BRIGHTON & HOVE, England – It’s rare for a top Premier League side to take all three points away from Brighton, especially when trailing. But Jurgen Klopp’s new-look Liverpool came close to avenging last season’s 3-0 defeat at the Amex Stadium, initially lifting themselves off the canvas after going a goal behind only to be locked out 2-2 draw.
Liverpool have conceded the first goal in each of their last five away games and look like they need to bounce back in the early stages of the game. As Simon Adingra proved when he scored the opening goal in the 20th minute, Liverpool are a completely transformed team. Mohamed Salah’s brace gave the visitors the lead at half-time, but Brighton captain Lewis Dunk earned his side a share of the points.
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All good teams are a reflection of their manager. Klopp has emerged among the Premier League’s elite after a lackluster career in Germany. During his journey to the top, Klopp’s ability to absorb setbacks and “charge for the title”, as he once put it, was on display in his first great Liverpool team, and it appears to be so again.
Similar to Klopp’s influence on the team, Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi’s fingerprints are all over the Seagulls’ intricate passing movements and intense pressing. Brighton’s turnover rate in the game is extremely low. It’s a dizzying tightrope walk, but when it goes wrong – as it did when they were thrashed 6-1 by Aston Villa last weekend – the fall can be devastating.
As the first half wore on, it felt like Liverpool were waiting, patiently searching for the loose blue-and-white line, and once pulled, Brighton would unravel, sending them into a downward spiral from which they often struggled to recover. But unlike Villa, this time De Zerbi’s side escaped the maelstrom and earned a well-deserved point.
Brighton have been Klopp’s no-no team in recent years: Liverpool have won just one of their last six Premier League encounters, drawing three and losing two. When asked after the game if the draw was a fair result, he admitted: “Unfortunately, I think yes… it’s a very good team and it’s difficult to defend them all the time.” The final intensity of the game The extent to which both teams showed different enthusiasms in Thursday’s Europa League clash was a testament to that. Both teams’ efforts in Europe, combined with unseasonably warm weather, meant the game would take some time to get underway.
That was until Brighton starlet Aldingra, signed from North Zealand last year, intercepted Virgil van Dijk’s pass in midfield in front of a sleepy Alexis McAllister. Just woke up. The Ivory Coast midfielder raced past Mac Allister, who endured a difficult return from the club he left for Anfield in the summer, winning the ball high up the pitch before capitalizing on goalkeeper Alisson’s wayward Position yourself to pass the ball. Hitting the net from further away than he should have allowed.
The momentum then shifted completely in Liverpool’s favour, as they began to probe for weaknesses in Brighton’s defence. Unexpectedly, Dunk tried to intercept in front of Luis Diaz in the same manner as Aldingra had done before, but it had the opposite effect. Diaz and Darwin Nunez combined to exploit the space left by Dunk, and Salah easily swept the ball into the corner.
Salah doubled his tally six minutes later after a defensive error culminated in Dominik Szoboszlai being brought down by a desperate Pascal Gross in the box. The Brighton midfielder may count himself lucky as VAR only recommended a penalty for his challenge rather than a red card for denying Szoboszlai a very good scoring opportunity.
Ironically, after their infamous VAR woes against Tottenham Hotspur last week, Klopp and his side benefitted greatly from the lack of VAR involvement in the second half, A cross bounced off Van Dijk’s thigh and onto his arm. The decision left Brighton fans howling in frustration and chanting “we want a replay”, a reference to Klopp’s comments in midweek about Diaz’s disallowed Tottenham goal. De Zerbi considered the decision “a clear punishment”.
Substitute Ryan Gravenberch missed a golden chance to make it 3-1 before Dunk diverted Solly March’s free-kick behind Alisson to level Brighton. If it was Liverpool’s resilience and mentality that allowed them to take control of the game after an early defeat, Brighton’s sharing of points was a reminder that they are still a team that every team in the Premier League should take seriously , no matter how bad things get for them this season, or no matter how many star players leave them.
Liverpool’s recent away performances have slowed their progress, but this season’s difficult journeys against Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton should ease that.
De Zerbi himself admitted that his team are still adjusting to playing Thursday to Sunday and that they have a difficult schedule of their own. The Seagulls are in contention against a team that has won six consecutive European Cups. They head into their second international break of the season in Europe, the latest gravity-defying feat from De Zerbi’s entertainer.