Liverpool’s unbeaten run stands at 24 games in all competitions, their best for 32 years, yet that sign of prowess could not console Jürgen Klopp after his team squandered a two-goal lead against Brighton. Graham Potter may beg to differ with “squandered”. It was his side’s boldness and creativity, not Liverpool carelessness, that underpinned a stylish recovery.
Two goals down after 24 minutes, Brighton never wavered in their positivity, composure or belief in their manager’s methods. Potter’s tactical acumen shone through as the visitors capitalised on more disruption to Liverpool’s midfield – with Naby Keïta hobbling off early with a suspected hamstring injury – to fight back from conceding to Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mané. Enock Mwepu’s first Premier League goal brought hope shortly before the interval. Leandro Trossard’s fine second-half strike turned hope into something tangible.
“It looked like it would be a tough afternoon for us but credit to the players, they had an amazing response,” the Brighton manager said. “We survived a disallowed goal and instead of 3-0 we went in at half-time at 2-1. That was big. I thought it was a fantastic game.”
Liverpool opened in the same incisive vein that destroyed Manchester United and, as at Old Trafford, scored from their first meaningful attack thanks to the latest assist from Mohamed Salah. Virgil van Dijk picked out Liverpool’s leading goalscorer with a raking pass, enabling Salah to beat Marc Cucurella. The Egypt international spotted Henderson’s run to the edge of the area and the captain stroked a delightful finish into Robert Sánchez’s top corner.
Confidence ran through every Liverpool touch, with Roberto Firmino irresistible. That said, Firmino should have made it two when Mané intercepted Yves Bissouma’s pass and Salah released the Brazilian through on goal. But he made a mess of an attempted chip and found row 10 of the Kop instead.
Keïta’s replacement, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, had been on the pitch five minutes when he delivered Liverpool’s second goal on a plate for Mané. His cross, swept over Shane Duffy, was inch-perfect and Mané made no mistake with a close range header. Anfield celebrated a second from Mané when Sánchez dithered in possession and his eventual clearance was charged down into the net by the Senegal international. The teams were in position for another restart when VAR spotted the ball had rebounded in via Mané’s hand.
Three goals would have reflected Liverpool’s form in front of goal but also glossed over the problems Brighton caused their defence. Klopp has maintained his team’s defending needs to improve throughout their fine run. It was not forthcoming here.
“We didn’t defend the half-spaces right,” the Liverpool manager lamented. “The way Brighton play, if you don’t defend the half-spaces then the last line has to drop a bit which doesn’t make sense. Because the world is strange people don’t respect Brighton. They might not win 35 games a season but 38 times a season they will give someone a proper game. The best way to defend today was to have the ball and we didn’t do that enough. We opened the door for them to come back and paid the price. We had two disallowed goals and have played more games than Brighton but from what I could see in the second half I was not overly happy with the body language of some.”
Solly March was denied by Alisson before Henderson opened the scoring. The Liverpool goalkeeper thwarted the visitors again when tipping Bissouma’s long-range drive on to a post. Mwepu headed over from Cucurella’s cross but made amends in superb style. Receiving March’s pass 25 yards out, he curled a stunning first-time finish over the backtracking Alisson and under the bar.
A flowing move started by Sánchez brought the visitors level. Adam Lallana sent Trossard away down the left and the forward cut inside Andy Robertson’s flying challenge to finish under the exposed Alisson.
Both teams had goals disallowed for offside in the second half – Salah after rounding Sánchez and Trossard having done likewise to Alisson – and Brighton handled Liverpool’s late pressure with ease to preserve their unbeaten run on the road this season.