Liverpool climbed to the top of the Premier League with their 1-0 win over Brighton at Anfield. Here are five talking points from the game.
Liverpool get it done
Liverpool were a long way short of their best but perhaps it is a sign of their growing maturity that they were able to hold on for the win without too much cause for concern. They could not build on Mohamed Salah’s first-half goal, his second of the season so far, but in the end it did not matter.
2:55 Liverpool 1-0 Brighton
Brighton came into this game having stunned Manchester United at the Amex Stadium, but there was none of the same complacency from Jurgen Klopp’s side. Their attacking play lacked its usual fluency for much of the contest, but these are the kind of games they have let slip in the past. There was one late scare when Pascal Gross’s header tested Alisson, but are they finally learning to grind it out and win ugly? For fans dreaming of the title, the signs are encouraging.
Salah still the man
The reigning PFA and FWA Player of the Year has picked up where he left off last season. Salah has now scored two goals and provided one assist in his first three appearances of the campaign, and his latest strike was the difference between three points and one. Since joining Liverpool last summer, Salah has scored 29 goals in 29 games for Liverpool at Anfield.
Number 29 was brilliantly taken. Collecting Roberto Firmino’s pass after James Milner had robbed Yves Bissouma, Salah opened up his body and passed his finish into the bottom corner with his left foot. Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan got fingertips to it, but he was powerless to stop it from bouncing in off the post. The celebrations that followed have become a familiar sight.
Another clean sheet
Salah will take the headlines but Liverpool’s defensive improvement is the most striking thing about their strong start to the season. Jurgen Klopp’s side did not manage three consecutive Premier League clean sheets at any point last season, but their once-creaky defence has been shored up impressively.
Virgil van Dijk has been the catalyst, and this was certainly another commanding performance from the Dutchman, but his new centre-back partner Joe Gomez has been just as impressive. With Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson bombing up and down the flanks and Alisson Becker installed in goal, Klopp finally has a defensive unit to fall back on.
Alexander-Arnold is still six weeks shy of his 20th birthday but he has made Liverpool’s right-back spot his own. The academy graduate’s maturity is impressive and it’s clear to his team-mates too. They have even started standing aside for him at set pieces. In the 15th minute, he crashed one curling effort against Brighton’s crossbar.
Alexander-Arnold was assured defensively against Chris Hughton’s side, and he also played with unerring confidence, spraying cross-field passes to his fellow full-back Robertson and demonstrating why he is already firmly in Gareth Southgate’s plans as well as Klopp’s.
One of the highlights of the second half came in the 68th minute, when Van Dijk under-hit a backpass towards Alisson. The Liverpool goalkeeper had Anthony Knockaert bearing down on him at full speed, but instead of booting the ball into the stands, he chipped it over Knockaert’s head and rolled a pass back to Van Dijk. It was an outrageous moment which drew cheers from the home crowd and summed up the Brazilian’s extraordinary composure.
That composure could have back-fired when he almost lost the ball under pressure from Glenn Murray, but his determination to play out from the back at all costs is why he was so attractive to Klopp. There was an example of his shot-stopping ability, too, when he parried Gross’ goalbound header in the dying minutes of the game. Three games into the season and he already looks like a transformative signing.
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