Jurgen Klopp regards reactions as crucial and he got one from his players on Wednesday night as Liverpool eased past Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 at Amex Stadium.
Safe from relegation and with no crowd in the ground, Brighton had little to play for beyond pride. Yet, Liverpool’s quality and desire meant this match offered the Merseysiders a chance to win their 30th league game of the campaign.
Liverpool pounced early, squeezing the Seagulls into making mistakes. Within the first 10 minutes, the Reds surged to a 2-0 lead.
Mo Salah scored with a fine finish after Naby Keita stole then slid the ball across Brighton’s box. Just 70 seconds later, Keita again pinched the ball and started a sequence that saw Jordan Henderson hammer one home from just outside the area.
Scoring two so early meant Liverpool coasted a little. Late in the opening half, Neco Williams found himself in the book and then he lost Tariq Lamptey. The Brighton fullback sent a beautiful cross to Leandro Trossard for a fantastic finish.
The second half saw changes, as Klopp replenished the side with regular starters to ensure a positive result.
Eventually, James Milner was called into action after Henderson suffered from an awkward collision with Brighton’s Yves Bissouma that seemingly injured the captain’s knee. While Liverpool will await the scan, no one will want to lose Hendo for any time during this procession to raising the trophy.
In the 76th minute, Salah scored his second goal to leave the result in no doubt.
Here are four findings from the match.
From a pressing standpoint, the Reds were ready to go. Two goals in less than two minutes born out of not only Brighton blunders but decisive, aggression.
Naby Keita featured prominently in both sequences, closing quickly and winning the ball back to spark the attacks.
When Liverpool show that level of ruthlessness, there is not a side in the league that is capable of living with them.
Of course, the home side made errors but the Reds forced them with their high line and immediate pressure. The Seagulls struggled to play the ball out from the back with every goal kick.
While Naby Keita can, at times, divide opinion, the midfielder was superb against Brighton. All over the pitch, the Guinean showed his quality.
Not only did he win the ball for the first two goals but he put Mo Salah through for a beautiful chance early in the second half.
Playing alongside Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson, Keita provided the kind of creative spark that Liverpool sometimes lacks.
The blend of the three through the middle provided a better balance. It allowed Keita to showcase his versatility and gave him greater security to indulge his attacking instincts.
Shifted out to the left, Neco Williams spelled Andrew Robertson for a half before a yellow card cut his appearance short at the break.
In his first Premier League start, the 19-year-old fullback showed his age at times but played well enough to earn more minutes. He was clearly eager to impress.
The Welshman was quite bright going forward but had his hands full with Brighton’s fullback Tariq Lamptey when tracking back. Williams lacked a step on Lamptey and felt far more comfortable with his right foot to be completely confident on the left flank.
However, it was his caution more than the couple of errors that cost him more time on the pitch.
A brace for Mo Salah, though it could have been more. He opened the scoring with an excellent one-time finish that set the tone for the initial period of play that saw the Reds open a commanding lead.
Then in the second half, he bookended the scoring with a bullet header from an Andrew Robertson corner. It was training ground tactics from the set-piece.
A couple of additional chances got away, but none were as good as the last touch of the game, where Salah skewed a header over the bar.
Still, the Egyptian King now has 19 goals, three behind in his chase to catch Jaime Vardy for a third consecutive Golden Boot. Even more stunning, Salah now has 73 goals and 27 assists in 104 league appearances. Sensational!