home defense. Having cut inside Henderson and James Milner, the forward’s eventual shot deflected Andy Robertson into Burn’s path. The defender, placed on the left back by Graham Potter, proved that he is much better suited for his own penalty area by dodging a volley over Kelleher’s goal and into the Kop from close range.
Despite Liverpool’s dominance of the ball, it was Brighton who came close again before the break when Pascal Gross threw a first cross into the heart of the home area. Maupay, reaching the space in front of Roberto Firmino, received the delivery with a powerful header but could not find the precision to test Kelleher from just eight yards. His shy reaction said it all. He had to do better.
Firmino had been anonymous in the first half, as had Xherdan Shaqiri, but the Brazilian international almost thrived when Liverpool finally managed to find a space between Brighton’s defense and midfield after the restart. An excellent interception from Dunk prevented Robertson’s cut from reaching Salah in front of the goal, but he fell to Firmino, whose low shot was blocked by another intervention from the Brighton captain.
Liverpool’s number nine had a second attempt deflected by compound Yves Bissouma after an incisive one-touch move that involved Thiago Alcãntara and Shaqiri. The pressure was mounting on the visitors, but they were not only unfazed, they took the lead with a goal that combined fluid soccer with outrageous fortune.
Bissouma was instrumental in a polished left-to-right game change that ended with an excellent cross into the penalty area for Burn, who lurked unmarked at the far post. The defender’s header across the goal forced Phillips into a punt that hit Leandro Trossard in the thigh, bounced off Alzate and then bounced past Kelleher off the Brighton midfielder.
Brighton continued to defend superbly, Webster pinched the ball on Firmino’s toes as he prepared to convert Thiago’s free kick into the box, but suffered a severe blow when March limped off injured after a lengthy treatment. His departure marked the return of Anfield for former Liverpool player Adam Lallana.
Salah came close to capitalizing on the defensive interruption when Milner released Trent Alexander-Arnold down the right and the winger took the forward with a low, hard cross. However, Salah’s first effort sailed inches from the top corner. Gross came even closer to extending the visitors lead from a corner, but Kelleher made a good save to his left to deflect the midfielder’s curly shot. Liverpool’s substitute goalkeeper also denied Trossard when the forward engineered an opportunity to spare Brighton a difficult finish.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism