Klopp’s Red Men continued their good form with a clinical performance dispatching a well organized Brighton and Hove Albion side on the south coast.
With news of Joel Matip’s injury and a congested fixture schedule throwing team selection predictions to the wind, the rotation has become a necessity to survive the busy Christmas period.
Liverpool supporters were thrown with the curve-ball of what initially appeared to be Emre Can partnering Lovren in defense. The curve took an even steeper turn at kick-off when it was revealed that for the first time this season Klopp switched to a back three with Can and Gini Wijnaldum supporting Lovren in defense. Klavan had not trained since his illness and Gomez picking up his own illness forced Klopp’s hand. Robertson made his long-awaited return as Moreno was rested with Alexander-Arnold coming in on the right. Henderson and Milner started in midfield as Coutinho, Firmino and Salah formed a dynamic attack.
Fortunately for LFC, the hosts took the strategy of allowing their opposition time on the ball, giving a new formation and combinations time to settle. The Reds quickly got to work with three chances in the first 6 minutes. Salah had shot from an acute angle saved by Ryan. The subsequent corner leads to Firmino using his shoulder to force a header on towards the goal, unsuccessfully so. Moments later Trent whipped in a lovely ball that Firmino could only send wide as he got crowded out by the Brighton defense.
The newly-promoted side then finally had some joy whipping in a cross from their left. Murray turned and sliced his left-footed strike wide from 6 yards. BHA then proceeded to sit deep and cut the space for the LFC playmakers to operate which they did well. They were prepared to allow the cross and defend the ball in, however that plan went out the window when Can rose highest from a corner to head home after 30 minutes. It was going to be a good day for the German as he was majestic at the right of the back-three.
We were all still celebrating when Firmino doubled the lead with a counter-attack of the highest caliber. Firmino collected a clearance and played in Salah, who had come narrow, Mo then drove at the heart of the BHA back line, Phil to his left, Bobby to his right. He played in Phil, who with sumptuous technique hit a low first-time cross with his left around the BHA back line where Bobby hit it the first time and beats Ryan at his near post. “Like watching Brazil” literally.
That bit of play really got Phil in the mood and on a few occasions made the BHA players look silly. More was to come. 0-2 LFC lead at the break.
As per usual, there was no need for LFC supporters to be shocked as Brighton came at Liverpool and the usual creaking began. Brown put a chance on a platter for Murray who had his side-foot shot saved brilliantly by Mignolet – he should have scored. Directly from that chance, the ball was cleared, Phil flicked it to Bobby, Bobby back to Phil who slides in Mo. Mo carried the ball and sucked in four retreating BHA defenders. The ever-present Firmino gets rewarded for his support as Mo reversed the ball into his path and Bobby did the rest to make it 0-3. The hosts made it interesting by taking advantage of some poor refereeing. Henderson made the slightest of contact tracking Duffy on a corner, Duffy made a real meal of it and the referee was fooled. Murray converts to make it 1-3, with about 40 minutes to go.
BHA huff and hardly puffed as they tried to make a game of it, but eventually LFC took control once again and had a few chances to put the game to bed in the middle of the 2nd half. Coutinho had a shot blocked and was caught offside with the goal gaping. Salah also had a shot saved from about eight yards.
BHA’s pushes and hopes for a result finally came to an end when Murray hooked a shot from about 12 yards out as Mignolet was left watching. With the result all but decided, Coutinho topped off a fantastic night with a free-kick that he slid under a jumping wall from 20 yards out. Genius. Matt Ryan could only applaud. Phil then forced the 5th when he again drove through the heart of the BHA midfield and his shot deflected in via the head of Dunk.
Considering the makeshift defense and new formation there can be very few complaints with the result. 16 points from 18 since the defeat at Wembley, which is all but perfect in terms of results in the league. Spartak Moscow needs to be taken care of in the Champions League on Wednesday and considering our form, especially at Anfield, we merely have to avoid any catastrophic decisions and play to our level and we confirm our place in the knock-out stages with the top spot.
Then seven fixtures, four at Anfield, starting with the derby at Anfield awaits us, with the trip south to The Emirates the only daunting fixture. There is a real opportunity to extend this good run into the FA Cup weekend and strengthening our position on the Premier League’s Top 4.