Mohamed Salah’s penalty against Brighton fires Liverpool to a seven-point lead at the top after back-to-back defeats.
An injury scare to Trent Alexander-Arnold and a Fabinho/van Dijk makeshift partnership at the back proved to be non-factors in an otherwise dominant win for the Reds.
Mohamed Salah 50′ (PEN)
#BHALIV team news.
The Reds to take on @OfficialBHAFC…
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 12, 2019
With Dejan Lovren’s latest injury woes, Jurgen Klopp was forced to revisit his defensive setup, which featured Fabinho at centre-back. Virgil van Dijk returned to the squad after sitting out the FA Cup clash against Wolves. The Dutchman paired up with Fabinho in the heart of the defence to play his 50th game for the club.
Xherdan Shaqiri was named amongst the starters and Jordan Henderson made his long-awaited return. Trent Alexander-Arnold featured at right-back but picked up an ankle injury during training.
It looked likely that James Milner would be replacing the 20-year-old after just five minutes. Luckily Alexander-Arnold was able to continue despite the problem.
A tough nut to crack
Liverpool’s last visit to the Amex saw them blitz through the 90 minutes – handing Brighton a 5-1 defeat. The reverse fixture this season, however, was a tougher challenge. The Reds cashed in on all three points but similarly only won by a one-goal margin. Salah was the man on the day to claim the 1-0 victory.
Saturday’s fixture proved more difficult for the Reds. Despite their dominance in possession, Liverpool struggled to put their stamp on the game. Only when Salah netted his spot-kick in the 48th minute did the Reds really get a stranglehold on the home side.
Pascal Groß was the culprit for the foul inside the box – bringing down Salah who made easy work of cutting through Brighton’s defence. The Egyptian stepped up to take the penalty, kissing the ball before slicing it to the left of David Button.
Liverpool had few other chances as the game ticked on – their main aim seeming to be just to keep possession. Salah and Roberto Firmino linked up beautifully in front of goal just before the 75 minute mark. Firmino’s drilled effort was denied by a superb save from Button.
Georginio Wijnaldum had a chance with just ten minutes left on the clock. The Dutch midfielder fired a booming effort towards Button but it just grazed the post in a narrow mis-kick.
With just three minutes of the 90 left, Milner – who came on to replace Shaqiri – picked out Salah with a cross in from the left of the box. Salah completely miscued his finish and missed the target by a long shot. An error the Egyptian would have deeply regretted if Brighton had equalised.
The title race
Liverpool have extended their lead once more to seven points between them and reigning champions Manchester City. The previous match between the two title challengers saw Pep Guardiola’s side clinch the win and close the gap between first and second place.
City will host Wolves at the Etihad with only a win in mind. Three points will put the champions back to within four points of Liverpool, who cannot be caught if they regain a winning streak.
Klopp and the Reds look comfortable at the top of the Premier League – their next match will be at home to Crystal Palace on January 19.
XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Shaqiri, (Milner 71′); Mané, (Keïta 89′), Salah, Firmino, (Origi 90+3′)
Unused subs: Mignolet, Moreno, Matip, Camacho
Brighton & Hove Albion
XI: Button; Montoya, Dunk, Duffy, Bong; Pröpper, Stephens, Groß, (Kayal 78′), March; (Knockaert 65′), Murray, Locadia, (Andone 65′)
Unused subs: Steele, Balogun, Bruno, Sanders