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In-form midfield & a learning curve – 5 talking points from Liverpool 2-1 Brighton

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Liverpool had to come from behind (again) but produced a strong performance to beat Brighton and move back to the top of the Premier League table – at least temporarily!

Liverpool 2-1 Brighton

Premier League (292), Anfield
31 March 2024

Goals: Diaz 27′, Salah 65′; Welbeck 2′

 

False start, quickly overcome

We’d barely taken our seats and taken an admiring glance at the pitch bathed in sunshine before the Reds had gone behind for the 13th time in the Premier League this season.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 31, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp reacts during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s not a circumstance we ever want to see, but most importantly, it’s not one we can afford to have happen continually again.

But there are mitigating instances around this time in particular.

For starters, Danny Welbeck probably hasn’t struck a shot that cleanly since about 2010. Shades of Edman and Jagielka about that hit.

In addition, this was very much a one-off in terms of actually allowing Brighton shots on goal; sure, they had plenty of counter-attacks and some decent build-up play, but the Seagulls had just five attempts by the time 80 minutes rolled around on the clock. That one inside 90 seconds ended up in the net is…annoying, but happenstance.

Most important after the ball flew past Kelleher, though, was Liverpool’s response – and yet again it was exemplary.

Seven times this season we’ve come from behind to win in the league – with 26 points gained from losing positions.

 

Salah wins it… doesn’t he?!

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 31, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Good game or bad game for Mohamed Salah? Your perspective might depend on whether you rate constant impact or end product.

By half time he had registered seven shots – though just one was on target and that proved the weakest of the late, a tame back-pass which rolled to Verbruggen.

A volley over the bar, a couple of blocked efforts and a trademark curler from the right channel which flew just wide were all better efforts, but further from the mark – and he’d also spurned two chances to square the ball along the six-yard box for onrushing teammates.

Even so, he won the header which eventually set up Luis Diaz for the equaliser – and given Brighton were allowing Mo so many opportunities to face goal, it was inevitable that a much better finish would follow.

So it proved after the hour: Mac Allister the architect, our No.11 burying one at the ninth time of asking.

He had 12 shots in the end – a personal record – yet few looked dangerous in the end and he wasted chances to tee up others late on too.

 

Conor, Quansah and a right-flank learning curve

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 16, 2023: Liverpool's Jarell Quansah during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For half an hour at least and for much of the first half for sure, Brighton‘s attacks came in predictable fashion: central recovery, play out to their left.

That was it as far as “predictable” goes – the movement was rotating and non-stop, the passing combinations tough for the Reds’ defensive options to track and even the speed of it varied: slower build-up, direct switches, lightning counters.

It was tough for Conor Bradley at right-back and Jarell Quansah in the centre on that channel to deal with, but both stuck with it, both improved, both ended up inarguably having the better of the 90 minutes than the men they were up against.

Bradley was assured in the challenge and aggressive in the areas of the pitch he stepped in, while also having his usual rampaging impact going forward.

Quansah, meanwhile, ended up getting the better of Welbeck more than once in direct duels, kept pace with Adingra and won a challenge as he raced into the box and generally got better as the game went on in anticipating movement around the area.

After tough starts, both will be marked highly by Jurgen Klopp today.

 

In-form midfield options

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 25, 2023: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister during the FA Premier League match between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There are not too many more in-form players in the Premier League right now than Alexis Mac Allister and he was, again, arguably the biggest factor in the Reds’ win.

Against his old club he was string-pulling throughout and non-stop with his invention and vision – while also stopping their counters by fair means or foul.

The yellow card he received early on was a nonsense, as were many decisions by David Coote on the day, yet the World Cup-winner managed his impact from then on wonderfully well.

He’s not alone in the centre with strong performances – Wataru Endo was again very much on-point.

The Japanese ball-winner was formidable with his recovery runs and got through a lot of work off-the-ball, while Dominik Szoboszlai started slow but got far better.

Curtis Jones is almost back too and Harvey Elliott remains a vital squad component – the midfield is looking good right now.

 

Sprint finish starts with a hurdle

Every game is now a means to an end: keep winning to stay above and beyond the other two.

That means today was a box checked, a game we played well in but ultimately it didn’t matter – we needed to win, and we did.

Going top ahead of Arsenal and Man City meeting was big, as was responding well on the first day back after an international break.

There’s not another one now until the campaign is wrapped up so this point is generally referred to as the final straight… but given our ongoing European exploits, it’s still slightly more than an outright sprint.

Win one game, onto the next: that’s the mantra from this point onwards and we passed this first tough test in the end.