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Liverpool woes go on as Trossard treble hits right note for De Zebri

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Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold in action against Brighton’s Kaoru Mitoma at Anfield yesterday. Picture by Phil Noble

Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold in action against Brighton’s Kaoru Mitoma at Anfield yesterday. Picture by Phil Noble

Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold in action against Brighton’s Kaoru Mitoma at Anfield yesterday. Picture by Phil Noble

Leandro Trossard launched the Roberto De Zerbi era in style with a clinical hat-trick that earned Brighton a merited point at Liverpool.

The Brighton forward scored the first treble by a visiting player at Anfield since Andrey Arshavin’s four goals for Arsenal in 2009 as Jürgen Klopp’s inconsistent team dropped valuable Premier League points for the fifth time this season.

Liverpool appeared to have salvaged victory from the ashes when, having trailed to two early Trossard strikes, Roberto Firmino scored twice and Adam Webster put through his own goal after a mistake by the Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sánchez. Errors were not confined to the visiting defence, however, and the Belgian forward levelled late on after Virgil van Dijk had failed to deal with a ball across the Liverpool six-yard box.

De Zerbi had wanted brave football and that is exactly what he got. The confident visitors were prepared to play through Liverpool’s press inside their own penalty area and thread inch-perfect passes through central midfield, and shredded the home defence repeatedly as a result. But for a brilliant save by Alisson and a poor header from Danny Welbeck they would have been four goals ahead inside the opening 18 minutes and cruising before Firmino changed the complexion of the game.

The breakthrough arrived early after a weak clearance by Trent Alexander-Arnold. Having issued a staunch defence of the Liverpool right-back after his omission from the England squad on Monday, Klopp could have done with a convincing response from a talent he described as “world class”. It was not forthcoming, with Alexander-Arnold erring for both Brighton goals and almost for a third on the stroke of half-time.

After the defender headed a Solly March cross back across the Liverpool area the excellent Moisés Caicedo beat Jordan Henderson to the second ball and found Alexis Mac Allister. His touch was back-heeled by Welbeck into the path of Trossard, who slipped away with ease from Alexander-Arnold and drove into the far corner of Alisson’s goal.

The Liverpool defence was torn apart in the early stages. Another cross from the right by March picked out Welbeck unmarked. Six yards out, and with Alisson exposed, the centre-forward headed straight at the Brazil international when he had to do better. Alisson came to the home side’s rescue following a careless mistake from Thiago Alcântara, who allowed the goalkeeper’s throw to roll under his foot and straight to Pascal Gross. Suddenly Welbeck was free inside the area. His touch fell to Trossard whose shot was destined for the bottom corner until Alisson stretched out a leg to save with his right foot.

Brighton deservedly doubled their advantage when Alexander-Arnold chested a long ball into the path of Welbeck. Pervis Estupiñán sent the striker scurrying down the left and he squared to March, who released Trossard into the area with a lovely first touch. From a similar position to his first goal, the Belgian forward swept another sharp finish into the far corner.

Liverpool were floundering, struggling to contain the visitors’ adventure or retain possession long enough to threaten a response. But the comeback commenced courtesy of a much-needed intervention by VAR.

Firmino’s finish was initially disallowed for offside by the referee, Andrew Madley, whose assistant flagged after Mohamed Salah had latched on to Jordan Henderson’s chip over the defence. VAR, however, ruled that Webster had played Salah onside when the captain’s ball sailed over the top and, after a lengthy deliberation, Madley overturned his decision.

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The Liverpool manager introduced Luis Díaz for the anonymous Fábio Carvalho at half-time and the switch paid immediate dividends when the Colombian winger, who arrived back from international duty on Thursday, helped create the equaliser. Brighton had twice broken dangerously into the Liverpool area but failed to take either opportunity. After their second attempt, Henderson sprayed a fine ball out to Thiago who in turn released Díaz into a one-v-one against Joël Veltman. He centred to Firmino, who breezed away from Lewis Dunk before beating Sánchez with a cool finish.

Liverpool overturned their two-goal deficit in bizarre fashion when the Brighton goalkeeper made a complete mess of attempting to punch clear an Alexander-Arnold corner. The ball sailed past Sánchez’s fist and struck the unfortunate Webster before bobbling over the line.

The comeback looked complete but also on suspect foundations with Liverpool’s defence continually vulnerable against Brighton’s probing runs. Kaoru Mitoma produced a lively display as a second-half substitute. His cross from the byline should have been cut out by Van Dijk but it sailed past the central defender to Trossard lurking at the back post. The hat-trick was sealed with an emphatic shot that Alisson could only push into the roof of the net. It was no more than De Zerbi’s new charges deserved.

Observer

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