Liverpool 2-2 Brighton: Klopp’s side moved two goals clear before the Seagulls responded impressively
Brighton came closest of any opponent in six months to ending Liverpool’s 24-match unbeaten run as Graham Potter’s side recovered from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Anfield.
After last week’s demolition of Manchester United, the sight of the hosts establishing what appeared a comfortable advantage after only 24 minutes thanks to Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane appeared to spell trouble for the Seagulls.
However, pre-match, Jurgen Klopp had said he expected a tough examination and that is what he got as Enock Mwepu’s first Premier League goal just before half-time was followed by a Leandro Trossard equaliser, and in fairness Brighton had better chances to win it from that point.
Part of their success was becoming only the second team this season after Burnley – here in August – to stop Mohamed Salah finding the net as his 10-match goalscoring run was brought to a halt, with his only chance seeing an effort ruled out for offside.
Credit must go to the visitors, and their manager, who never cowered in the face of Liverpool’s pressure and had by far the better of the second half to be fully worthy of their point.
They are in good company as only title contenders Chelsea and Manchester City have left Anfield with anything other than a defeat this season, and to have Liverpool’s nerves jangling as they did in the last 20 minutes was an indication of how their focused and committed approach paid dividends.
It was a complete turnaround from the opening 45 minutes when confidence exuding from every Liverpool player meant that even a couple of early Brighton scares, with Solly March breaking clear and an Yves Bissouma shot – both dealt with by Alisson Becker, tipping the latter on to a post – did not affect their performance.
An early goal helps and when Virgil van Dijk’s pass out to the right isolated Salah against Marc Cucurella, the Egypt international weaved one way and then the other before cutting back for Henderson to plant a side-footed finish past Robert Sanchez.
With Roberto Firmino dropping deep to link play with quick lay-offs and one-twos, Klopp’s side produced some quick, incisive passing moves which had Brighton chasing shadows.
Firmino was guilty of unnecessary over-complication when he tried to lob Sanchez from 14 yards after Mane and Naby Keita had combined but there was nothing but an efficient simplicity about the second goal.
Keita, who had recovered quickly from being carried off at Old Trafford last Sunday, lasted 19 minutes but his replacement Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made an immediate impact.
Within five minutes of coming on his inviting cross dipped at just the right angle to drop between Brighton’s two centre-backs for Mane to head home his fourth in five league matches at Anfield.
A sprawling Lewis Dunk blocked Firmino’s shot while VAR denied Mane a second when the Brighton centre-back put his goalkeeper under pressure under his own crossbar and he was only saved when replays showed the ball had bounced up off Mane’s body and on to his arm before going in.
The hosts sustained a double blow when Mwepu whipped an angled effort up and over Alisson to reduce the deficit just before half-time.
Salah’s hopes of scoring in an 11th successive match were dashed by an offside flag early in the second half but much of the fluency had gone from their game as Brighton pushed back with some success led by the indefatigable former red Adam Lallana.
With Liverpool no longer in full control nor creating the chances they did before the break, Brighton sensed they had an opportunity and they duly seized it.
The way the hosts were carved open down their left will have infuriated Klopp, and it resulted in Henderson and Oxlade-Chamberlain having a heated exchange about who was at fault for allowing Lallana the time and space to tee up Trossard in the 65th minute.
The momentum was all with Brighton and Trossard was denied what he thought was the winner, which on their second-half performance would not have been undeserved, by an offside flag.