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Nick Szczepanik's press verdict: Liverpool

Praise from the papers as Albion hold the champions.

By Nick Szczepanik • 29 November 2020

By Paul Hazlewood
A high-five from Solly March after Pascal Gross' late equaliser against Liverpool.

The reports of Albion's battling 1-1 draw with champions Liverpool were unanimous in praising the performances of Graham Potter's men – everywhere except in front of goal.

Naturally, there were plenty of mentions of the Reds' crowded fixture list and equally crowded treatment room. VAR decisions that ruled out two Liverpool 'goals' and led to Albion's late leveller too. Most writers' intros also mentioned Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp's reaction to Pascal Gross' equaliser at the time and after the final whistle. But if there were any criticisms of the home side, they were for a failure to score more than once.

Typical was Ollie Holt in the Mail on Sunday: “It was deep into added time at the end of the game when Pascal Gross slammed his penalty down the middle past the dive of Alisson and into the back of the Liverpool net for Brighton's equaliser. 

“On the touchline at the Amex Stadium, Jurgen Klopp turned away and started clapping slowly and sarcastically towards the linesman in a gesture of impotent despair and fury.

“It had seemed until then that the champions had kicked away their crutches for just long enough to win another football match and move into a three-point lead at the top of the table but then Brighton were awarded their late spot-kick and suddenly all the demons that have been haunting the Liverpool manager and his team returned with a vengeance.  

“Brighton certainly did not look overawed by them and even though they went behind to a goal from Diogo Jota on the hour, they always looked as if they believed they were capable of forcing their way back into the game.

01:51

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Welbeck's Liverpool reaction

“They should have scored with their first attack. Liverpool's defence was prised open by a simple ball through its centre and Aaron Connolly ran through on goal. Alisson came out to meet him and Connolly opened his body to try to curl the ball around him but his effort drifted just wide. It was a glorious chance.

“Brighton were starting to discomfort the Liverpool back line and they created another golden opportunity midway through the half with a beautifully worked move that started with a raking pass from Solly March's left foot across the Liverpool area. 

“It was nodded on by Yves Bissouma and, when it fell to Connolly, his run was halted clumsily by Neco Williams and Stuart Attwell pointed to the spot. Maupay took the kick and went for placement rather than power. It looked precise when he slid it towards the bottom right corner, but it rolled well wide. It was a strange penalty. A couple of minutes later Maupay fell to the ground and made it clear he could not continue.”

In the Sunday Telegraph, Jim White wrote that “The truth was Brighton should never have been in a position to require the intervention of the video monitor. Confronted by opponents with so many injuries Liverpool will soon need to requisition the local Nightingale Hospital to accommodate the wounded, Brighton had a golden opportunity to register their first victory over the champions in 36 years. Or rather opportunities. At least half a dozen gilt-edged chances were squandered, including a wretchedly misdirected penalty kick early in the first half. 

“It began, Brighton's exhibition of profligacy, with no more than five minutes elapsed. Neal Maupay took advantage of Liverpool's preference for defending high to send Aaron Connolly belting forward from the halfway line. The Irishman span past the emergency centre back Fabinho, strode on into the area, then, looking for the top corner of the net, pushed a gilt-framed chance wide. 

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Potter hails huge performance

“Given the paucity of their resources, it was perhaps no surprise that Liverpool had started poorly. Wasteful in possession, slack in their passing, they looked wholly off kilter. And Brighton's attack did not appear keen to offer them respite. Alisson, on his 100th Liverpool appearance, was soon obliged to dash out and knee the ball into touch. And then Connolly again advanced into the area. Neco Williams took the less subtle approach to defending and tripped him. Referee Stuart Attwell pointed to the spot, but Maupay, despite sending Alisson the wrong way, put the penalty wide."

In The Observer, Barney Ronay observed: “A minute into stoppage time Liverpool seemed to have done enough to return from the south coast with parts falling off, hinges creaking, but three points still safely stowed away. An empty Amex Stadium on a sunny November lunchtime might seem one of football's friendlier away dates, but Jürgen Klopp's team were stretched to the limits in this 1-1 draw, and denied at the end by a penalty awarded by the VAR.

“On the other hand, Brighton were perky, lively and bold in their attacking play. Neal Maupay missed a penalty in the first half. The champions showed grit and deep reserves, with Diogo Jota again scoring a vital goal. But the season is a slog right now. Victories will be wrung out in blood and twanging muscles, points will be dropped.

“Adam Lallana came on and then off again eight minutes later. For Liverpool Milner limped off to be replaced by Curtis Jones, as they fielded a third fill-in right-back in the space of 73 minutes. Brighton continued to attack energetically, Yves Bissouma a commanding figure in midfield.

“Phillips produced an outstanding clearance in front of his own goal. Sadio Mane headed in from a free-kick but was ruled offside by VAR. And at the death Andy Robertson connected with Danny Welbeck trying to clear the ball, the kind of incident that TV replays were always going to call as a foul. Brighton deserved a point. But Klopp will still see two missed.”

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PL: Albion 1 Liverpool 1

Melissa Reddy of The Independent enjoyed a game that she called “pumped full of incidents: two disallowed goals, two spot-kicks - one of which was missed - and three muscle injuries.

“With a third game in the week, Jurgen Klopp had gambled with his selection against Atalanta in the Champions League - a fixture ceded 2-0 at Anfield - to hopefully bank a victory here. That was so close to being achieved until the 93rd minute, when an incident that wasn’t clear and obvious was forensically checked to give Brighton an opportunity to level matters. Graham Potter's charges, in fairness, were worthy of a point.”

Jonathan Northcroft, the Sunday Times football correspondent, had an interesting take on the incident that led to Albion's late second penalty. He wrote: “VAR is wrongly portrayed as an incompetent system when the reverse is true — it works too well. It converts decisions previously made on the referee's 'feel' for the moment to ones of unbendable, forensic detail. Did Robertson's boot make contact with Welbeck's? Yes, and with VAR the reasoning ends there. Yet was that contact meaningful? Was it a touch, a brush, or something with the more forcible impact that we once understood to be necessary for a foul? Only the on-pitch referee, standing yards away from the incident, knows – but VAR routinely overrules refs' instincts.

“No team is suffering from that more than Liverpool. Eight decisions have gone against Klopp's team after VAR review in the Premier League in 2020-21 – twice as many as the next greatest 'victims', who are Brighton, Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Manchester United. Adding to Klopp's angst was the fact he would have replaced Robertson had the five substitutes rule he wants been in place. Robertson's challenge on Welbeck had been a tired one but Klopp had already made the three changes he is currently allowed, including replacing James Milner — who joined Liverpool's long injury list with a hamstring strain.

“The result? Leaving aside its circumstances, probably fair. Brighton were terrific early on, executing a better high press than Liverpool's and playing passes forward quickly, to turn Klopp's slow centre backs and bypass his leaden midfield. A point sent Liverpool top, but Klopp was not celebrating. Graham Potter left the happier: Brighton will survive, playing like this.”

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