More VAR controversy ensued as Liverpool moved to the top of the Premier League table, despite conceding a late goal to draw 1-1 at Brighton.
The Reds took the lead early in the second half with a well-worked Diogo Jota goal, but Brighton — with their second penalty kick of the day, after Neal Maupay missed their first — equalized late on through Pascal Gross’ spot-kick.
Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane were denied goals for offside by the video technology, the first of which looked onside, and the visitors — whose injuries woes continued with James Milner picking up an issue — barely merited their point in a disjointed and at times understandably tired performance.
Liverpool, who lined up with a team full of attackers with Takumi Minamino, Salah, Jota, and Roberto Firmino all starting, started the game with verve and had two early openings in a bright first ten minutes.
Dropping deep, Firmino — who followed up his good showing against Leicester last weekend with another solid performance — played an incisive pass into the channel for Jota. Running through, the Portuguese international played a ball towards Salah that surely would have resulted in a goal if it wasn’t for the intervention of a Brighton defender.
Another opportunity soon landed for the Egyptian when Fabinho’s raking pass from the back sent him behind, but instead of taking it down, Salah opted to hit the shot first time and the ball flew wide.
The hosts settled from there on in and they had a great chance when Aaron Connolly, after the otherwise impressive Nat Phillips bit in too hard on a challenge he didn’t win and left a gap, was sent in behind the Reds’ defence. Bearing down on Alisson’s goal, the Galway man dragged his shot wide and the champions breathed a sigh of relief.
With Liverpool’s midfield a non-factor, the Seagulls began turning the screw and manufactured a chance to score when Connolly — the home team’s main out ball — was fouled by Neco Williams in the box. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and was correct given that the Welshman needlessly dove into the challenge.
Maupay stepped up but dragged his penalty wide and Williams’ blushes were spared.
The controversy in the opening half wasn’t done there, though, and the visitors thought they had opened the scoring when Salah — after a brilliant touch and through ball from Firmino — ran through on goal before expertly finishing past Mat Ryan. VAR was consulted and the Egyptian, by a barely believable fraction, was adjudged to have been offside.
With captain Jordan Henderson replacing Williams and Milner dropping to right-back, the visitors improved in the second half, and they made it count on the scoreboard after an hour. After he played a neat one-two with Salah on the edge of the box, Diogo Jota feigned shooting twice — waiting for the opportune moment — before picking his spot and firing low into the bottom left corner.
The assist was the Egyptian’s last contribution of note, and he was replaced by Mane soon after. The Senegalese flier thought he had wrapped up the points when he nodded Andrew Robertson’s free-kick home, but, for once, he was correctly determined offside and the goal was chalked out.
Looking jaded, the Reds — who had Curtis Jones, who replaced Milner, filling in at right-back — were under the pump in the closing minutes and repelled all of Brighton’s efforts until Robertson, unfortunately, kicked Danny Welbeck in the process of making a clearance and Brighton were rewarded their second penalty.
This time, with a different taker, the Seagulls made no mistake and Gross slotted the penalty to end a controversial game in a draw.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Williams, Phillips, Fabinho, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Milner, Minamino; Salah, Firmino, Jota.
Replacements: Henderson for Williams, Mane for Salah, Jones for Milner.
Subs not used: Adrian, Origi, Tsimikas, Williams
Referee: Stuart Atwell.