Liverpoool 3 - 0 Brentford
Liverpool: Fabinho 44’, Oxlade-Chamberlain 69’, Minamino 77’
After a series of COVID-positive encounters and an underwhelming draw against Arsenal in the League Cup, Liverpool will be looking for an opportunity to emerge from the January slump with a win. A number of key players such as Alisson have returned from isolation, and feature in the lineup. Virgil Van Dijk and Andrew Robertson both picked up knocks against Arsenal, but are fit today. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Naby Keita are away, playing in the African Cup of Nations, and the front line is composed of Diogo Jota, Bobby Firmino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Klopp has fielded a reasonably strong midfield of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, and Curtis Jones - they will be under pressure to nullify Brentford’s energetic football. Gordon and Morton are on the bench and one hopes to see either of them get some minutes in.
Brentford open with their typical high press but Liverpool quickly gain control of the game. Jota has a few scoring chances, but Brentford’s keeper Alvarez blocks them. Trent looks lively and is a consistent threat from the right-wing. Both full-backs make a number of signature crosses in towards goal, while the midfield looks fairly sharp controlling the tempo of the game. All we need is a goal (or two).
Around 22’, Alvarez denies Van Dijk a scoring opportunity from a corner. In the last ten minutes of the half, the back line starts looking sloppy, and Brentford gets in on the break a number of times. Ivan Toney and Vitaly Janelt team up and break through Liverpool’s defence around 41’, but Alisson scrambles to hit it away and succeeds. Liverpool still keep up the pressure and are rewarded at 43’ when a corner from Trent is received by an unmarked Fabinho, who heads it cleanly in - and GOAL! A positive outcome from a dominant Liverpool, but one that doesn’t leave them in a comfortable position just yet.
The second half resumes with Liverpool more or less as organized as before, barring a few awkward moments where Brentford get away on the counter. Bryan Mbeumo makes a run at the backline defeating Joel Matip in an encounter, and forces Alisson to lunge out wide. Liverpool still have 20 attempts with 3 shots on target, as opposed to Brentford 3 and 0, so the threat is contained overall. Ox capitalizes on an opportunity at 69’ with a header and GOAL! He is unluckily subbed off at 73’ due to an ankle issue. Takumi Minamino comes on in his place, and at 76’ he links up with Firmino to take advantage of some dismal defending by Brentford’s keeper and defence, to slot the ball into GOAL! Happy 27th birthday Taki indeed!
Around 80’ the Kop is heard chanting freshly-sacked Everton manager Rafa Benitez’s name - Lord knows why. It’s a mystery to me.
At 81’ , 17 year-old wonder-child Kaide Gordon comes on for Jota, making his Premier League debut to a warm reception from the crowd. Six minutes later Minamino sends a streaking ball towards him. Gordon takes a run at goal, but it is saved by Alvarez.
Final Thoughts and Man of the Match
Despite missing the key talents of Salah and Mane, the Reds looked composed. The full-backs were firing, and players like Jota and Oxlade-Chamberlain put in industrious shifts to carry them over. Other than some issues with finishing, this seemed like it was “back to business” for Klopp and Co, after a period of less than desirable results. Brentford made a few commendable attempts in attack, but their defensive errors proved far too costly. Despite the wide-ish gulf in points with Manchester City, if Liverpool continue with today’s form (note: this was in the absence of the lethal Salah-Mane duo), they stand a chance to make up ground. After all, who could tell early last year that we’d finish third in the league in May...
Liverpool’s Man of the Match vs. Brentford
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