Liverpool became the quickest team in Premier League history to win 30 games in a season with a 3-1 win over Brighton at the Amex Stadium.
A brace from Golden Boot chasing Mohamed Salah as well as a Jordan Henderson screamer was enough to seal the win for the Reds — who handed Neco Williams a debut at left back — despite a far from vintage performance against a brave Brighton outfit.
Liverpool roared into an early lead, with a goal straight from the Jurgen Klopp tactical textbook.
Pressing the Brighton back four, Naby Keita — sniffing out a poor first touch — pilfered the ball and fed Salah a pass and the Egyptian sumptuously curled a left footed shot past Mat Ryan from just inside the box.
The second goal was long coming in what was a barnstorming opening eight minutes from the Reds. And, once again, the goal arrived from the visitors pressing, with Salah assisting Henderson’s brilliantly hit strike from outside the box. The captain won the ball back in midfield and this allowed Keita to find Salah with a pass. The number 11 ran at the Brighton rearguard and found Henderson whose first time hit left Ryan with no chance.
To their credit, the hosts kept playing their usual, progressive game and dominated the final 25 minutes of the half.
Impressive young full back Tariq Lamptey was the Seagulls main outball, and the former Chelsea player began to give debutant Williams — playing out of position at left back — a tough time. It was through this route that Brighton pulled a goal back on the stroke of half time.
Lamptey’s searching cross found Leonardo Trossard and the Belgian expertly fired a first time half volley past Alisson for a richly deserved goal for Brighton. The visiting Reds, whose intensity dropped visibly after the 20th minute, would have been glad to have gone into the interval with their lead intact.
The second half saw Brighton continue their attacking approach, but it was the Reds who had the best opportunity ten minutes in. Keita, the standout player til that point, played an incisive pass in behind for Salah. The Egyptian coasted past Dan Burn in the box but, in the motion of cutting onto his left foot, his shot was blocked.
The Seagulls continued to probe and spurned a big chance when Burn volleyed across the face of goal, but no one in blue and white gambled and Georginio Wijnaldum proceeded to clear his lines. With the tide of momentum against his team, Klopp elected for a double change — the third in total after Andy Robertson replaced Williams at half time — with Fabinho and Sadio Mané replacing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keita respectively. The change almost bore instant fruit when Fabinho’s raking pass sent Salah behind, but the leading scorer had his attempted cross to Mané deflected behind.
After absorbing pressure, Liverpool struck for their third with fifteen minutes left. A deflected Henderson shot drifted agonisingly wide of goal, but, from the resulting corner, the Reds killed the game. Robertson’s inswinger was met by Salah’s header at the near post and the ball powered into the bottom cornet.
The visitors almost had their fourth when birthday boy Virgil van Dijk headed a free-kick across goal to his compatriot, but Wijnaldum nodded over.
Itching for his hat-trick, Salah kept pushing but was denied by a Ryan save and when he headed a Robertson cross over.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Williams; Henderson, Keita, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Oxlade Chamberlain.
Replacements: Fabinho for Keita, Mane for Oxlade Chamberlain, Milner for Henderson, Minamino for Firmino, Robertson for Williams.