Liverpool: Klopp and his boys show their winning mentality and find a way to beat Brighton at Anfield
Liverpool were brimming with mediocrity in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Brighton, if we’re being honest.
This was a far cry from the sensational attacking football that inspired the Reds to last season’s Champions League final, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino all subdued by their usually world-class standards.
Prior to the game, another cruise in the late-summer sun was being predicted at Anfield, as has become the norm at Liverpool’s fortress of a home in the last 18 months.
Often Liverpool had games won before they started, such was the intimidation factor at Anfield and their dominant attacking displays – just ask Manchester City who lost both their fixtures at the stadium last season.
A difficult game
It didn’t pan out that way in the slightest, though, on what turned out to be a surprisingly tight affair.
Liverpool’s usual crispness in the final third evaded them, with passes too often out of place and players not in-sync with one another, while the Seagulls deserve great praise for making life difficult for the hosts.
They didn’t simply lie down and accept a comfortable defeat, much like West Ham on the opening weekend, and they came close to nicking a point at the end.
If Alisson’s ridiculous coolness on the ball was the main thing that caught the eye, as well as one delicious cross-field pass by Trent Alexander-Arnold – it was the passing equivalent of Benjamin Pavard’s beauty of a World Cup strike for France against Argentina – the Reds’ ability to grind out a win also stood out.
Simply put, Jurgen Klopp’s side would not have won that game a couple of years ago – maybe even last season, too.
For too long, they have seemed incapable of winning matches in which they don’t flourish, with soft goals conceded and a lack of ruthlessness in the final third on show. To win, they have had to be easily the better team.
It is the precise reason why the Premier League title is still only something Liverpool fans can dream of, with too many sloppy dropped points holding them back.
Ugly wins are important
On Saturday, however, the Reds got over the finish line in an ugly fashion and it was glorious to watch, in a bizarre way.
These are the games that those of a Liverpool persuasion have had to watch their title-winning rivals churn out so often, chipping away at points on their road to glory.
Contrary to popular belief, Man United were not always all-conquering week in, week out under Sir Alex Ferguson, with so many hard-fought 1-0s a huge secret behind their success.
Both of Jose Mourinho’s successful Chelsea outfits were exactly the same, with Arsenal and Man City no different during their different periods of dominance.
Liverpool’s matches have felt too eventful a lot of the time, with goals flying in for them but chances also offered up at the other end. There has been an element of chaos, both of which has worked for and against them.
Their win over Brighton was almost serene, however, and only Alisson’s late save to deny Pascal Gross gave cause for alarm.
Salah stroked home a lovely first-half finish and Liverpool looked in control from that moment on, even if they did become unprofessionally complacent as the minutes ticked by. It was their first 1-0 triumph since overcoming Crystal Palace at Anfield last August.
Much like at Palace last Monday, in another tight clash with the Eagles, you never expected them to throw away two points, which felt so alien when you think of Klopp’s Liverpool.
This winning mentality hasn’t only emerged this season, with some gritty victories earned in 2017/18, too, but they have still gone up a gear in that respect.
The addition of Alisson has made them look even more secure, following Virgil van Dijk’s arrival in January, and both are colossal figures who have made Liverpool so resolute.
Their influence is being felt enormously, but as an all-round unit, this is an increasingly mentally-strong group of players who are growing in belief. Klopp deserves huge credit for instilling confidence and grit into his squad.
There is an ever-increasing swell of opinion that this could be Liverpool’s year, even though City remain the undisputed title favourites.
Victories such as Saturday’s will only make those views seem more credible.
It hasn’t been a great start to the season by the Reds, in terms of quality and cohesion, yet they have maximum points and are yet to concede a goal.
That can only bode well moving forward, as they continue their search for the holy grail.
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