A brace of headers from Virgil van Dijk saw Liverpool open an 11 point lead at the top of the Premier League table with a 2-1 win over Brighton at Anfield.
The Reds went into the game knowing that a victory would open a sizeable 11 point margin over Manchester City, as former Liverpool player Jonjo Shelvey’s late strike condemned Pep Guardiola’s men to a 2-2 draw away to Newcastle United.
Lead by their talisman centre half, who nodded in two Trent Alexander Arnold set pieces — one free kick and one corner — the European champions took a 2-0 lead with two quickfire second half goals.
The second period proved more troublesome, however, as Lewis Dunk’s controversial goal was allowed to stand; a free kick that emanated from goalkeeper Alisson Becker justifiably receiving a red card for handling outside his box.
With Adrian replacing Oxlade Chamberlain, the ten men held firm — despite a few heart in mouth moments — for a victory that could have huge title repercussions come to the end of the season.
Alexander Arnold was conspicuous in his absence in the Champions League clash with Napoli last week, with the Anfield side looking totally devoid of attacking invention or technique in their 1-1 draw.
The young Scouser showed precisely why he is the team’s main hub of creative output after 19 minutes.
From a free kick from the right hand side, Alexander Arnold — with trademark dead eyed accuracy — found van Dijk with an accurate cross from which he powerfully headed home.
Five minutes later, the defensive duo combined for another goal, this time from a corner from the left. The West Derby native picked out the Dutchman with the same end result, another Liverpool goal.
The visitors, more ambitious in their outlook than the majority of visitors to Anfield, had their own opportunities — mot notably from Dunk — but it was Liverpool who almost scored the game’s third goal near the half time whistle.
An inventive move down the left, involving Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, gave Alex Oxlade Chamberlain the opportunity to score, but the Englishman’s shot was saved by Mat Ryan and the the half time score was Liverpool 2-0 Brighton.
A drab affair for much of the second half, with the home team failing to add to their 2 goals or control the game in such a way as to take the sting out of their opponents, the game was reignited in the 76th minute when Alisson received his marching orders.
Adrian was summoned, replacing Oxlade Chamberlain, but his first action was to pick the ball from his own net.
Inexplicably, referee Martin Atkinson blew the whistle as the Spaniard was still arranging his wall and centre half Dunk simply passed the ball into the bottom corner.
On second inspection, there should have been no way the goal should have stood but Liverpool’s showing hardly merited a comfortable ending to the game and anxiety was rife as the Seagulls pushed for an equaliser.
Adrian, who will likely play in the suspended Alisson’s stead in the upcoming Merseyside Derby, saved an Aaron Mooy strike well, but subsequently dropped the ball before regathering just in time before Maupay could equalise.
It feels like a long time since Liverpool had a performance of comfort and another nervy finish awaited. But, like so many times before this season, Jurgen Klopp’s men held out to equal a record run of 31 Premier League games undefeated.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Oxlade Chamberlain; Salah, Firmino, Mané.
Substitutes: Lallana for Salah, Adrian for Oxlade Chamberlain, Origi for Firmino.
Subs not used: Gomez, Milner, Keita, Shaqiri.