Brighton and Hove Albion and Liverpool played a highly interesting game at the Amex Stadium on Sunday, in which no team managed to get the full prize. The home side took the lead in the 20th minute through Simon Adingra, only to see it cancelled and overturned by Mohamed Salah in the last five minutes of the first half. Brighton captain Lewis Dunk eventually set the final score at 2-2 with 12 minutes of the 90 left on the clock.
Liverpool unsurprisingly enjoyed a slightly larger possession percentage (54%), with one shot
on target more than Brighton’s three, but both teams had a total of 14 attempts at beating the opposition ‘keeper. The visitors also attempted more passes – 498, with 86% of those reaching their intended targets, compared to Brighton’s 418 passes with 84% accuracy. The only stat that went in Brighton’s favour was the number of corners taken, eight, while Liverpool took just one.
Nonetheless, it cannot be said that the home side were inferior in any way. If anything, they looked more dangerous throughout, and their early lead was thoroughly deserved.
Brighton dominated early on, pressing Liverpool into submission, but as the first half went on, the Merseysiders responded in their own, recognizable way and turned the game around just as deservedly. Liverpool also came out stronger in the second half, but then it was Brighton’s turn to rally and turn the tide, looking for and eventually finding the second equalizer of the match.
In the end, the Seagulls could’ve found a winner as well, had Joao Pedro been more composed in the 84th minute, when Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk deflected an Adingra cross into his path and the former Watford attacker blasted over the bar from a very favourable position. Adingra had a clear-cut chance earlier in the second half, but he learned that Alisson Becker is very hard to beat in a one-on-one situation. As for Liverpool, the best opportunity they wasted fell to Ryan Gravenberch, who only managed to hit the crossbar from around five yards.
The share of the spoils was a just outcome between these high-quality sides, and both will be happy to have come away with something.
Mistakes at both ends
Interestingly enough, all four goals in this match were results of severe mistakes. In the 20th minute, Liverpool were playing out from the back, with Alisson far from his line in order to contribute, when Van Dijk unwisely put Alexis Mac Allister into a spot of bother. The Argentinian midfielder was apparently unaware of the closeness of Adingra, who stole the ball, rushed a few paces forward and sent it into the gaping net.
Liverpool’s equalizer was preceded by a misplaced pass from Dunk, who sent the ball straight into the feet of Mac Allister in the middle of the park. Dominik Szoboszlai took over and engaged Luis Diaz at 20 yards from the goal. The Colombian passed to Darwin Nunez on the left and Nunez sent it into the box straight away, for Harvey Elliott to show great awareness by letting it pass towards the onrushing Salah.
Only three minutes later, Brighton made a mess of playing out from the back again, and this time goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen put Pascal Gross in trouble. Gross lost the ball inside his own box to Szoboszlai, and the Hungarian was then set for a shot from close range by Nunez, before Pascal pulled his shirt from behind and brought him down. Referee Anthony Taylor waited a few seconds to see of Diaz would put the rebound into the net, but when Adingra prevented that, he had no option but to blow the whistle and point to the spot. Salah was ruthless from 12 yards again.
The last goal of the game will have been very difficult to explain for the Liverpool defence. Solly March took a free-kick from out wide on the left and sent a cross low into in the six-yard area, and no player in red reacted well enough. Andy Robertson let the ball pass by and his movement confused Mac Allister. Nunez lost the run of Dunk who then breezed past Ibrahima Konate and tapped in from three or four yards.
As good as the game was, both Roberto De Zerbi and Jurgen Klopp will have had plenty to say to their players about these situations.
Gross was furious with Anthony Taylor when the referee gave the penalty for his shirt-pull on Szoboszlai, but frankly, he had no cause to be. The foul was quite obvious – his hand was full of Szoboszlai’s shirt, and it simply had to be given. The only subjective call Taylor and the VAR made in that situation was not to send the Brighton midfielder off, as he had no intention of playing the ball whatsoever. According to the laws of the game, it all came down to whether Szoboszlai’s position would be deemed an obvious goalscoring opportunity, and apparently it wasn’t.
Minute 69 was about to expire when Brighton went forward down the left side. Pedro and Kaoru Mitoma combined to get the better of Joel Matip inside Liverpool’s box, and the Japanese winger eventually took a shot which appeared to have hit Van Dijk’s hand. But on closer inspection, it was notable that the ball actually hit Van Dijk’s thigh first and then bounced onto his hand, which was in a natural position. It was De Zerbi’s turn to be furious with Taylor, but the laws of the game describe this kind of situation rather precisely as no penalty.
As club football in Europe’s major leagues prepares for another two-week slumber to make way for international matches, the 20 teams competing in the Premier League have played eight games each this season. This weekend saw a change at the top of the table, as Tottenham Hotspur’s narrow win away to Luton Town and Arsenal’s triumph over Manchester City pushed both North London clubs to the top, displacing the defending champions.
Spurs now lead the way, ahead of Arsenal on goal-difference, with 20 points on the board for each. Manchester City are third with 18, followed by Liverpool on 17, and Aston Villa, who are ahead of Brighton on goal-difference too, with 16 points for each of them.
It seems the 2023/24 Premier League season is set to be far more interesting than a number of previous ones, though it’s obviously way to early to make any definite conclusions.
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