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Liverpool rediscover scoring touch to sweep past Brentford and move up to second

The Independent
The Independent
 2022-01-16

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Jurgen Klopp burst towards the Kop, furiously fist-pumping to illustrate the importance of victory against Brentford. This wasn’t a blockbuster game, nor blockbuster opponents but Liverpool’s manager knows the fight and three points can be vital signs for the rest of the season.

A first win in four league matches came on his 350th outing in charge of the club, catapulting them above Chelsea in second, but it wasn’t without heaps of toil.

Virgil van Dijk kissed Fabinho ’s head, a symbol of relief as Anfield broke into rapture. They had probed and probed some more. They had come close and then started to come unstuck as Brentford began to show aggression beyond defensive resistance in their own box.

Finally, on 44 minutes, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner had evaded the visitors’ defiance and was headed in at the back post by Fabinho.

Liverpool had a goal, a start to shaking off the feeling that it was going to be “one of those days”.

Klopp used his pre-match briefing and programme notes to remind the world – and instructively his players – of the wonder they have seen without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who are away on African Nations Cup duty.

Their absence was defining the narrative around Liverpool and the manager sort to redirect it for psychological reasons, recalling the 4-0 Champions League triumph over Barcelona as a start.

It was an opportunity, Klopp said, for others to step into the spotlight. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, stationed in the front three, did exactly that by scoring the safety goal and creating three chances in a dynamic performance despite Brentford’s obstruction.

But then, as has been the case during his cruel Liverpool career, he was replaced with what looked to be an ankle injury.

Takumi Minamino, his replacement, was offered a birthday gift upon arrival. Brentford opted to play out from the back under excessive pressure, with Roberto Firmino cutting out Alvaro Fernandez’s pass to Christian Norgaard. He laid off for the Japan international, who casually rolled home.

The battle for Liverpool had suddenly become a stroll. The first half had seen a Van Dijk chance cleared off the line, Diogo Jota be an absolute nuisance for markers, and Alexander-Arnold’s hit measure a smidge too high as the hosts camped in Brentford’s area.

Before Fabinho’s all-important breakthrough, however, Vitaly Janelt went just over and Ivan Toney just wide of the left-hand post.

Liverpool’s goals materialised at the most crucial junctures. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s movement between Ethan Pinnock and Sergi Canos to head in Andy Robertson’s ball came after frustration for the Anfield side as a raft of openings were thwarted.

Jota hitting the post was one of those, while Brentford’s designs on causing chaos and an upset grew.

Bryan Mbeumo and Toney threatened, but Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal reduced their defiance before Minamino’s effort eradicated it.

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