Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Brighton 2 Liverpool 2 in the Premier League at the Amex…
It was tense and grew more tense.
Both of these sides do not want to lose the ball to each other and it defines the whole match. It defines the opening when Liverpool are poor.
In lots of ways Brighton are Liverpool’s kryptonite. They want the press. They are built to withstand it. So Liverpool can’t do that. They are more vulnerable to 442 than 433 so Liverpool change to that at the expense of fluency. They have pace and quality in wide areas and make cutting off the supply almost impossible. But Liverpool try.
You end up bending yourself into all sorts of shapes because of the very specific challenge Brighton pose.
But we get to see the why. Why both sides don’t want to lose it. Simon Adingra nicks it and scores because the keeper isn’t set. When Liverpool play well for 20 seconds they score. The spaces are there, the risks and rewards and visible, the action is agonising.
When Liverpool press Brighton into the error for the penalty the game intelligence seems sky high but it is the same game intelligence that seemed absent earlier. It wasn’t, not really, but players weren’t playing well on one hand and, well, Brighton, on the other.
Brighton though, in hindsight, may well be rueing what they do from 1-0 till 1-1. We seemed vulnerable but they couldn’t find a hammer to put down. The flip side though is indeed that equaliser, when Liverpool found space.
The football is different, is my point. The usual rules don’t apply. Both sides work it to the final third, have a look and then start again. I love starting again but this is extreme. Everyone’s outball is their centre-half but then again everyone’s centre-halves can play.
It ratchets up the tension. The game isn’t happening, it is about to happen. It will be calm and then it will be a flurry of activity. There will be no space until there is a ton of space. Anxiety spreads because anxiety is priced in.
Brighton should take the game away from Liverpool but then second-half Liverpool should take it away from Brighton; obviously the Ryan Gravenberch miss, but Liverpool feel in control. They should find a hammer to put down themselves.
That isn’t how this game works. It goes against lots of football’s rules and so when The Reds drive you a little bit mad you need to remember, Jake, that this is Chinatown.
Dominik Szoboszlai is again marvellous. He grows into it but ends the game the most compelling midfielder. Kaoru Mitoma is barely visible first-half but ends the game as its defining winger.
For me the most pleasing performance isn’t the scorer of the brace, Mo Salah, or even the scorer of the equaliser, Lewis Dunk, it is, instead, Darwin Nuñez. His performance is low key tremendous. He is a constant nuisance and just needs the ball to bounce for him. It never quite does but he brings teammates into play, finds space and always does the decent thing.
In the end the weight of the set-pieces tell. I suspect were I watching on television I’d be vexed by the referee but in the ground, a mad decision against Joe Gomez aside, I need to concur with the Liverpool manager – I basically feel too old for this shit beyond a certain point.
What we’ve had is a reminder that Liverpool are a work in progress but seeing some of Arsenal/Man City oddly they look like that too. Nothing was lost today. What matters more than anything is when the hammer is there that Liverpool can put it down.
That’s the next challenge, the bounce into that matters. I’d have taken 8 points from this block of 4 but we have 7 and we need to take our medicine. We’ve played 8 games though and 5 have been away from home. 3 of the next 4 are at Anfield and we need to do the decent thing with aplomb.
Everything is live and that is why it grew more and more tense. But you can build a season and we are still doing that.
Nothing is lost. Brighton is both brilliant off the pitch and odd on it and it is done for this year now. 30 games left and none will be like this.
Put the hammer down. See where we end up. It will be somewhere good.