Van Dijk’s magnificent half-century & the return of ‘Penaltypool’ – 5 key stats from Brighton 0-1 Liverpool

13 January 2019

Liverpool ground out a vital 1-0 victory at Brighton on Saturday, with the usual post-match statistics providing plenty of intrigue.


Jurgen Klopp‘s table-toppers pulled seven points clear of Man City, following a hard-fought win at the Amex Stadium.

Mohamed Salah won and scored a penalty early in the second-half, with the Egpytian’s effort getting his side over the line.

These are the victories that win teams titles, and with every week that passes, the more supporters are dreaming of glory in May.

Here are five of the best statistics from Liverpool’s crucial triumph.

 

Trio’s Magnificent Half-Century

BRIGHTON AND HOVE, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 12, 2019: Brighton & Hove Albion's Pascal Gross (L) and Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the American Express Community Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Saturday saw Virgil van Dijk produce another imperious showing at the heart of the Reds’ defence, with the Dutchman faultless in all facets of his play.

It was the 27-year-old’s 50th appearance for Liverpool, during which time he has recorded 33 wins.

Incidentally, both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson had also won 33 times in their first 50 matches, along with seven other former Reds, highlighting just how superb the full-back duo have also been.

To put that into perspective, only Craig Johnston (37), Peter Beardsley (35), Ronnie Whelan (34) and Ian Rush (34) have notched up more victories in their opening half-century of games.

Potential future legends are being built before our own eyes!

 

Priceless Salah

BRIGHTON AND HOVE, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 12, 2019: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the first goal from the penalty kick during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the American Express Community Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Salah has tweaked his game this season, with Klopp often using him as a centre-forward rather than a right winger, drifting inside to wreak havoc.

He has become a player who doesn’t always influence games for large periods, but who is ruthless at the key moments.

That is highlighted by the fact that nine of Salah’s 14 Premier League goals this season have been openers, with victory secured every time.

Three of those efforts have been the only goa: twice against Brighton and once away to Huddersfield, as well as the solitary strike at home to Napoli in the Champions League.

It is sometimes easy to take for granted how special Salah is, and his constant stream of big goals are helping inspire Liverpool’s title challenge.

 

Brilliant Attacking Quartet

BRIGHTON AND HOVE, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 12, 2019: Liverpool's Sheridan Shaqiri during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the American Express Community Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

When the Reds’ starting lineup was announced an hour before kick-off, it was instantly pleasing to see Xherdan Shaqiri, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Salah all starting.

Used in Klopp’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, they are a match for any defence in Europe, becoming very much the new ‘Fab Four’ at Anfield.

In truth, they didn’t fire on all cylinders at the Amex, but their brilliance alongside one another was highlighted by analyst Andrew Beasley.

Liverpool have scored 19 times when the quartet have all been on the pitch together this season, conceding just once, at home to Arsenal.

The only time the Reds have failed to score with them all in tandem was during 71-minute spell against Everton in December, before Divock Origi came on and broke Blues’ hearts.

 

‘Penaltypool’

BRIGHTON AND HOVE, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 12, 2019: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah scores the first goal from a penalty kick during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the American Express Community Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Remember when Liverpool almost seemed incapable of winning penalties, especially Salah?

Fortunately, that bizarre run of unfortunate decisions has started to change for the better, as recent statistics suggest.

Since Christmas Day, the Reds have been awarded four spot-kicks – three more than any other team (Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Leicester and Southampton).

Salah has won three of those, against Newcastle, Arsenal and Brighton, with Dejan Lovren also winning one against the Gunners.

Rival supporters are doing their best to drum up a narrative that Salah is suddenly becoming a ‘diver’; it is a nonsensical argument, with referees making correct calls on each occasion.

Let’s not forget, until the penalty against Fulham, it had been 378 days since we were last awarded a league penalty at Anfield – which was the Reds’ longest sequence without one at home in the top-flight for 16 years.

 

Fabinho Excels in Defence

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, January 7, 2019: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' during the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With Liverpool littered with injury problems at the back, it was no surprise to see Fabinho start alongside Van Dijk on Saturday.

There wasn’t too much concern in the air, though, with the Brazilian impressing at centre-back at Wolves on Monday night, despite the Reds exiting the FA Cup.

He was excellent all afternoon up against the physical Glenn Murray, never looking remotely out of place in an alien role.

The post-match statistics caught the eye, with 100 percent (4/4) of his aerial duels won, a pass success rate of 85 per cent and one each of a tackle and interception made.

Fabinho‘s total of five clearances were the most of any player on the pitch, on an afternoon when he displayed his versatility superbly.

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