It’s bewildering how Brighton scored in the same peculiar manner against Liverpool during 2 games in 15 days between the two sides:
One of their forwards received the ball down their right-hand side. He flicked it over with his right boot and then finished it with a right-footed shot.
A fortnight ago, it was Danny Welbeck scoring Brighton’s 3rd goal to cap a miserable afternoon for the Reds in the Premier League.
On Sunday, it was Kaoru Mitoma striking from almost the same spot in the 2nd minute of added time to sucker punch Liverpool out of the FA Cup.
It was the same Mitoma who gave our defence a torrid time 2 weeks ago. He did not score back then but he carved out space for himself down Brighton’s left flank to create chances for his team.
If Liverpool had looked hapless in that league game, they now appeared to have taken some baby steps in rehabilitating themselves to Jurgen Klopp’s way of playing (if there is any silver lining to go by).
However, their undoing was two set pieces which quite frankly could have been avoided with more composure instead of conceding a corner and a free kick.
In fact, Brighton’s first goal had serendipity plastered all over it. Iboue Konate conceded a corner in the 39th minute when he could have cleared instead.
After Trent had headed the ball away from the set piece, defending the second ball was non-existent as Tariq Lamptey took a speculative long-range shot that defected off Lewis Dunk.
Alisson Becker was wrong-footed in his attempt to save and in fact, no goalkeeper could have done anything against this ball changing trajectory.
This was Brighton’s equalizer after Liverpool had taken the lead 10 minutes earlier during a lightening attacking move which brough back memories of yore.
Naby Keita deep in Reds territory released Mo Salah who broke away down the right before sliding the ball to Harvey Elliot. The 19-year old drilled it past the Brighton keeper to open the score.
After his wonder goal against the Wolves in the previous round, Elliot looks to have an affinity with scoring in the FA Cup. His solo goal last season was against Cardiff City also in that competition.
Back to basics
The first half itself showed Liverpool going back to basics. The defense was more compact and played with more assurance. Contrary to the previous visit to the Amex Stadium, Trent and Iboue this time were able to snuff out the ball from the dangerous Mitoma.
With a better backline, we were seeing Salah, Gakpo, and Elliot more in action in their forward positions, creating chances while there was practically none during the first half a fortnight ago.
However, Brighton gradually pressed their way back into the game and that led to the Lamptey / Dunk equalizer.
In fact, Liverpool were still on the back foot as proceedings resumed after halftime. The Reds were mostly pinned down in their own territory for at least the first 10 mins of the second half.
We got back on the ascendancy after Klopp made three subs on the hour, bringing on Milner, Hendo and Nunez. Millie in particular worked his socks off marauding up and down the right wing.
Quite a number of fouls
However, there were signs that things were not under control as much as the gaffer would have liked as evidenced by the yellow cards to Konate, Fabinho and Robertson for their less-than-clinical challenges. Cody Gakpo was also guilty of a number of rash fouls.
This should have been a harbinger of Brighton’s last-ditch qualification as a cheap free kick was conceded in added time that led to Mitoma’s goal.
Should Liverpool have closed down shop while the second half was drawing to a close and aimed for an Anfield replay?
Yours to discover… in light of a better performance than the horrendous Premier League game not so long ago.
Although it was not the result that we were all yearning for, dare we say there are green shoots that Klopp is slowly turning things around. And we still have Firmino, Jota and Virgil to come back from injury.
So, Liverpool's defence of the two cups won last season has come to an end. Quite prematurely to be honest.
The Champions League remains the only realistic possibility for a trophy this season. Back in autumn, we saw a different Liverpool on the European stage from the one toiling on the domestic scene. That’s another head-scratcher by itself.
During that memorable Barcelona semi-final at Anfield in May 2019, the T-shirt worn by an injured Mo Salah perhaps best encapsulates the current situation: Never Give Up.