One thing we can be sure of: the VAR team at Stockley Park will not be top of Jurgen Klopp’s Christmas card list. A hat trick of VAR decisions went against his Liverpool at the Amex: two goals were struck off before an injury time face-saving penalty was awarded to Brighton. It was hard not to sympathise with the Liverpool boss as he sarcastically applauded the officials when the ball hit the back of the net. It may have been a draw, but this was a manager beaten by technology.
Not that it should ever have come to this. The truth was Brighton should never have been in a position to require the intervention of the video monitor. Confronted by opponents with so many injuries Liverpool will soon need to requisition the local Nightingale Hospital to accommodate the wounded, Brighton had a golden opportunity chance to register their first victory over champions in 36 years. Or rather opportunities. At least half a dozen gilt-edged chances were squandered, including a wretchedly misdirected penalty kick early in the first half.
It began, Brighton’s exhibition of profligacy, with no more than five minutes elapsed. Neal Maupay took advantage of Liverpool’s preference for defending high, to send Aaron Connelly belting forward from the halfway line. The Irishman span past the emergency centre back Fabinho, strode on into the area, then, looking for the top corner of the net, pushed a gilt-framed chance wide.
Given the paucity of their resources, it was perhaps no surprise that Liverpool had started poorly. Wasteful in possession, slack in their passing, they wholly looked wholly off kilter. And Brighton’s attack did not appear keen to offer them respite. Alisson, on his 100th Liverpool appearance, was soon obliged to dash out and knee the ball into touch. And then Connolly again advanced into the area. Neco Williams took the less subtle approach to defending and tripped him. Referee Stuart Attwell pointed to the spot, but Maupay, despite sending Alisson the wrong way, put the penalty wide. Moments later he hobbled off down the tunnel, perhaps struck down with embarrassment.
Then, after another miss by Connolly and the substitute Leandro Trossard pushing a decent chance wide, Mo Salah showed them how to do it. It was a straightforward, direct attack. Roberto Firmino flicked the ball forward into Salah’s path, he ran forward and poked the ball past Mat Ryan into the centre of the net. Clinical, simple, no messing about: it looked the harshest of lessons for the home side in the difference between the champions and the rest. But then, after a lengthy VAR pause, it was adjudged Salah had been marginally ahead of Ben White when he received the ball and thus offside. To enormous relief among the Brighton forwards – and the bemusement of Klopp – it was ruled out.
Danny Welbeck then immediately joined the Brighton miss club, shooting wide after dribbling into the area.
Sensing the urgent requirement to impose control, Klopp sent Jordan Henderson on to replace Williams at half time. Issuing instruction, constantly pointing, doing the simple things well, Henderson began to make his mark. After the stuttering first half, the pattern became more like Liverpool. They took control of possession, passes started to stick, Henderson was finding Andy Robertson more often.
Liverpool now had the control. As they demonstrated when Robertson belted down the left, passed inside to Salah, who set Jota away. He drifted across the front of the Brighton area, twice dummying to shoot, before sending a superb finish into the corner of the net, for his ninth goal in eight starts for Liverpool. That was how to finish.
Potter sent Adam Lallana on against his former side in an attempt to wrest back the initiative. But he lasted all of eight minutes before heading off straight down the tunnel, once again compromised by his hamstrings. Even without him, Brighton kept trying. Joel Veltman, excellent at right wingback, was prompting and probing. And Ben White sent Welbeck galloping forward, he zipped around Fabinho only tamely to shoot into Alisson’s gloves before Robertson had to scoop a cross from Solly March over the bar. Still, though, they could not find the target.
And they must have assumed it was not to be their day when a superb tackle from White on Jota was deemed a foul by the referee and the Brighton player shown the yellow card. From Robertson’s free kick, the ball drifted over the defence’s heads to be met by the substitute Sadio Mane who scored with aplomb. Not that his celebrations counted. The goal was again ruled out by VAR for offside, albeit this time it looked less marginal.
