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Brighton 2-1 Liverpool: Talking points as Seagulls prove too strong for Reds in FA Cup too




Brighton beat Liverpool at the Amex for the second time in two weeks on Sunday, this time to move into the fifth round of the FA Cup at the expense of the Merseysiders. That’s three matches played between these teams this season, with Liverpool failing to win any of them.


There was hope for the visitors in the first half, especially after half an hour when Harvey Elliott made a run in behind to latch onto a pass from Mohamed Salah and put his team in front. But it took nine minutes and a bit of luck for Brighton to equalize, as Tariq Lamptey tried a long-range shot after corner clearance and saw it deflect off Lewis Dunk to wrong-foot Alisson Becker. Kaoru Mitoma produced a spectacular goal to win the game for Brighton two minutes into the second-half stoppage time.


Little progress for Liverpool


To be fair to Liverpool, they played somewhat better than two weeks before when Brighton simply shattered them to pieces. Back then, they never looked like doing anything except losing, and now it certainly could’ve ended differently, even if the home side did look superior overall again.


Speaking in his recent press conferences amid all the struggles currently engulfing his team, Jurgen Klopp said they needed to go back to basics, avoid mistakes and start winning duels in the middle of the park. There was some improvement in those areas – it was nowhere as easy for the Brighton midfielders to win possession and recycle their attacks as before, and chances were created from which better finishing from Elliott and Salah could have swung the contest Liverpool’s way.


But Liverpool still looked way off in terms of playing like a team, something that was arguably their strongest weapon in the previous seasons under Klopp’s command. The fact that the players got in each other’s way more than they combined to threaten Brighton’s goal was still painfully obvious. Reconstructing the game plan, especially on the ball, is probably the next step Klopp will try to take as he and his staff work on bringing their team around and out of the stupor they’ve fallen into.


And it will have to be done with the existing squad at their disposal, given that the German tactician made it quite clear there would be no more signings before the transfer window closes on Tuesday.


Also, the fact that both goals conceded came after set-pieces indicates continuing problems with defending such situations. Dunk’s equalizer may be filed under bad luck, but Mitoma’s winner, regardless of being well taken, should have been defended a lot better. For one, Pervis Estupinan who provided the assist was left in far too much space on Brighton’s left, and a very simple block by Solly March prevented Andy Robertson from getting to the ball before Mitoma sold a beautiful dummy to Joe Gomez inside the six yards and slammed under the bar.


The Brighton quality


Some will defend Liverpool by stating the fact that they’ve been going through a heavy injury

crisis – a valid point, given that they currently have three attackers out of action, that all of them have been missing for a while and that none of them is expected to return for several weeks more.


However, over the past 18 months, Brighton lost the likes of Ben White, Yves Bissouma, Marc Cucurella, Neal Maupay and Leandro Trossard, and they’ve also excluded Moises Caicedo from the squad, not counting on the in-demand Ecuadorian midfielder as they prepared for this match. And they still didn’t need any of them.


Unlike Liverpool, Brighton have a game plan which works quite well and all of their players appear to be well drilled on it. And while it may have seemed for a while that manager Roberto De Zerbi was merely reaping the rewards of all the hard work done by Graham Potter as his predecessor, the Italian has surely earned plenty of plaudits himself for the way this team plays at the moment.


Kaoru Mitoma


To nobody’s surprise, there has been plenty of talk about Mitoma in the aftermath of the game. Now 25, the Japanese winger reportedly rejected an offer of professional contract at the age of 19 in order to undergo physical education studies at the University of Tsukuba, where he did a thesis on the art of dribbling. He was also involved in an experiment in which he used a GoPro camera attached to his head, enabling him to revise his dribbling actions and study which moves gave greatest results and which needed improving.


With all that in mind, the way he breezes past defenders at full pace, even at Premier League level, is hardly surprising. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been criticized for his defending in the past, but rarely has he been as tormented in a game as he was on Sunday at the Amex. Probably not since he faced Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia in September.


The goal Mitoma scored, described already above, was a fantastic combination of quick thinking, perfect composure, and quick feet.


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