Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Murray 51’ (pen)
Liverpool 5 Can 30’, Firmino 31’ 48’, Coutinho 87’, Dunk 89’ OG
I can’t remember the last time a 5-1 win felt this off.
On paper Liverpool crushed Brighton & Hove Albion today. In practice, this feels like a nervy 1-0 or 2-1 win. It feels like we got away with something. I’m not sure how this is even possible, except to point out that it’s Liverpool. This is a team that’s interesting, in the Chinese Proverb sense of the term.
The scoreline is unmistakable. The result is more than welcome. The rest? Well.
So that lineup was, uh. It was something, wasn’t it? It was definitely eleven (11) players on a teamsheet reflecting the manager’s choice for a starting squad. Yes indeed. Definitely a list of players.
there's gonna be a point today when emre, gini, dejan, henderson, milner, and coutinho are all standing in the center circle calling for the ball— Swinging Christmas Ultra (@NarrativeUltra) December 2, 2017
Mood: Scared— Liverpool Offside (@LFCOffside) December 2, 2017
I’m not sure where this setup came from. Maybe it was necessitated by injuries and fatigue. Maybe it was overconfident after recent wins. Maybe Klopp was looking ahead to the crucial Champions League game in midweek. Who knows. I’m glad he felt comfortable enough to have fun and be weird with this fixture. I’m not sure I could’ve.
The opening half an hour or so was... fine. Liverpool did fine. Maybe fine wasn’t good enough with this new and wacky setup, I don’t know, I’ll leave that to you. But we got through that first 30 minutes without giving up a goal. So that’s something.
And then right on that half-hour mark, Liverpool did something truly wacky. They took control of the game.
First was Emre Can heading in a goal from a corner kick. Imagine that! Liverpool scoring from a set piece! The mind races!
And then literally a minute or so later, Liverpool’s forward line got through on a break and set Roberto Firmino up for the second goal in as many minutes. 2-0 and Brighton barely knew what was happening.
I won’t say Liverpool dominated the game through til halftime. But they had enough of a grasp of things that, between their play and the two-goal lead, I felt remarkably less frightened by the time I got up to use the toilet and grab a banana.
Right as I set back down for the second half, Liverpool appeared to put the game out of reach for Brighton. After nearly conceding a goal, Mohamed Salah led the charge on a counterattack to set up Firmino’s second goal on the day and Liverpool’s third. It sure seemed like everything was well in hand.
And then a minute later Liverpool gave up a bullshit penalty and Brighton pulled one back. Womp womp.
Commentators declaring "game over" when a team goes up 3-0 and then "they're back in this!" as soon as the other team scores to make it 3-1 is my favorite thing.— Stephy Klaus ☃️ (@epic_skyline) December 2, 2017
Things settled down after that, but not enough for most of us to feel anything resembling secure. After all, it would be entirely on-brand for Liverpool to go up 3-0 against a newly-promoted side and then piss it all away.
Twenty minutes to go up two goals against a newly promoted side and I'm super nervous. This is Liverpool.— Liverpool Offside (@LFCOffside) December 2, 2017
And because nothing comes easy for this team, Can got himself a groin injury in the latter stages of the game. Most managers, having made no substitutions by the 75th minute, would’ve used one to take Can off to give him some rest and to not aggravate an injury. Jurgen Klopp is not most managers.
With 15 minutes left Brighton have made three changes and Emre Can may have a groin injury but Liverpool have made none but I mean you already knew that.— Liverpool Offside (@LFCOffside) December 2, 2017
I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to find Liverpool’s tendency to struggle against weaker teams, even when they have a multiple-goal advantage, to be personally offensive. It’s Brighton, it’s five minutes from full time, and we’re up by two. I shouldn’t be chewing on my fingernails. But here we are.
I was completely expecting to screw this up and drop points. Maybe it reflected the balance of play and maybe it didn’t. I’ll admit that my own unresolved trauma comes into play here. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was going to end in a 3-3 draw.
So of course this team made me feel like an idiot for ever feeling that way.
First, Philippe Coutinho hit a cheeky low free kick to make it 4-1 with five minutes remaining.
And then with time bleeding out, Coutinho hit another shot that deflected off of Lewis Dunk for a fluky own-goal.
That’s how it closed out. 5-1 to the Mighty Mighty Reds. Even if things felt much more tenuous at times.
I don’t know. Maybe football has just broken me and I can’t enjoy games like this anymore.
Anyway we won! On to European glory!