Even without the cushion of that second goal, however, Liverpool seemed to have done enough. Or so it appeared. As the ball was played up to the Brighton half, someone at Stockley Park noticed that, as he went to clear a cross, Robertson had upended Welbeck in the area. Attwell was instructed to consult his monitor and immediately awarded a second penalty to Brighton. This one Pascal Gross dispatched past Alisson to ensure at the last that the spoils were shared. And to send Klopp’s blood pressure into orbit.
More of the Kelly v Klopp battle
Klopp does not come across well when he’s just failed to win a game. That’s part of what makes him such a winner, but it must be very hard to deal with as an interviewer. Well played, Des Kelly.
Des Kelly vs Jurgen Klopp continued
“When we had talks between managers a week ago it was 15/5 if not 16-4 for five subs. Since then nothing has happened. Chris Wilder says I am selfish. I think he is but it is not too important. I was in his position at Mainz. If you can have 5, it’s for [players].
“If we have five subs today I take off Robbo for Kostas to save him. It’s not for tactics, it’s to save the players. It’s for all players. You will it from now on til December. We will see.
“You get praise for your interview because you stuck to [your point]. I should stop doing it as it doesn’t help. The problem is we signed this contract but in this season it’s a bigger problem, no pre-season, short season etc. It’s not OK.”
Great TV. More of this please.
Des Kelly vs Jurgen Klopp
This is great TV. Des Kelly is getting annoyed at Jurgen Klopp accusing the broadcasters of scheduling games that hurt Liverpool, Klopp is giving his opinion back. They’re having an actual argument, it’s brilliant.
Jurgen Klopp is, as expected, not happy
“The two offsides were really close, but they are using armputs and club badges. The one at the end Sadio was clear, but the penalty at the end… it is how it is.
“You try to create again at my cost a headline. You do. The ref whistled it. Today I said was a penalty but that’s not what you want to hear. I said it was a penalty because the ref said it was.”
People are not happy about this penalty
Joe Cole has just said that on second watch he realises that it’s a penalty. “He’s rash!” is the take. Peter Crouch says 10 years ago nobody cares about that incident.
Peter Walton says he needs to recalibrate his own thinking. “Just because there’s contact doesn’t mean there’s a foul. You can see Robertson takes him out but should VAR have got involved?”
Crouch: “I’m not a fan of it at all. When you break it down slowly and forensically it’s a penalty.”
Klopp doing his passive aggressive thing
Klopp goes to the referees and walks away laughing, turning his back after doing so. He’s not the most gracious losers at times but you can understand why he’d be annoyed. All the VAR calls were correct technically, even if the last penalty one seems extraordinarily harsh.
Even Welbeck says it’s a soft penalty.
Brighton get a point from Liverpool! They missed one penalty, scored a second, Liverpool had two goals ruled out correctly for offside. A fair result in the end. Liverpool not at it today at all – if they don’t have their first choice XI it’s just not the same team. I mean, that is literally true, but I’m sure you understand my point. Not good enough today.
90 mins+4 – Brighton 1 Liverpool 1
Try and guess how happy Klopp is about that decision. Have a go.
GROSS EQUALISES FOR BRIGHTON!
Brighton 1 Liverpool 1
He sends Alisson the wrong way and powers into the bottom corner.
Ridiculous. I’m genuingly laughing at that.
Oh wait… after seeing another angle of it it’s clear that Robertson does just boot Welbeck’s foot inside the area so maybe that is a penalty! I take it all back!
90 mins +2 – Brighton 0 Liverpool 1
VAR has spotted some sort of infringement in the penalty area as Robertson kicks Welbeck’s foot while clearing the ball. It’s not a penalty for me. Welbeck’s not getting to the ball anyway.
Oh my god. The referee is going over to have a look!
90 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 1
Plenty of time for Brighton to find an equaliser – there are five minutes of added time to come.
89 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 1
Brighton pushing now. Trossard does well to hold off three players and keep possession but a pass across the box from a midfielder gives the ball away and Liverpool try to counter. It comes to nothing.
