Liverpool 1 Brighton 0
WHAT is it about Anfield that makes Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah play with an extra 10 per cent?
For the Egyptian has now scored 29 goals in 29 appearances at the home of the Reds.
His goal on 23 minutes gave Liverpool just what they were looking for against a Brighton side that came into the game buoyed by a 3-2 home win against Manchester United last time out.
Chris Houghton’s side knew this was going to be a tough ask, but they made it even harder by playing with all 11 men behind the ball.
Thirty four-year-old striker Glenn Murray cut a desolate figure up front, with barely any sight of the ball for the entire time he was on the pitch.
The game started brightly enough for the home side as Sadio Mane put the ball just wide from the edge of the area, after Salah played some smart football to set up the in-form Mane.
Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino had a chance five minutes later but his header was saved by Brighton’s Australian goalkeeper Matthew Ryan from close range.
Newcomer Naby Keita was pushed to the floor right in front of the referee on the edge of the box. The resulting free kick from Trent Alexander-Arnold hit the bar and bounced out.
Then came Salah’s simple goal, as some excellent midfield work from the evergreen 32-year-old James Milner provided him with the ball inside the box and the goal gaping. Side footed finish. Easy.
Firmino had another chance 10 minutes later, but Ryan was equal to it.
The half petered out into something akin to a pre-season or training game.
No chances of note from either side, but Liverpool still managed to dominate ipossession.
The second half began as the first half ended – slowly.
Not much to report, until Milner was brought down around 30 yards from goal after 59 minutes.
Salah took the resulting free kick, landed the ball straight on to the head of Joe Gomez which ended directly in the hands of Matt Ryan.
For some reason, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp decided to take off attacking midfielder Keita and rbring on holding midfielder Jordan Henderson – slowing the game down even more.
There were a few dodgy moments from Liverpool’s £67 million new goalkeeper Alisson as he decided to try his hand at becoming a midfielder.
Needless to say, Klopp is unlikely to allow him do that again. Although he did have a moment of inspiration in chipping the ball over Brighton’s Knockaert, on to the feet of Alexander-Arnold, who proceeded to run down the wing. He crossed the ball into the box but it led to nothing.
It took a further 20 minutes for a chance of note for either side, as Liverpool right-wing-back Alexander-Arnold’s shot from inside the box took a deflection and went just wide.
Brighton should have equalised in the 88th minute, but a Pascal Gross header brought a stunning save from Becker – showing just why spending a substantial amount on him was worth it.
And that was that for both sides as the game followed a familiar pattern, petering out into nothing.
Liverpool fans are happy to be top of the league (for now, at least), while Brighton supporters looked ohappy to be leaving with a modicum of pride having put up a good fight.
After the game, Brighton boss Houghton said: “I have pride in the way my team played.
“As the game went on we gave ourselves the best possible opportunity to get something.
“In the end, although they had a lot of possession, we looked more likely to score.
“I am very proud of the performance, but disappointed by the result.
“There is a difference between playing at home and playing away.
“The biggest challenge we have this season is improving our away form.”
Klopp said: “We still have a lot of work to do.
“The first half was how we should be – good mind set, patience, passing etc.
“But then there was half time and we didn’t do exactly the same.
“We didn’t show the same patience.
“It was more open and there was absolutely no need for that.
“We started trying to pass through an area where there was no space so we lost the ball.”
He continued: “1-0 hasn’t been a result we’ve had very often.
“Pep Guardiola said this week that his players are not 100 per cent fit, and we have the same problem.
“These games are the most important sessions we have to regain fitness.”
On goalkeeper Loris Karius joining Besiktas after today’s game: “We said goodbye yesterday.
“He is a very good goalkeeper and the move is good for him.”
An away game against Leicester City is up next for Jurgen’s boys, while Brighton has a derby of sorts at home to Southampton in the Carabao Cup second round on Tuesday.
Liverpool: Alisson, Van Dijk, Wijnaldum, Milner (captain), Keita, Firmino, Mane, Salah, Gomez, Robertson, Alexander-Arnold.
Brighton: Ryan, Bong, Duffy, Stephens (captain), Bissouma, Knockaert, Balgun, Murray, March, Montoya, Propper
Referee: Chris Kavanagh