Joel Matip and Luis Diaz were the shining lights as Liverpool clinched a hard-fought 2-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.
Brighton & Hove Albion started the game brightly, taking the game to Liverpool from the word go. But the Seagulls could not make the most of their dominant spells, failing to trouble Alisson Becker at any point. The visitors soon wrested control of the game, showing enough promise before breaking the deadlock midway through the first half.
The goal took a lot of bravery from Luis Diaz, who did not hesitate in getting his head to Joel Matip’s long pass, even as Robert Sanchez came crashing in towards him. Liverpool continued dominating the proceedings but did not have the cutting edge to double their lead before half time.
The Reds remained the stronger of the two sides after the interval, but Brighton threatened on the break at times. Liverpool got a breakthrough at the hour mark, as Yves Bissouma inexplicably handled the ball to stop a wild shot by Naby Keita. Mohamed Salah stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick, making no error in emphatically finding the back of the net.
The two teams traded blows after that, but most of the action was restricted to the midfield area. That meant Brighton could not trouble Liverpool enough to script the kind of comeback they did in the reverse fixture, with the Reds’ winning run in the Premier League continuing.
Three points on the south coast ? pic.twitter.com/z61utgy6Qm
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 12, 2022
With Manchester City not playing until Monday, the Merseyside giants have narrowed the gap to the top to three points. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jurgen Klopp’s men following their hard-fought 2-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion.
Alisson Becker: 6/10
Alisson was not troubled much at the Amex Stadium on Saturday, even though Brighton threatened at times. The Brazilian was the subject of a controversial moment when he seemed to have handled the ball outside the Liverpool box, although the assistant referee did not adjudge that to be handball. That said, Alisson was colossal late in the game, making one big save to deny Danny Welbeck.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 6/10
The two Liverpool full-backs were understated in their performances on Saturday, especially with Marc Cucurella keeping Alexander-Arnold busy. But his improving defensive game was on display, as he contained the threat on his flank. He also played a game-high three key passes, although his passing was generally lacklustre.
Joel Matip: 8/10
Matip was a rock at the back, particularly when Brighton threatened in the early exchanges. The experienced defender made some important clearances and won all his duels. But the cherry on top was the delightfully piercing pass that found Luis Diaz for the opener.
Joel Matip's last 5 Premier League appearances:
3 clean sheets
1 goal scored
1 goal conceded
February's Player of the Month with an opening assist vs Brighton. ? pic.twitter.com/7C85iTDUE8
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 12, 2022
Virgil van Dijk: 7/10
Despite some early scares about van Dijk contracting COVID-19, the Dutchman was fit and available to take on Brighton. His availability was a major positive for Liverpool, as the Dutchman provided a calming presence at the heart of the defence, especially when Brighton took the game to the Reds.
Andrew Robertson: 6/10
Robertson was not as expressive as he has been lately, as he had his hands full with Tariq Lamptey. But the Scotsman handled the marauding Brighton full-back expertly for the most part, while being an attacking outlet when the opportunities presented themselves.
Jordan Henderson: 6/10
Henderson was not quite at his best after returning to the starting lineup. The Liverpool captain struggled to play out of the Brighton press at times, and some of his passing was wayward, as he only completed 73% of his attempted passes. But he was solid off the ball, completing several important tackles and interceptions.
Fabinho made a slow start to the game as Brighton ran rampant in the early stages. But as the minutes wore on, the Brazilian found a stable footing, showing composure on the ball to initiate swift attacking plays.
Naby Keita: 7/10
Keita was a bundle of energy in the middle of the park, showing a lot of desire to complete his defensive tasks convincingly. The Guinean international made crucial interceptions when Brighton ran rampant and won key duels. He also earned Liverpool the penalty that Mohamed Salah converted when Yves Bissouma handled his wild shot.
Mohamed Salah: 7/10
Mohamed Salah is the first Liverpool player to score 20+ Premier League goals in FOUR different seasons:
◉ 32 in 2017/18
◉ 22 in 2018/19
◎ 19 in 2019/20
◉ 22 in 2020/21
◉ 20 and counting in 2021/22
He was one away from making it 5/5. ?pic.twitter.com/XGJGNOyDRL
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 12, 2022
In a week that his delicate contract situation has eventually dominated, Salah was not as lively as he has been for much of the ongoing campaign. The Egyptian wing-wizard lacked his usual sharpness on the ball and did not always take the right decisions, apart from one clever cut-back for Sadio Mane.
But Salah got his goal when Liverpool won a penalty in the second half, slamming his spot-kick home with purpose. With the goal, Salah became the first Liverpool player to score 20 or more goals in four Premier League campaigns. That said, there will concerns about his fitness after he limped off the pitch.
Sadio Mane: 6/10
Mane was not quite at his best on Saturday, as he struggled to get into the game as much as he would have liked. While the Senegalese international saw plenty of the ball, most of it was far from the Brighton box. But Mane ensured he did not lose the ball cheaply, completing all but one pass in the game.
Luis Diaz: 8/10
Luis Diaz’s impressive start to his Liverpool career continued on Saturday, as he scored the crucial opening goal. The Colombian international showed a lot of bravery to connect his head to Matip’s pass, even though he was eventually hauled down by Robert Sanchez’s wild challenge.
Luis Diaz has now scored 18 goals in all competitions this season:
1️⃣6️⃣ goals for FC Porto
2️⃣ goals for Liverpool
2 goals in 5 PL starts for Liverpool's new signing. ? pic.twitter.com/Z8jGyd48wH
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 12, 2022
Diaz did not shy away from his defensive responsibilities either, putting in the hard yards off the ball while stretching play when on it. But he should have converted Thiago Alcantara’s pass late in the game, when he also had the option of setting up Diogo Jota for a third Liverpool goal.
Thiago Alcantara: 6/10
Thiago replaced Naby Keita shortly after Salah scored Liverpool’s second and helped Liverpool retain control over the proceedings. He played one sumptuous pass to release Diaz late in the game, but the Colombian could not apply the finishing touch.
Diogo Jota: 6/10
Jota was introduced in place of Salah, who sustained a minor knock. The Portuguese forward was lively in the final third but could not do much despite some bright moments on the ball. He needs to do more to win his mini-battle with Diaz for a place in the starting eleven.
James Milner: N/A
A late introduction, Milner helped see the game out.