March carries the ball 30 yards, threads the ball into space for Welbeck, Phillips can’t cut it out… corner. Robertson boots it clear.
86 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 1
We’re back to 0-1 then. What can Brighton conjure in the final five minutes of this game? They’ve lacked penetration since Connolly went off.
Brighton 0 Liverpool 2
Robertson crosses, Mane heads in. But VAR are checking it.
84 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 1
Jota goes on a dribble towards the Brighton defence and is then absolutely wiped out by a sliding tackle from White, who is booked for it as Jota goes rolling around the floor. Is he hurt here? The replay shows that White actually won the tackle cleanly and only goes to ground because of the way he’s balanced. The yellow card is harsh, it’s probably not even a free-kick.
81 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 1
So many scrappy, loose passes from Liverpool today. They’ve had 65 per cent of possession but keep giving it away away with badly aimed passes high up the pitch.
Brighton make use of a turnover, target Jones’ side of the pitch, he gets suckered with some bad defending (he’s not a right-back tbf) and the cross comes in from wide left, misses the first man and Robertson gets incredibly lucky not to knee the ball into his own net from six yards. Over the bar for a corner, which comes to nothing.
78 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 1
Phillips has just gone down with a potential injury now after jumping for a header and landing over the top of a Brighton player and fallng to earth from a height. Klopp wants to know what’s going on, but it looks like he just had the air knocked out of him and should be fine.
75 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 1
Milner has to go off, Jones comes on. I’m not sure who goes to right-back now.
Brighton have a free-kick 25 yards out as reward for Welbeck having the back of his skull headered by Phillips… but March’s effort isn’t great.
It looks like Jones has gone to right-back… but is standing high up the pitch like a midfielder.
72 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 1
Brighton gave Lallana a three year deal and they’re going to be lucky to get 10 games a season out of him. Poor lad.
Milner has gone down with a potential muscle problem now too. They’re dropping like flies! Elite athlete flies!
68 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 1
It’s mostly just Liverpool passing the ball around now. Brighton dropping deep to close the space. A little too much walking going on.
65 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 1
Mane on for Salah. He storms past Klopp and goes straight to the stands with his coat. Both he and Connolly look so annoyed that it’s quite funny.
64 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 1
Lallana on for Connolly, who looks absolutely raging at being taken off. He’s been getting into brilliant positions but missed a few big chances.
He’s sat in the stands shaking his head in disbelief at being taken off. And now Salah is in a mood as he’s being taken off. He looks angry too.
PENALTY! Wait… it’s offside
Trossard crosses from the left of the six yard box, it hits Fabinho’s arm and it looks like a penalty. The offside flag saves Liverpool.
JOTA! Of course it’s Jota. An absolutely brilliant goal.
Brighton 0 Liverpool 1
Andy Robertson does really well to keep possession, fires a pass into Salah, who touches it on with a great piece of control, Jota takes it on, dummies, dummies again while running across the box and then tucks a shot back into the far post.
58 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
Solly March controls a high pass on the corner of the box, looks like he’s going to cross it in but then decides to shoot and launches the ball over the entire stadium. Not a great effort.
Mane is warming up and getting ready to come on. This is such a strangeLiverpool performance. It’s like watching a cover band.
55 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
What a ball. Brilliant forward pass from the Brighton defence, I think by Ben White, launching it up the pitch to the exact space that Welbeck can control it. Welbeck takes a touch past Fabinho, Brighton have a chance… and the shot is low into Alisson.
53 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
Clever play from Connolly, who drops to receive on the half turn and makes sure his back to Minamino to draw the foul at half way and relieve some pressure. I’d imagine Minamino will be the next player to be substituted by Klopp today, still not quite at it.
50 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
That long ball over the top of the Liverpool defence is still working and Brighton seem to be targeting Phillips, who runs as though in slow motion. Connolly keeps trying to sprint beyond. Liverpool pushing higher up the pitch in this half already as well.
47 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
Milner has gone to right-back, Henderson is on for Williams. That should give Liverpool a more in the centre of the pitch – they need energy, aggression and a bit of quality. Henderson fits the bill.
