LIVERPOOL, England — Three quick thoughts from Anfield on Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League.
1. Liverpool seize on Man City’s slip-up
It’s not even the end of August and Liverpool know they have to make the most of every rare opening they are given in the Premier League title race. So far, they are doing just that.
Jurgen Klopp’s team sit top of the table after a tense win over Brighton thanks to Mohamed Salah’s first-half goal.
It’s three wins out of three for the Reds and represents their best start to a league season since 2013-14 — the last time they made a serious push for the title.
Liverpool entered the game well aware Manchester City had dropped points at Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier in the day. Such are the standards the reigning champions have set, the ability to set the pace in league must, therefore, be taken by rivals.
There’s a distinct possibility that Liverpool could amass their best ever points total in a Premier League season (beating 2008-09’s 86) and still fall short to Pep Guardiola’s record-breaking side.
But Liverpool are not thinking pessimistically at the moment. They started this game as they meant to go on.
Within the opening quarter of an hour, Sadio Mane had wasted a good chance, Mathew Ryan pulled off a stunning save to deny Roberto Firmino from close range and Trent Alexander-Arnold struck the crossbar off a free kick. So it was no surprise to see Liverpool move into the lead in the 23rd minute.
James Milner was crucial to it. The tireless midfielder pressed and disposed Yves Bissouma deep in the Brighton half. The rest of his Liverpool teammates swarmed, and within a matter of seconds, Salah had calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net to put Liverpool 1-0 up.
A second goal would have calmed the nerves around Anfield. Anthony Knockaert fired a warning shot after half-time that the result wasn’t settled. Then, in what could prove to be a pivotal moment in the season, Alisson saved Pascal Gross’ close-range header two minutes from time.
The £65 million goalkeeper was brought to the club this summer for those exact moments as his strong fists ensured Liverpool held on to the vital three points.
2. Salah’s encore off to flying start
Salah may not be able to match the individual heights of last season, but don’t discount the fact that his importance to Liverpool strengthens game upon game.
Believed to have had an “off” night at Crystal Palace earlier in the week, the Egyptian still managed to win a penalty, draw a red card for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and find himself in a number of goal-scoring situations.
It’s now two goals in three games for the forward, who had an interrupted preseason because of the World Cup. Of the past 15 league goals Liverpool have scored at Anfield, Salah has been responsible for 11 of them.
Those — admittedly small — doubts about whether he was a one-season wonder are being put to bed quite convincingly.
Salah was relatively quiet in the opening moments against Brighton. Not everything he tried was coming off as Firmino appeared to be Liverpool’s most likely avenue for a breakthrough.
But like all elite goal scorers, Salah was sharp and alert as the ball made its way to him as a result of Milner’s pressure. The 26-year-old’s clinical finish from a tight angle was yet another example of how he can score every type of goal — tap-ins, headers, screamers, etc.
At Anfield, he’s scored 29 times in his past 29 appearances. Incredible records like that will only continue as Salah shows no signs of slowing down at the venue where he has committed his future — with the signing of a five-year contract in July.
3. Brighton’s road woes could cost them
Having splashed a fair bit of cash in the summer, Brighton may have hoped their Premier League survival wouldn’t be secured so late this time around and could, instead, dream of a top-half finish.
For those ambitions to become a reality, Brighton will have to start winning games away from home at some point. But early indications suggest it might be a similar story for Chris Hughton’s men this term after a defeat at Watford on the opening weekend and this latest result.
Granted, Anfield is not the easiest of places to pick up a win, with Liverpool last losing here in April 2017. But since their promotion from the Championship, the Seagulls boast the Premier League’s worst away record, winning just two times on the road last season.
Brighton’s sublime home form — eighth best in the Premier League in 2017-18 — is what ultimately kept them up.
They arrived to Anfield on a high after last week’s thrilling win over Manchester United, but Brighton barely laid a glove on Liverpool on Saturday until the late stages. The inconsistency Brighton supporters see from their side on a weekly basis must be infuriating.
Moving away from their trusted 4-4-1-1, Gross was dropped in favour of summer recruit Bissouma, who formed part of a five-man midfield. It meant Glenn Murray cut an extremely lonely figure up top as Liverpool dominated.
Perhaps Hughton senses the trip to Southampton after the international break is the place to kick-start the end to Brighton’s woes on the road.