Friday 21 June 2019

Salah sends Liverpool top but Klopp expects better to come

Liverpool 1 Brighton 0

James Milner is tackled by Brighton’s Yves Bissouma during yesterday’s Premier League clash at Anfield. Photo: Reuters
James Milner is tackled by Brighton’s Yves Bissouma during yesterday’s Premier League clash at Anfield. Photo: Reuters

Paul Wilson

Liverpool have not yet hit the giddy heights of the latter part of last season but they have made an almost perfect start to this one.

Jurgen Klopp named an unchanged side for the third time in as many matches and watched them collect a third win, moving to the top of the Premier League in the process.

Davy Proepper of Brighton and Hove Albion in action as Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum of Liverpool look on. Photo: Getty Images
Davy Proepper of Brighton and Hove Albion in action as Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum of Liverpool look on. Photo: Getty Images

Klopp has been there before, though it was almost two years ago and only a brief visit. In each of his three previous seasons in England the German has had to witness teams either running away with the league - as Manchester City and Chelsea did - or proving uncatchable, like Leicester. This time Liverpool are understandably keen to be the ones staying a step ahead, and though there is a long way to go they are setting the pace with some room left for improvement.

"The players are still not really 100 per cent fit and Brighton's were the same, but that is how it is," said Klopp after the narrowest of victories. "That is why we have a big squad. Let's see what we can do. I'm happy with the result. Top of the table after the third match day so no problem with that."

Pep Guardiola claims his Manchester City side are short of maximum efficiency in the wake of the World Cup and the same would appear to be true of Liverpool, who put several passes astray and made too many poor decisions in the final third for their manager to be completely happy. They found an organised Brighton side difficult to break down.

There was never much doubt about the result once the home side took a first-half lead, but Brighton were not overwhelmed and will be kicking themselves over the lapse of concentration that ended up costing them the game.

Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the opening goal. Photo: Getty Images
Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the opening goal. Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool could have gone in front as early as the fifth minute when Sadio Mane played Mohamed Salah into space behind Gaetan Bong and moved into the penalty area to accept the return pass, only to sidefoot narrowly wide.

For all that, the home side had a let-off when Alisson came out of his area to deal with a diagonal pass from Yves Bissouma and failed to make any contact with the ball. Solomon March was left in possession near the corner flag with the goalkeeper stranded but he miscontrolled to let the ball run out. Trent Alexander-Arnold then hit the bar with a free-kick after Naby Keita was fouled on the edge of the area before, almost inevitably, Salah made the breakthrough at the mid-point of the first half.

Liverpool have yet to concede this season and a large part of that is attributed to Virgil van Dijk. After the game, the central defender said: "We did it all together. You saw today how important our pressing from the front is. Credit to everyone. We are not doing it alone at the back. Everyone is doing their bit. It is always important to make crucial saves."

After scoring, the hosts spent the rest of the first half in Brighton's half, attempting to pass their opponents to death but mostly meeting stubborn resistance. Mat Ryan was twice called upon to make saves from Georginio Wijnaldum and Mane before the break.

Brighton began the second half with a chance to equalise when a couple of errors in the Liverpool defence allowed Anthony Knockaert a sight of goal, though he had to hurry and his shot on the turn went wide. Liverpool's inability to put the game out of Brighton's reach only encouraged their visitors, who got forward much more in the second half.

Liverpool might have been embarrassed right at the end, when Alisson had to make his only save of the game to keep out Pascal Gross's header. It was a nervy moment but Klopp and his side can take solace from the league table.

Brighton boss Chris Hughton was disappointed not to leave Anfield with a point. He said: "There was stuff to be proud of but disappointed as well. I thought over the 90 minutes they would have chances but I thought we did too.

"They made changes towards the end of the game to try and stay in it. We finished really strong and won't get a better opportunity."

Observer

Sunday Indo Sport

The Throw-In: Dublin hurlers come of age, who will stand up for Offaly and Anthony Cunningham's unique record

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport