Salah strike enough to sink Brighton and Hove Albion on a tough trip to Liverpool
Mohamed Salah's first half strike was enough to separate the two sides as Brighton faced the daunting task of a trip to Anfield.
The Egyptian’s neat finish was the difference as Liverpool struggled to find a decisive second against a resolute Albion side.
Going into the game Chris Hughton made two changes to the side that beat Manchester United as Leon Balogun replaced the injured Lewis Dunk for his first start and Pascal Gross made way for the debut of Yves Bissouma, while Jurgen Klopp named an unchanged side for the third game running.
Bissouma was one of the brighter sparks for the away side in the first half but was given a harsh introduction to Premier League midway through the half. Balogun played the ball to the 21-year-old Malian who was unaware that James Milner was already at speed closing him down. The England midfielder stole the ball from the debutant for Mane. A split second later the ball was with Firmino and then Salah in the box. Last season’s top scorer opened his body up and curled a low first time shot past Mat Ryan to bring the Kop to its feet.
The Australian stopper had been called into action after five minutes when he made an excellent one-handed save from Firmino’s close range header.
Not long afterwards, he had to be alert to push Georginio Wijnaldum’s spinning shot from seven yards wide and Mane’s close range diving header moments later.
Perhaps unsurprisingly Liverpool enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and were constantly probing and trying to find another opening. However, Brighton did not go down without a fight. Away form is part of Brighton’s game that must improve and the hard-working performance today will have pleased Hughton.
The Seagulls had the first shot on target of the game as Knockaert cut in from the right and drilled a low shot that Alisson got his body behind. The Frenchman had one of the Albion’s best chances of the game early in the second half. An interception by Stephens, captain in the absence of Bruno and Dunk, set the diminutive winger away and, after feeding Murray who bullied his way to the byline, had a volley at goal but could only drill the ball wide.
Liverpool continued to press the away side but they did not fold as they have done in previous fixtures against Klopp’s men. A handful of chances came and went, none clear enough to really trouble Ryan. Brighton had spells where they struggled to get out of their half but, without possession, were still organised and fighting for every ball.
As the weight of a narrow lead started to wear on the home side, Brighton looked to finish strongly. Murray put pressure on Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson and forced him into a rare error, but the Albion couldn’t make it count.
As stoppage time approached, Brighton had a fantastic chance to force an equaliser.
As the men in blue and white moved the ball from side to side to try and find space, Montoya found room wide on the right to swing in a cross. The ball evaded the Liverpool defenders and found the head of Pascal Gross, a late substitute, from all of six yards. His downward header was too close to Alisson and the keeper parried it behind for a corner.
On the balance of play Klopp’s men would have felt very hard done by not to take all three points but for the Albion fans heading back down the M6 it would have perhaps been a reward for their side’s tireless performance.