I‘m not entirely sure what to think here. Liverpool’s high line is necessary because they press high but their defending from the front has been poor, which is exposing the back line more. Williams looks a bit nervous, Phillips runs like he’s dragging a boat behind him, and Minamino probably isn’t a midfielder yet. Subtle little things like positioning, body positioning and the way he goes into tackles or blocks isn’t quite right. A very good player but just not quite suited to that deep position.
Henderson might be coming on for the second half.
A very odd game. Brighton should be 2-0 up but Liverpool should also be winning 1-0. Make of that what you will! I’m expecting Klopp to go absolutely bananas at half time, Potter will be full of praise for his players. Big second half coming up.
45 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
Liverpool have been pretty awful here actually. They look disjointed, tired, slow, and are being too easily cut through. Brighton have made it seem like that though, they’ve been excellent.
40 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
This isn’t a stat that Maupay is likely to share on Twitter but I thought it was interesting:
- Neal Maupay is the first player to start a Premier League game, miss a penalty, and be subbed off before half-time since Dennis Bergkamp against Derby in April 1998.
39 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
Welbeck somehow manages to batter his way past five challenges from Liverpool players who aren’t doing anywhere near enough to affect the game without the ball, but then drags his shot wide inside the area. Such a weird performance from Liverpool almost as though they’re not quite awake yet.
SALAH SCORES! And that’s why you have to take your chances, Brighton! Alisson launhces a goal kick to half way, Firmino takes it down and passes over the top for Salah, who runs through the middle and finishes brilliantly past the goalkeeper by pushing the ball into the ground to bounce it over him.
VAR are checking for offside now.
33 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
Brighton are defending really well in a really tight unit of back five and central two, then shifting to a 3-4-3 the second they have possession. They’re a very well coached team. And here they come again on the counter! Williams loses the ball, Trossard attacks Milner and Phillips, whips a shot towards the far corner and just misses. Brighton the much better team here.
30 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
This is a really weird performance from Liverpool. It’s almost like they’re all… cold and can’t get fully involved in the game. I’m trying to work out how to explain what I mean. They’re just a little slow, not playing with any aggression or authority, poor delivery, bad positioning… just not right.
28 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
Klopp looks straight up angry with what he’s watching from his players. Who would have thought a team without Mane, Van Dijk and Alexander-Arnold would play worse than one with them.
VAR are checking a possible handball from Robertson in the area but it’s never ever a foul, not least because he doesn’t even touch the ball.
Trossard’s first involvement is an early cross straight into Alisson’s gloves.
26 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
Connolly gets in behind again! This time he just can’t get a shot away after making a diagonal run through the Liverpool back line.
Liverpool putting some really nice passes together in the final third now but unable to create a chance to shoot. Trossard does come on to replace Maupay.
24 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
The actual problem with Maupay seems to be a hamstring injury. He storms off down the tunnel looking thoroughly unhappy with himself. Adam Lallana might come on to replace him… although Trossard is getting ready. So probably him.
22 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
Maupay has gone down off the ball injured. I think the problem might be a medical condition known as ’embarassment’.
HE’S MISSED THE ENTIRE GOAL! Alisson goes the wrong way and Maupay side foots his penalty wide of the entire goal. Brighton should be 2-0 up.
That is not a smart challenge from Williams at all. Connolly runs into the box, Williams runs back to cover and dives in with a tackle early to try and nick it. Had it work that would have been a great piece of defending, but instead he’s wiped out Connolly and given Brighton a penalty!
17 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
Milner goes in hard (but fair) on Welbeck, possibly trying to show his teammates that they need to be getting stuck in the midfield and probably mostly because he likes a tackle. That gets a move going and Jota almost skips past a challenge to have a two v one in the final third but is blocked by a defender, who fouls him.
14 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
Brighton are playing well here and catching out the Liverpool high line with balls over the top. Alisson is having to charge 40 yards off his line to cover as a sweeper and Klopp has pointed this out to his players in a not entirely happy manner.
