Match report and free highlights as goals from Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah keep Liverpool on the tails of Manchester City; Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez avoids a red card for reckless challenge on Diaz for first goal
Saturday 12 March 2022 17:17, UK
Liverpool closed the gap on Manchester City back to three points with a 2-0 victory over Brighton, who now have lost five games on the bounce.
Jurgen Klopp's men took the lead in surreal fashion when the brilliant Luis Diaz bravely headed home and got poleaxed by Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez in the immediate aftermath. The Liverpool forward walked away with no serious injury and despite a VAR review Sanchez's challenge was deemed not worthy of a red card.
Brighton, who started brightly but faded, should have equalised just after half-time but Leandro Trossard skied an effort over the bar from close range. That proved a costly miss as Mohamed Salah netted the important second goal on 61 minutes from the penalty spot after Yves Bissouma was penalised for handball by referee Mike Dean. Salah now has 20 goals for the Premier League season and has hit that milestone in four of his last five seasons with the club.
Despite that Trossard chance, Graham Potter's men struggled for any rhythm in the attacking third and failed to score for the fourth time in their last five Premier League games. They have now won just three of their last 24 matches in all competitions (90 minutes only) as the pressure starts to increase on their manager.
Brighton: Sanchez (5), Lamptey (6), Veltman (6), Dunk (6), Cucurella (6), Bissouma (6), Alzate (5), Mac Allister (6), March (5), Trossard (5), Maupay (6)
Subs: Lallana (N/A), Welbeck (6), Gross (6)
Liverpool: Alisson (7), Alexander-Arnold (7), Matip (8), Van Dijk (8), Robertson (7), Fabinho (7), Henderson (7), Keita (6), Salah (7), Mane (7), Diaz (9)
Subs: Thiago (7), Jota (7)
Man of the match: Luis Diaz
Meanwhile, Liverpool have won eight consecutive Premier League games for the first time since a run of 18 successive victories ending in February 2020, on their way to winning the title in 2019/20.
Attention in the title race now turns to Monday Night Football where Manchester City can extend the gap back to six points with a win at Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
The opening goal for Liverpool should have been a moment of pure ecstasy for both Diaz and the travelling Liverpool supporters - instead there was a surreal hush around The Amex as Sanchez's challenge in wiping out the Liverpool forward was quite sickening to watch live.
It didn't look much better from the replays it has to be said, to the extent that some Brighton fans around the press box winced at the sight of the replayed Sanchez challenge.
VAR, with Stuart Attwell on duty, did review the incident but decided the goalkeeper's high tackle on the Colombian wasn't even worthy of sending referee Dean to the monitor to assess whether serious foul play had occurred. Thankfully Diaz wasn't badly injured and gave Brighton the runaround for the remainder of the game but quite how the referees came to such a conclusion was quite baffling.
You'd have been hard pushed to find a single soul who thought the arrival of Luis Diaz would push even Sadio Mane and Salah into the shade. But that is the reality as the signing from Porto has adapted to life under Klopp so quickly and is currently Liverpool's most dangerous attacking player.
He was the game's outstanding player at the Amex with a display full of high energy, sublime quality and a huge amount of bravery - as seen by his opening goal that he put himself on the line for. "He did what a striker had to do," Klopp said.
"I didn't see it back but it was spectacular enough in the first moment. To get in there with his head it was really brave. A great goal."
It took him a while to warm up with Klopp visibly encouraging him to track back after losing a duel with Tariq Lamptey. It was like Klopp's words lit a fire under Diaz, who ripped the game apart from that moment.
Some of the highlights of his display was a 50-yard lung-bursting run back to nick the ball off Lamptey at the end of the first half and an equally as destructive 50-yard run forward that ended with a ridiculous pass to Salah, who should have doubled his tally for the afternoon. His running power is extraordinary.
As January transfer window signings go, they don't get much better than this one.
Jurgen Klopp said: "I can't talk about the situation as I only saw it once.
"It's a very good example of the issues we have with VAR. Mike Dean sees the goal and maybe isn't even thinking about a red card as the assistant referee is looking for offside. But it was a goal. But then there is an issue with 'clear and obvious'. This phrase is the real problem.
"Everybody is asking me whether it was a red card or not and when you get asked these questions it means most people thought it was a red card. So, for what reason could it not be a red card then? And there is only one reason for it: the phrase 'clear and obvious'. We have a referee who might not make a decision because there is VAR but then the VAR is thinking 'maybe Mike thought it wasn't a penalty so it's not clear and obvious' - you just can't have that view. The phrase 'clear and obvious' is a real problem from our point of view. It should be 'wrong or right' not 'clear and obvious'.
"Nobody should feel like overturning somebody. VAR is part of the team of referees and not someone from the outside who thinks he might embarrass the referee with his decision. There is a lot space for improvement, that's for sure."
Brighton boss Graham Potter said: "We started really well, we were the better team on the front foot. The goal took the wind out of our sails a little bit, especially with the run we're on and them being Liverpool. Credit to the boys they stuck in there.
"It's not a happy camp when you lose, but we just need to focus on the next game. The Premier League can be difficult. The recency of results is the lens you look at. Rightly so, but we need to do better.
"We need to get to the points tally we want, and the only way we can do that is to focus on the next game."
Brighton will next face Tottenham in the Premier League on Wednesday March 16 at 7.30pm.
Liverpool's next Premier League fixture will be against Mikel Arteta's Arsenal on the same day at 8.15pm, live on Sky Sports.