Liverpool keep Premier League title pursuit on track with an important win at Brighton


Two goals for Liverpool at Brighton keep Premier League title pursuit on track.

When coming up with a list of the more in-form final-third productivity merchants in the Premier League, Joel Matip probably isn’t the name who usually springs to mind.

Maybe that’s overstating it somewhat, but the newest Player of the Month has scored one and assisted twice now in his last five matches, and it was he who found the time and clarity in his delivery to help Liverpool open the scoring at Brighton, en route to a 2-0 win.

It ended what had been a rather chaotic opening from the reds, and it was a largely different game thereafter.

Neal Maupay flashed an early effort wide before Alexis Mac Allister pirouetted his way past Fabinho to almost open another chance for the home side. Sadio Mane was denied by Robert Sanchez’s fingertips at the near post, meanwhile.

However, attacking play was sporadic from the visitors in the opening stages, the visitors being unable to eradicate sloppy passes from their game: Naby Keita with the most glaring of wayward passes got an earful from Virgil van Dijk, and Luis Diaz received a verbal volley from Jurgen Klopp after losing a challenge by the touchline.liverpool fc celebration

But a moment of quality – and bravery – 20 minutes in opened the scoring and changed the course of the game.

Matip hit a pass over the static defence and Diaz’s diagonal run caught everybody cold, including goalkeeper Sanchez, who rushed out and got nowhere near the ball.

He did, however, get rather too close to Diaz, poleaxing the forward just as the Colombian headed into an unguarded net. A VAR check reviewed at a possible red card for serious foul play, but curiously decided against.

From then on, though, Liverpool controlled play, creating plenty of further openings in the remainder of the half and with the recovered Diaz at the heart of so much of their best work, on and off the ball.

While he proved an outlet and a goal threat, he also made countless recovery sprints to track and tackle Tariq Lamptey, so often Brighton’s major spark and ball-carrier.

Mohamed Salah, also berated by his manager before the break for taking shot when he might have squared, saw a deflected shot loop onto the crossbar after the restart, then scuffed another wide after a powerful Diaz dribble. He looked frustrated.

The home fans similarly grew intolerant with referee Mike Dean’s calls going against them, unsurprisingly overlooking the worst decision of all being that to spare Sanchez.

When the next big call was made, one of those feelings of disgruntlement came to an end. It wasn’t the Brighton fans’: a handball, a penalty, Salah dispatching it down the middle on the hour mark. He departed soon after through injury, but the relief on his and his manager’s face spoke volumes after a recent lack of clinical edge.

While the on-pitch events were extremely watchable, every Premier League game retains an obvious backdrop story right now.

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