Football

On day of reflection, Liverpool march forward with hard-fought win over Brighton



Before revealing the result, before dissecting the display, there was a far more important, far more powerful message broadcast at Anfield on Saturday afternoon.

From the first whistle, ‘Justice for the 96’ echoed around all four of the stands; a chorus of pain, frustration, dismay and devastation at the ‘not guilty’ verdict of former South Yorkshire police chief superintendent David Duckenfield of gross negligence manslaughter in the Hillsborough retrial.

For six minutes, there was no break in the voices demanding accountability for the 96 men, women and children who were “unlawfully killed” in the 1989 stadium disaster, as the inquests in 2016 had ruled. 

The chanting did not cease when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a shot blocked, nor when Brighton tried to profit from a corner.

Only after those 360 seconds did the trademark roar, usually aired at kick-off, materialise. It was followed by the shouts of ‘Liverpool! Liverpool!’ before the Kop broke out into their repertoire of songs.

And, so, the game. Half an hour before Jürgen Klopp’s side lined up against Brighton, defending champions Manchester City were held to a 1-1 draw at Newcastle, giving them the opportunity to pull 11 points clear of their title rivals. 

Pep Guardiola’s charges had lost 2-1 in Tyneside last season, but Liverpool then failed to capitalise in a 1-1 home draw with Leicester. There was a determination not to have such a repeat this time around and by the 25th minute, Brighton found themselves 2-0 down courtesy of a pair of Trent Alexander-Arnold set-piece deliveries that were bulleted in by Virgil van Dijk’s head. 

This is Liverpool, though. And nothing has been done the easy, stress-free way. More on that to follow, towards the finishing line, where the club’s drama is usually saved for.

Brighton were unobliging opponents at Anfield, aggressive in possession, dangerous between the lines and positionally strong.

“We put a lot into the game against a top team,” their manager Graham Potter reflected. “Over the course of the 90 minutes we did a lot well, showed some personality and some courage. There was lots to be positive about, but we’re still disappointed to come away with nothing. 

“There was a lot of quality to our play. At times you could sense Anfield had to get behind the team and that is an indication of how well we did and how well we played. 

“We were positionally good and had a good understanding of what we were trying to do.”

Klopp selected Oxlade-Chamberlain alongside Gini Wijnaldum in midfield, returning Jordan Henderson to the No 6 position in Fabinho’s absence. The Brazilian was suspended for this encounter, but is facing six to eight weeks on the sidelines with ankle ligament damage sustained against Napoli in midweek.

While losing the 26-year-old – one of Liverpool’s standout players of 2019 – is a gigantic blow at the busiest and most decisive stage of the campaign, Liverpool have several midfield options to turn to.

Naby Keita, James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri (in a more attacking capacity) and Adam Lallana were options on the bench, with the latter coming on for Salah and moving into the centre of the park, with Oxlade-Chamberlain at right wing.

That lasted only a few minutes though as goalkeeper Alisson needlessly handled the ball out of his area, earning himself a red card that rules him out of next week’s Merseyside derby.

‘Ox’ was off, Adrian came on in-between the sticks and as he was out of position while lining up his wall, referee Martin Atkinson allowed Lewis Dunk to take a very quick free-kick. 

It naturally caught Liverpool cold and rolled into the bottom corner. “We brought on a frozen goalkeeper,” Klopp said. “And some people make the free kick happen like that. We looked a bit silly in that moment.”

That ensured another tight, tense finish for the division’s pacesetters.

‘Ox’ was off, Adrian came on in-between the sticks and as he was still lining up his wall, referee Martin Atkinson allowed Lewis Dunk to take a very quick free-kick. It caught Liverpool cold and rolled into the bottom corner ensuring another tight, tense finish for the division’s pacesetters.

And it was another win, one without a clean sheet or a great deal of comfort, but there is no comment section in the league table.

Klopp’s men are first, 11 points clear, unbeaten in 31 top-flight games to equal the club record set with Kenny Dalglish at the helm from May 1987 to March 1988. The signs are promising as they can be. Onward Liverpool march.



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