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Liverpool’s midfield lacking “balance, rhythm and cohesion” in Brighton draw

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The watching media were hugely critical of Liverpool’s sloppy showing at home to Brighton, as key points were dropped in the Premier League title race.

The Reds could only draw 2-2 at Anfield on Saturday, blowing a two-goal lead and arguably leaving the ground fortunate not to lose.

Goals from Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane gave Liverpool the perfect start but efforts from Enoch Mwepu and Leandro Trossard stunned the home crowd.

It was an extremely disappointing afternoon, blowing some of the momentum built from last weekend, but it was still no disaster.

Here’s a look at how the media reacted to Liverpool’s slip-up.

 

It was no surprise to see the sloppiness of the result focused on…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 30, 2021: Liverpool's Andy Robertson during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Telegraph‘s Chris Bascombe accused Liverpool of getting complacent early on:

“Liverpool will look back and wonder how they surrendered such supremacy, and perhaps consider if they were lulled into a false sense of security by a blistering start.

“Their showboating began after nine minutes. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah were exchanging one touch passes on the right, and Roberto Firmino was turning every received ball into a backheeled one-two.

“Captivating viewing? Certainly Premature? Absolutely.”

Samuel Meade of the Mirror was of a similar thought process:

“Smash Manchester United for five one week, draw with Brighton the next. Football’s a funny old game. Go back six days and the Reds produced an incredibly clinical display to humiliate their arch rivals.

“It looked to be business as usual once again after half an hour as Liverpool were 2-0 up and cruising. Cruising though is a dangerous place to be, especially against a team who have nothing to lose.

Brighton stuck to their principles and were more than deserving of their equaliser just after the hour and looked the team more likely to find a winner.”

Andy Hunter of the Guardian felt the Reds never merited all three points:

“Liverpool made it 24 games unbeaten in all competitions for the first time since 1989, and 20 Premier League matches without defeat, but such details will be little consolation after they squandered a two-goal lead against Brighton. The visitors fought back with style and belief in their methods to claim a merited draw.

[…]

“Three goals would have reflected Liverpool’s form in front of goal, but also glossed over the problems Brighton caused from the start.

“Klopp has maintained his team’s defending needs to improve throughout their fine run. That improvement was not forthcoming here.”

Carl Markham of the Independent felt the need to praise an impressive Brighton performance:

“Part of their success was becoming only the second team this season after Burnley – here in August – to stop Mohamed Salah finding the net as his 10-match goalscoring run was brought to a halt, with his only chance seeing an effort ruled out for offside.

“Credit must go to the visitors, and their manager, who never cowered in the face of Liverpool’s pressure and had by far the better of the second half to be fully worthy of their point.

“They are in good company as only title contenders Chelsea and Manchester City have left Anfield with anything other than a defeat this season, and to have Liverpool’s nerves jangling as they did in the last 20 minutes was an indication of how their focused and committed approach paid dividends.”

 

Central midfield was a big issue for Liverpool…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 30, 2021: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This Is Anfield felt Naby Keita‘s first-half injury swung the game in Brighton‘s favour:

“Around 20 minutes into the match he was down and subbed off – it’s not immediately clear if it was a recurrence of the same issue, or something new suffered during the opening stages, but it certainly comes at a frustrating time. The No. 8 was great at Old Trafford and had started extremely well against the Seagulls, but it’s another reminder of how his Anfield time has been interrupted.

Jordan Henderson, meanwhile, was deepest but made two early forward runs – the first led to a great goal. The captain was defensively much better in the first half but one of many bypassed with regularity in the second as energy looked sapped and the shape was poor.

“It wasn’t Curtis Jones‘ best outing either, on or off the ball – but needs-must at this stage and the available players have to step up.”

The Echo‘s Paul Gorst thought there was a horrible lack of cohesion in the middle of the park:

“The midfield lacked balance, rhythm and cohesion and that was understandable given it was a trio that was foisted upon the manager through a succession of injuries.

Curtis Jones struggled to impose himself and Henderson looked dead on his feet for the final 15 minutes as the demands for a winner were screamed down on the players.

 

Some did try to find positives, though…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 30, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané (2nd from R) celebrates with team-mates after scoring a goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Gorst touched upon the Reds’ continued unbeaten record and City’s defeat:

“It leaves them trailing early pace-setters Chelsea by three points as the Premier League gets set to turn into a three-horse race as the clocks go back this weekend.

“For the good news; Manchester City were beaten 2-0 at the Etihad by Crystal Palace to ensure the Reds retain second place, for now.

“Liverpool also remain unbeaten in 24 games and are now just one off the club record set back in the early 80s.”

TIA were impressed by a strong showing by Mane, hailing it as his best of 2021/22 so far:

“This was quite possibly Sadio Mane‘s best showing of the campaign.

“Our No. 10 scored one, had another ruled out and created shed-loads of chances through both technical excellence and fierce, relentless work rate.

“Mane pressed and tackled (including the goalkeeper), dribbled well and won set-pieces, while his movement for the goal was clever and untrackable – with a header as unerring as ever.

“This wasn’t vintage attacking play from the Reds outside of the first 20 minutes or so, but Mane was certainly the pick of the performers.”

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