Reds Keep It Clean, Blanking Brighton 1-0
Another match, another battle, another clean sheet. On first observation, this one looked to have come with quite a bit more effort than the previous two; Palace and West Ham. After City dropped two points to Wolves, this match took on massive importance. Liverpool will need to get used to playing with the pressure of being the frontrunner if they want to keep supporters dreaming of a Premier League title.
UNCHANGED AND UNBROKEN
Jurgen Klopp kept the lineup unchanged, despite calls to rotate the midfield three. A bruised and battered James Milner took the arm-band again and the hits kept coming, with several tough collisions during the match. The 32-year-old will be forgiven if he goes hard on the Ribena tonight.
The match started out with Sadio Mané as the playmaker, popping up in the middle and the right more than on his customary left flank. The move didn’t seem to unlock either Mo Salah or Mané, though the latter did end up with the first real chance of the match, missing just to the right. The Senegalese forward would only end up with one more shot in the match, however, in what was a quiet day for him.
The adventures would start in the eleventh minute when Alisson misjudged a tackle on the edge of his box. With Alisson standing helplessly on the left side, Solly March bundled the ball out of play in front of a thankful crowd. This was by far the sloppiest match from the second most expensive ‘keeper in captivity, but at the same time, it might have been the one where he’s made the biggest impact. There were mistakes, and the passing wasn’t pinpoint (81%) compared to West Ham and Palace, but his point-blank save from a Pascal Gross header in the final minutes preserved two points for the Reds. Three clean sheets in a row is what it took to jump-start the 2013/14 season, though our defensive record didn’t last. Something tells me this squad is better prepared to endure the challenge ahead.
Maybe it was the angle of the camera from the Anfield stands or the late afternoon sun, but Joe Gomez looked every bit the giant of his back line partner today. With 5 clearances and 7 aerials won, mighty Joe was the more active of the two in a defensive sense but was up for it. In his seventh Liverpool start at centre-back, Gomez appears to be maturing before our eyes. One of the world’s best centre-backs might have a hard time displacing him when he returns from injury.
Joe Gomez even did Alisson a favour in the 38th minute, bailing him out after the Brazilian under-hit a pass across his own net that the Charlton man had to battle to save Liverpool from allowing an embarrassing equalizer.
Jürgen Klopp: "Brighton thought: ‘Let’s pick on Joe Gomez for the long-ball challenge with Murray.’ And Joe did really well. They were real challenges, but I don’t think he made one foul."
He didn't. And he won 64% of the 11 aerial duels he contested.#LFC
— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) August 25, 2018
Bobby Firmino has been one of the concerning aspects of the early season, contributing deep, but lacking involvement in the final third. No offence to either player, but we can get those types of performances from Dom Solanke. Against Brighton, Firmino still didn’t score, but he looked strikerish with 5 shots, 2 on target as well as the assist for Salah’s goal. There are obviously levels that Firmino can still ascend to, but this performance was the most promising of the young season.
In a moment that tipified a physical match, Firmino was laid out in the 50th minute. Knocked out of his blue shoes and nearly out of his sock by goalkeeper Mat Ryan, the ref actually called a foul on our Bobby for simply being in the way as the two attempted to chase down a bad clearance that was dropping out of the clouds. Brighton were effectively on a power-play for the ensuing 2 minutes as Firmino and a team of technicians reattached his footwear.
Gini Wijnaldum was once a winger. Huh… Looking masterful again at maintaining possession during some of the diciest moments for the Reds, popping up all over the pitch and placing perfect passes to the tune of 98.7% pass accuracy.
He is doing all of this while playing in the six, theoretically. Though, Wijnaldum ends up playing a sort of box-to-box role anyway when situations allow. His 3 shots were 3rd on the team, suggesting that Wijnaldum wouldn’t necessarily be removed from the line-up if and when Fabinho is ready to assume the defensive midfield duties.
While Mo Salah isn’t quite at it yet, you can excuse some of that from the incredible attention paid to him by opposing defenders. And yet, here he is, three games in with two goals and two assists. Rough start.
And while one goal is somehow ho-hum when it comes to Mo, this one didn’t come easy, a curled in shot through a defender and around Matt Ryan. Nobody else was able to answer the bell today. Mo Salah did. He also had 6, yes 6 key passes. The humble score-line wasn’t due to our Egyptian. The three points were.
Liverpool have not done it in the PL era. https://t.co/UilSjNWa2q
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) August 25, 2018
We’ll need Salah and his friends at their best again on Saturday against Leicester. The Reds will lead off the weekend’s action, never having won their first four in the Premier League era. Liverpool have gained two on City today, but it will only matter if they can keep it up as the season goes on and the degree of difficulty increases.