Even when others didn’t, Jurgen Klopp saw it coming. While Liverpool spent the last week basking in the glow of their historic 5-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford, the German coach stewed over some imperfections he saw in a performance widely hailed as perfect. What unfolded against Brighton on Saturday showed Klopp was right to be worried.
“The world is a bit like this: you win 5-0 against United and everything is perfect,” Klopp said before the Premier League fixture against the Seagulls. “Well, it was not. United had clear-cut chances which we gave them. We should not rely on luck or Ali [goalkeeper Alisson]. I saw the first half; we gave too much away.”
Klopp’s remarks proved to be sharply prescient as a defensively vulnerable Liverpool were held to a 2-2 draw at Anfield by Brighton. Graham Potter’s team have made great strides this season, but this was still a result that could cost the Reds dearly in the title race with Chelsea now three points clear at the top of the Premier League table.
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At 2-0 up after just 24 minutes, Liverpool looked to be cruising to a fifth straight victory, but some of the problems Klopp saw at Old Trafford crept into his team’s play. There was a franticness to their game at the back that Brighton exploited to clamber back into the contest and claim a point.
Virgil van Dijk’s return from injury has steadied Liverpool in defence this season, but the Dutchman has still to find his best form and this was illustrated in the number of mistakes he made against Brighton when the Seagulls, encouraged by Enock Mwpeu’s goal to make it 2-1, stepped higher up the pitch.
Leandro Trossard scores for Brighton against Liverpool in the Premier League.
Image credit: Getty Images
Andy Robertson is another Liverpool defender who has failed to meet his own standards this season. It was the Scotland international’s positional ill-discipline that allowed the pass to be played to Leandro Trossard for Brighton’s equaliser - had Robertson held van Dijk’s line, Trossard would have been offside.
The absence of Fabinho at the base of the midfield unit was also apparent in the way Brighton were able to expose the space between Liverpool’s midfield and defence. On the defensive side of the ball, the trio of Jordan Henderson, Curtis Jones and Naby Keita simply didn’t offer enough protection.
It wasn’t just Liverpool’s defenders that cost them two points against Brighton, it was their attack-minded players too. Two goals up, the Anfield side had the opportunity to press home their advantage in a match they were, at that stage, controlling. They looked to have done so with a third goal from Sadio Mane that was ultimately disallowed.
However, the intensity drop after that disallowed third goal was dramatic and was reminiscent of the way Liverpool took their foot off the pedal while 5-0, and a man up against Manchester United. But while Klopp’s team had the cushion to do this at Old Trafford, they didn’t against Brighton. This was a misjudgement.
“It's not a good sign when your goalkeeper has to make four/five saves because something else went wrong,” Klopp said afterwards. “We have to defend better - I knew it would be a difficult game. We defended in moments really well but moments are not enough. We were incredible in moments in the first half but just in moments. We have to accept, learn and go again.”
In the grand scheme of things, these are not big problems. Liverpool have still to lose a competitive match all season and are competing on all fronts, domestically and on the continent. However, the margins for error are so narrow at this level of the game, particularly at the top end of the Premier League this season, that these problems might be the difference between success and failure.
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