In stark contrast to the “chaotic” Europa League display against Toulouse which Jurgen Klopp lambasted just three days earlier, Liverpool were patient and precise in a 3-0 victory over Brentford.
Mohamed Salah found the net in his sixth consecutive Premier League appearance at Anfield to open the scoring before adding a second after the interval. Brentford, arriving on the back of three straight wins, caused their hosts some headaches but mainly after Diogo Jota had nabbed Liverpool’s third.
Victory took Klopp’s side above Arsenal into second place in the Premier League.
How the game unfolded
Thomas Frank has sharpened Brentford into a pesky thorn in the side of the Premier League’s elite over the last two years. Yet Klopp’s team guarded against the visitors’ abundant obdurance.
Up against one of the most feared counter-attacking teams in the division, Liverpool pressed feverishly after each turnover. When Brentford were able to evade the first wave of resistance, Bryan Mbeumo invariably foraged a chance for himself, but Liverpool created openings for themselves during these moments of transition.
Darwin Nunez was twice denied by the assistant’s flag in the opening half-hour. VAR backed up the on-pitch official’s sharp spot of Nunez’s stray toe before a more routine call. The Uruguayan came back from an offside position to hook in a rebound after Virgil van Dijk had been brilliantly denied by Mark Flekken.
Nunez didn’t have time to drift behind Brentford’s backline when Trent Alexander-Arnold fizzed the ball into his feet. Liverpool’s master of mayhem kept his cool to slide Mohamed Salah into the box. Taking one touch to set himself, Salah slotted the opener into the bottom corner on 39 minutes.
A nervy silence hung over Anfield as VAR checked for a possible red card after Wataru Endo sunk his studs into Christian Norgaard’s shin shortly after the interval. Frank wagged his finger in disapproval but the VAR once again agreed with the official on Merseyside, letting Endo off.
It helps to have a full compliment but as long as Salah is on the pitch, Liverpool have a strong chance. Three Brentford players had their hand up appealing that the ball had squirmed out of play. That was three more than bothered marking Salah. Kostas Tsimikas had timed his slide perfectly, chipping a cross to the back post for Salah to nod in.
Brentford were by no means helpless bystanders, posing a familiar threat from set pieces. But any faint optimism of a first Anfield victory since the Second World War that remained was quashed by Diogo Jota’s crisp third in the 74th minute.
With the game lost, the Bees bolstered their shot count but Alisson and Van Dijk ensured that a rare clean sheet for Liverpool was preserved.
GK: Alisson – 7/10 – Underscored his reputation as arguably the best goalkeeper in one-on-one situations across the globe.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – 6/10 – The defensive lapses inbuilt in his game were occasionally exposed by Brentford’s breakaways but his scalpel passing made up for it.
CB: Joel Matip – 6/10 – Brutally proactive – a risky strategy that earned him a yellow card and led to Liverpool‘s opener.
CB: Virgil van Dijk – 7/10 – Tested by Mbeumo’s pace but managed to hold his own for the most part.
LB: Kostas Tsimikas – 7/10 – An energetic outlet down the left flank, Andy Robertson’s understudy did his best impression of the Scot with two assists.
CM: Dominik Szoboszlai – 6/10 – More industrious than dextrous on Sunday but impressive nonetheless.
CM: Wataru Endo – 3/10 – On just his second Premier League start, Endo escaped a possible red card for a naughty tackle forced by a clumsy first touch.
CM: Cody Gakpo – 5/10 – Can be nudged out of the limelight in a deeper role.
RW: Mohamed Salah – 8/10 – Utterly, unflinchingly ruthless. Whenever the ball was at his feet a ripple of anticipation swept through Anfield.
ST: Darwin Nunez – 8/10 – Throbbing with confidence, sparking a moment of danger with seemingly every touch he took.
LW: Diogo Jota – 7/10 – Not at his most irresistible but spanked a vicious swerver into the corner for good measure.
SUB: Harvey Elliott (83′ for Gakpo) – N/A
SUB: Luis Diaz (84′ for Jota) – N/A
SUB: Jarell Quansah (90′ for Alexander-Arnold) – N/A
Subs not used: Caoimhin Kelleher (GK), Luke Chambers, Calum Scanlon, Trey Nyoni, James McConnell, Ben Doak
Jurgen Klopp – 8/10 – Sparked the perfect reaction to Thursday’s mayhem, continuously catching Brentford out with the counter-press that Klopp swears by.
GK: Mark Flekken – 6/10 – Got one of his meaty paws to Van Dijk’s thumping first-half header but had no chance against any of the goals.
CB: Nathan Collins – 6/10 – Got his head in the way of plenty of balls into the box but could only stop so many forward thrusts on his own.
CB: Ethan Pinnock – 4/10 – Struggled to get to grips with an in-form Nunez.
CB: Ben Mee – 3/10 – Forgot the first rule of Sunday League football and didn’t play to the whistle, appealing for a goal kick while Salah scored. Next thing you know, he won’t even let the opponent know that he’s there.
RWB: Kristoffer Ajer – 5/10 – Tried to bully Jota with his towering physique but only enjoyed mixed success.
CM: Mathias Jensen – 5/10 – A threat from set pieces – be that free-kicks, corners or throw-ins – but more subdued in open play.
CM: Christian Norgaard – 6/10 – Battled well with Endo in a grubby midfield tangle.
CM: Vitaly Janelt – 3/10 – Hooked at half-time after a largely anonymous display.
LWB: Mads Roerslev – 4/10 – Combatted Salah’s threat by pushing forward but left himself with a lot of ground to cover on his way back towards his own goal.
ST: Bryan Mbeumo – 7/10 – A one-man swarm, capable of hauling his entire side up the pitch singlehandedly.
ST: Yoane Wissa – 5/10 – No cause was lost for Wissa but he didn’t have the same impact as his strike partner.
SUB: Frank Onyeka (46′ for Janelt) – 5/10
SUB: Neal Maupay (72′ for Wissa) – 5/10
SUB: Yegor Yarmolyuk (72′ for Jensen) – 5/10
SUB: Saman Ghoddos (73′ for Roerslev) – N/A
Subs not used: Thomas Strakosha (GK), Mathias Jorgensen, Shandon Baptiste, Myles Peart-Harris, Michael Olakigbe
Thomas Frank – 4/10 – Less than five minutes after his triple substitution, Jota made it 3-0, sucking all the air out of any fightback Frank had envisioned from the bench.