11 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
Connolly is away! Clean behind the defence! It’s a clever assing move, Minamino doesn’t do enough in midfield to protect his defence and a ball through gives the striker a brilliant chance to score. He tries to hook it into the top corner but mis-kicks and punts it wide! What a miss.
8 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
Quite a slow tempo to the game at the moment, with both teams passing the ball short. Veltman might have gone over his ankle when trying to speed the play up and running up the wing but seems to be OK. It makes sense for Brighton to slow things down and keep Liverpool quiet. The faster the match, the more suited to Liverpool’s style of play.
5 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
Minamino is playing as a third midfielder in a much deeper position than I’ve ever seen him in. Fabinho has the ball deep, everything slows down… then all of a sudden a long ball over the top and Salah is in! He volleys wide at the edge of the box after beating the high line.
3 mins – Brighton 0 Liverpool 0
What a ball from Firmino! He receives with his back to goal and drops to half way, draws three defenders close and manages to reverse a pass through them all, sending Jota away on the left wing. He gets to the box, plays a low ball across the area… and the defence intercept before Salah has a tap-in.
Here we go. After a brief pause as the fourth official sorts out his in-ear audio, and then a minute’s applause for Diego Maradona, and then everyone taking the knee, Liverpool get the game started.
Here come the players
Looks like a nice, crisp day down in Brighton. If you’d like to know more about football, specifically Liverpool flavoured football, might I recommend this wonderful newsletter that Chris Bascombe writes. It’s free!
Jurgen Klopp is a big fan of Graham Potter
Klopp says the difference in Brighton since Potter came in is stunning and he seems to really admire the way they play. “They play proper football, they use the full range (of the pitch)” he says, before starting to go on about possession stats and then BT Sport cut back to the presenters.
Klopp also spoke about Phillips:
“Nate did really well against West Ham, he’s a super boy. I don’t like to change the last line constantly but I’m full of faith in him. He will give everything.”
Graham Potter says his side needs to be lucky
The usual kind of chat in Potter’s pre-match interview, but of note to me was his comment that his side needs be lucky if they are to beat Liverpool. It’s not that thinks his side has no chance but there is an obvious gap in quality between the two teams and if Brighton, or any lower table team for that matter, are to take points off them then they need Klopp’s players to underperform and the bounce of the ball to go their way.
How the table looks today
Liverpool can go top if they win today, or draw, but Brighton really need to win to avoid being sucked into that relegation zone. I can see them being in a battle for most of the season – three points against the champions would be massive.
Welcome! It’s another Premier League match and another Liverpool back four – let’s have a look at the teams straight away to work out how this game might go today.
Nat Phillips starts today as a centre-back alongside Fabinho, with Neco Williams at right-back. Andy Robertson comes back in too, after resting mid-week in Liverpool’s disappointing defeat to Atalanta. His attacking play was badly missed in the Champions League.
Fantasy Football fans will be delighted, or very annoyed, that Sadio Mane is rested today as well, with Minamino replacing him. It’s actually a change of shape to a 4-2-3-1 as Jota starts too. Firmino through the middle, Salah wide right, Jota on the left and Minamino just in behind as a 10, or possibly even a second striker.
Brighton look to be playing a 3-4-3 with Welbeck, Maupay and Connolly upfront together. Their central two of Bissouma and Gross have a lot of work to do winning the midfield battle, especially with Firmino and Minamino sure to be dropping in the space between defence and midfield. That could turn into an interesting tactical battle.
Graham Potter is fully aware of the danger his side faces today:
“Jota has settled in really well there and he fits what they are trying to do. He gives them another dimension and allows them to play with a front-four with Salah up front and Firmino as a number 10, that can work.
“They have got probably the best front four in world football, arguably, so credit to Liverpool, they have identified someone they think can help them strengthen and I think he has done that.
“They are a formidable attacking unit – and the team behind them, of course – but those front four very dangerous.”
Kick off is 12:30pm, stay with us for all the action and live analysis throughout.