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Brighton & Hove Albion v Liverpool A Liverpool Perspective
It was pretty much everything Klopp had been fearing, despite making a number of changes, it was a tired looking performance, with more injuries and dropped points. It was not helped by a pitch that was heavily watered to the point that both sets of players were slipping over when trying to change direction quickly. That made it difficult for either side to show any skill or to twist and turn on the ball. I do wonder if Brighton would have watered it so much if Lallana was starting for them, as he likes to turn quickly in tight areas.
That ended up making for a game that was lacking in excitement and entertainment in large part and the only real talking points were manufactured by VAR. The first offside is dubious to say the least, considering the pictures they were showing looked to have a gap between ball and foot on my TV. Did they use the correct frame when checking to see if Salah was onside? I am not sure, it does seem very arbitrary which one they settle on, when it is so important to the actual result that surely cannot be right if such small margins are going to be continually used to rule people offside.
I would also love to know how they decide what is a clear and obvious error. While on balance a draw was probably a fair enough result in terms of the performance, I do not understand why the second penalty was given. No one thought it was a penalty at the time, even after seeing it repeatedly I am not convinced it was. Not every piece of contact is a foul, whether in the box or not, just like a foul does not have to be a deliberate action. None of the Brighton players appealed, including Welbeck, and mostly seemed a bit bemused afterwards. But it is what it is at the moment and shows no signs of improving.
The problem is that it is not VAR that is actually the issue, though it is getting the blame. It is all the fault of the operators, who are abusing the system into complete failure. While it is in the hands of the PGMOL, it is never going to work as intended. At least not while Mike Riley is in charge of the organisation. He has already destroyed refereeing standards to the point where English officials are no longer seen as top tier, it is time for a review of his position, as that is the clearest and most obvious error in the history of the game.
Brighton & Hove Albion
After a slow start the Seagulls got into the game well and showed Potter has learnt tactically from previous meetings against Liverpool. Instead of playing the ball around and trying to dominate possession, as they usually do, which invites the press, Brighton looked to bypass midfield and hit the early ball to the forward. If possible they were looking for the ball in behind the defence to utilise the space and the edge in pace they had over Phillips. In the first half Connolly was having a lot of success as Phillips got too tight and was left beaten for pace. Connolly should really have scored and it was no surprise when he won a penalty, which was a definite penalty.
Despite Maupay missing the penalty, Brighton still looked more full of running than Liverpool, and use the extra width of their pitch really well to stretch the play. The tiredness showed in Liverpool’s play and they were slower to move the ball than usual, allowing Brighton to press them into errors. They were caught by Salah’s run and a couple of other runs in behind, which must have worried Potter as it became a bit of a pattern that a quick ball over the top left their centre-backs floundering.
They got a bit more luck on their side with decisions when Veltman’s foul was ruled as a yellow card, they are often adjudged to be red cards when a player goes over the ball like that. Firmino was lucky that it was only his foot that got studded in the end. It all changed after half-time as Brighton’s quick balls over the top were no longer in behind a static defence. Instead they dropped off so each ball was a battle for the Brighton forwards to get on to, which probably caused Potter to make the change of Connolly for Lallana. Just a shame for Lallana that he only last ten minutes before getting injured again.
It was also funny to see both Connolly and Salah all sulky and stroppy on the sidelines after being taken off! Petted lips the lot, just like a teenager who had been told off. What must have been worrying for Potter is that his team were unable to take advantage of Liverpool’s tiredness and injury problems, even when Jones had to come on at right-back, to create much offensively. It was left to an extremely doubtful decision by VAR to rescue a point for them, despite all the chances they created. They are a very good team, but they really lack a cutting edge and it is keeping them in the bottom half.
Klopp – while the performance was not great, it is difficult to criticise Klopp when he is having to make do and mend to such a large degree while still keeping the team competitive. In fact it is increasing my admiration of him as a manager that his team are able to continue to do so well under such conditions. The way he and his coaching staff have managed the team through this spell and the changes they made at half-time, which were more than just bringing on Henderson, made such a difference. No longer were the early balls over the top getting Connolly in behind, suddenly he was in a constant battle to get to the ball, rather than just racing away.
Liverpool gradually increased control over the game in the second half, scored and then dominated until injuries caused the game to change and open up. It was brave to go with Jones at right-back when Milner went off injured, showed a lot of faith in the youngster to put him there. Though it was a move Klopp had not wanted to make with Jones unable to train the day before. The rest of the season is only going to get more difficult for him!
Alisson – had a really good game, sweeping up behind the defence when needed. If I was going to be hypercritical though, I would say his distribution with longer balls was not at its usual level.
