Wednesday, February 21

Díaz and Salah on target as Liverpool beat Brighton to stay in title hunt | premier league

three points forward; back to a three-point gap. And on goes the world’s premier staring contest. Blinking is strictly prohibited. The focus was on Mohamed Salah after his agent, Ramy Abbas Issa, responded to Jürgen Klopp’s comments about a contract extension in a very 2022 manner by posting seven laughing emojis. But the Egyptian did not seem distracted as his emphatic second-half penalty sealed an eighth straight league victory.

And Luis Díaz once again showed why, should the worst happen, life can go on. The speed of his adjustment to the Premier League has been remarkable; to say he has hit the ground running would be like describing Usain Bolt as a jogger. On his first league appearance away from Anfield, Díaz flicked, kicked, twisted and spun to the ground. Each time he got up, including after he gave Liverpool ahead by bravely beating Robert Sánchez to the ball.

Brighton are demob unhappy. They are neither upwardly or downwardly mobile this season, with this – their fifth straight defeat – making for their worst Premier League run. Home discomfort has seen them win just one in 11 but, while boos once again rang out at full-time, they were aimed at referee Mike Dean. Really though, they were born from frustration. If anything, the hosts should have been a man down.

With Liverpool competing for multiple trophies, Klopp is having to manage his side like a rotisserie, turning his squad carefully to ensure just the right level of “done”. One change from last weekend’s labored victory over West Ham saw the February player of the month, Joël Matip, return. Not only is Matip’s defending assured, his mazy runs from him have become a trademark. Few defenders in the division operate so well in the final third, and with his – and virtually Liverpool’s – first venture forward came the opener.

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Spotting Díaz’s diagonal run from left to right, Sánchez was a second late and left his opponent strewn. The celebrations were initially mutated, a red card mooted. VAR suggested Dean simply chat to Sanchez; a punishment not befitting the crime. Unable to celebrate by pointing skywards in honor of his late grandmother as is the norm, Díaz had to make do with a warm embrace from Klopp.

That shook Liverpool out of a slumber. Salah flashed a volley over before forcing a save from Sánchez after whizzing up the field on a break. He nearly scored when a deflection off of Lewis Dunk’s calf hit the bar and should have done better when he dragged wide after a Diaz surges. But when Sadio Mané fired a volley against Yves Bissouma’s flung out hand, Salah converted from the spot to score his 20th Premier League goal of the season and Liverpool’s 2,000th in the competition.

Until going behind, Brighton were brave, buzzing around in the yellow and blue strip they wore to show solidarity with Ukraine. There was even the rare sight of Fabinho looking slightly exposed by the neat triangles around him. Neal Maupay flashed an early 20-yarder at a scrambling Alisson but the goal left them flat.

Luis Díaz collides with Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sánchez as he heads home the opening goal for Liverpool. Photograph: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Getty Images

Leandro Trossard’s head was rightly in his hands after going nowhere near with a chance to level within a minute of the restart, but Alisson’s 15th clean sheet of the season was not in question until he tipped a late Danny Welbeck flick over. Sadly, Adam Lallana’s introduction of him as a half-time substitute against his former club lasted all of five minutes. Klopp, who previously described him as a club legend, showed concern.

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For the Brighton manager, Graham Potter, a past issue that had for a time appeared resolved has reared its head again: possession – of which they have usually have plenty – might make a sizeable chunk of the law, but offers little if not accompanied by goals. With one in five, those have dried up.

Next for Liverpool is their game in hand: a trip to Arsenal, whose soft underbelly has been replaced by snarl and bite. But greatness will not be thrust upon Klopp’s men; they must achieve it.

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