Brighton put major dent in Liverpool’s title defence

Steven Alzate’s goal made it two consecutive losses at Anfield for Jürgen Klopp’s side

Brighton’s Steven Alzate scores the winner in their Premier League clash with Liverpool. Photo: Phil Noble/Getty Images

Brighton’s Steven Alzate scores the winner in their Premier League clash with Liverpool. Photo: Phil Noble/Getty Images

 

Liverpool 0 Brighton & Hove Albion 1

The need to defeat Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday has become more pressing for Liverpool. Just when it seemed the Premier League champions had reinvigorated their title defence with successive away wins at Tottenham and West Ham, they succumbed to a second consecutive home defeat as Brighton executed a perfect game-plan to record their first league victory at Anfield since 1982.

Steven Alzate, with a huge slice of fortune, delivered a memorable win for Graham Potter’s side who defended superbly all night and possessed the quality to trouble Liverpool on the few occasions they broke forward. Creatively and clinically, Jürgen Klopp’s team were found wanting again and find themselves seven points behind the league leaders ahead of Sunday’s encounter.

Deadline day signing Ben Davies started his Liverpool career on the bench but there was no place for fellow new arrival Ozan Kabak, who is awaiting international clearance following his loan move from Schalke. First choice goalkeeper Alisson was also absent through illness – not Covid-19, Klopp said – resulting in a fifth start of the season for Caoimhin Kelleher. Brighton, who had not conceded in their previous three Premier League outings, made two changes to the team that defeated Tottenham on Sunday with Dan Burn and Steven Alzate replacing Joel Veltman and Alexis Mac Allister.

The visitors run of clean sheets could have ended inside three minutes when Mohamed Salah was presented with a glorious chance to score his fifth goal in four games by Jordan Henderson. Liverpool’s captain, starting once again alongside Nat Phillips in central defence, floated a perfect pass from the halfway line into Salah’s run behind Adam Webster. The Egypt international controlled well but scuffed his second touch high over the bar with only goalkeeper Robert Sánchez to beat. It was a rare opening for Liverpool, and lapse in concentration by Brighton, in a first half that again tested the champions’ ability to breakdown a well-organised opponent committed to defending in numbers.

Sánchez did not have a save to make before half-time as Solly March, Lewis Dunk and Webster, Brighton’s three central defenders, provided commanding protection against Liverpool crosses and eight, sometimes nine outfield players dropped deep whenever the home side had possession.

That hindered their efforts to hurt Liverpool with sharp, intelligent passing of their own, although it was evident and almost produced a breakthrough against the run of play for Dan Burn. A flowing Brighton move resulted in Neal Maupay breaking clear behind the home defence. Having cut back inside Henderson and James Milner, the striker’s eventual shot deflected off Andy Robertson into the path of Burn. The defender, stationed at left wing-back by Graham Potter, demonstrated he is far more suited to his own penalty area by skying a volley over Kelleher’s goal and into the Kop at close range.

Despite Liverpool’s dominance of the ball it was Brighton who went closest again before the break when Pascal Gross whipped a first time cross into the heart of the home box. Maupay, arriving in space in front of Roberto Firmino, met the delivery with a powerful header but could not find the accuracy to test Kelleher from only eight yards out. His sheepish reaction said it all. He had to do better.

Firmino had been anonymous in the first half, so too Xherdan Shaqiri, but the Brazil international almost prospered when Liverpool finally managed to find space between the Brighton defence and midfield after the restart. An excellent interception from Dunk prevented Robertson’s cut-back reaching Salah in front of goal but fell to Firmino, whose low shot was blocked by another lunging intervention by the Brighton captain.

Liverpool’s number nine had a second attempt deflected wide by the composed Yves Bissouma following an incisive one-touch move involving Thiago Alcãntara and Shaqiri. The pressure was growing on the visitors yet not only were they unperturbed, they took the lead with a goal that combined flowing football with outrageous fortune.

Bissouma was central to a polished switch of play from left to right that ended with a superb cross into the penalty area for Burn, lurking unmarked at the far post. The defender’s header back across goal forced Phillips to throw himself into a clearance that struck Leandro Trossard on the thigh, rebounded against Alzate and then looped beyond Kelleher off the Brighton midfielder.

Brighton continued to defend superbly, Webster pinching the ball off Firmino’s toes as he shaped to convert Thiago’s chipped free-kick into the area, but suffered a severe blow when March limped off injured after lengthy treatment. His exit brought an Anfield return for former Liverpool player Adam Lallana.

Salah was close to capitalising on the defensive disruption when Milner released Trent Alexander-Arnold down the right and the full-back picked out the forward with a low, hard cross. Salah’s first time effort sailed inches wide of the top corner, however. Gross was even closer to extending the visitors lead from a corner but Kelleher produced a fine save low to his left to tip away the midfielder’s curling shot. Liverpool’s stand-in keeper also denied Trossard when the striker engineered a chance to spare Brighton a fraught finale. – Guardian

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