Williams – made a silly error to give away the first penalty. Not just the stupid, needless challenge, but in getting caught out by the ball in the first place and having to chase back, which put him in a position to give away the pen, rather than making the challenge 20 yards further up the pitch. Williams then tried to force the play afterwards, obviously trying too hard to make up for his error, so it was little wonder he was brought off at half-time. Trent had a fair few days like this too in his first couple of seasons, Trent learnt and so can Williams. Hopefully.
Phillips – a mixed day for Phillips, he looked strong, both in the air and physically. But, on the minus side he looked slow, got too tight to Connolly in the wrong areas and was far too cautious with his passing at times. It is clear he has no lack of bravery. When there was a clash of heads with Welbeck, despite it being Phillips’ face which crashed into the back of Welbeck’s head, it was the Brighton player who needed treatment. Phillips actually did not even seem bothered by the incident at all. In the second half he was much better defensively and used his body to stop Connolly getting free runs at the ball. He did well enough for Potter to take Connolly off and try to change things.
Fabinho – in the first half he looked very much like a midfielder playing at the back, he was coming out to close down, rather than dropping off to cover runs and was caught out a few times. In the second half he was much improved, though he still has a tendency to sell himself by going to ground with challenges. Most of the time they come off, but when the opponents gets by they have an open space to run into. He needs to learn to stay on his feet more when playing at centre-back.
Robertson – played very well, despite the extremely soft penalty given against him. The only worry for me is that he was clearly tired. It is no wonder Klopp said after the game that he wanted to take him off and give him a rest but had no subs available to do so. The lad looks like the pace of the season is catching up to him.
Milner – had his usual workaholic performance right up until his injury. That will be a huge blow to the team, with options already so limited. It is not just his ability to play anywhere to a high level that will be missed while he is out, but his workrate and leadership too.
Wijnaldum – started off slowly but grew into the game in the first half, though Brighton did try to bypass him as much as possible. In the second half he was freed up by Henderson’s arrival and got forward well, though he did look to be running out of steam in the closing stages.
Minamino – I have seen a bit of criticism of his performance, with claims the midfield was being overrun because he was in there. I am shocked at those critics for how little they understand of the game. At no point did Brighton overrun the midfield, they avoided even playing in midfield as much as possible to avoid being pressed. Defensively Minamino could not really do much with a long ball in behind the defence, even if he had Adama Traore’s pace he would have struggled to affect those situations! On the ball he linked up play well and his movement was good. He looked comfortable in there and it is a role he can be useful to the team in over the coming months.
Jota – well he certainly can score goals, but his overall performance, putting the goal aside, was truly awful. I lost count of the number of times Jota got a simple pass wrong and he was also easily brushed off the ball on at least one occasion. Even his touch, normally so good, was poor. It is difficult to know what to say about this game, from Jota’s point of view. On the one hand he scored a very good goal, on the other he wasted so many chances to build an attack and that simple ball early in the game to Salah should have given the Egyptian an open goal to slot into. It does show, once again, that to really get the most out of him, he needs to be in and around the box. Away from there and he is not the same player.
Firmino – held the ball up really well and linked up play like the Bobby of old. His pass for Salah’s disallowed goal was lovely. He was very lucky not to join the injured when Veltman went over the ball though. It was lucky Veltman landed on his foot, rather than his ankle, or that was months out.
Salah – looked really sharp and played well. It was extremely unlucky to see his goal ruled out for yet another dodgy VAR offside decision. He also gave me a good laugh when he flounced off the pitch like Kevin the Teenager being told to do the dishes and then sat on the sidelines with a petted lip. I am sure once he calmed down Salah will realise it was for the best to ensure he is at his best for the rest of the season. Though I have to be honest, I quite like to see a player who is upset or disappointed to be taken off, so long as they do not take it too far. His desire to play every minute of every game is a product of his drive to be the best he can be. That might cause issues at times and require careful management, but it is attitudes like his that win trophies.
Henderson – with the changes Klopp made at half-time, his arrival in place of Williams helped Liverpool take control of the game. With the defence dropping off, he was in a position to get more involved defensively than Wijnaldum had been able to. With the balls no longer in behind the defence, the play ended up getting brought into midfield more and he was able to get heavily involved.
Mane – did well enough, though should have held his run on the goal he had disallowed. His arrival did mean Jota moved across to the right, as Mane replaced Salah, but it did not disrupt Liverpool’s play at all.
Jones – a surprise choice to come on at right-back in place of Milner. He worked hard and, though he clearly had to keep readjusting himself as he reminded himself what position he was playing, he did well enough defensively. It is a good sign for the future that Klopp has such faith in him.
Written by Tris Burke November 29 2020 08:15:51