Mohamed Salah proved Liverpool’s matchwinner once again. His scruffy first-half finish secured goal no. 30 for the season across all competitions, and 100th strike at Anfield, during a narrow and hard-fought victory over European hopefuls Brentford as Jurgen Klopp’s men extended their winning streak to six.
Reds reel off another welcome result
- Mohamed Salah goes level with Steven Gerrard as Liverpool’s fifth all-time goalscorer, sets record for scoring in nine straight home games
- Liverpool earn sixth consecutive league win and stay a point behind Manchester United in fourth, who have played two games fewer
- Brentford stay ninth and fail to make up ground on Aston Villa in eighth after 1-0 away defeat by Wolves in one of the afternoon’s 3pm kick-offs
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher couldn’t mask his frustration on Sky Sports commentary, after watching the ball whizz past Ibrahima Konate and Darwin Nunez in quick succession during a pair of promising half-chances early on.
The Reds began brightly and were ominous with their build-up play at times down both sides, as Brentford looked to repel them at every turn.
So it felt fitting that their captain, Virgil van Dijk, cushioned a header across goal from Fabinho’s clever lofted pass for Mohamed Salah to smash home at the back post. An untidy finish followed, but the Egyptian didn’t care after another landmark finish.
The hosts’ interplay at times was frightening, between Salah, Cody Gakpo and Trent Alexander-Arnold in particular as they looked to break with speed.
Bryan Mbuemo was booked for a tactical foul scything down Diogo Jota midway through the first-half, and probably saved his side conceding twice in 15 minutes.
They still could’ve been 2-0 behind shortly afterwards, though Alexander-Arnold’s clipped pass wasn’t rewarded with an assist.
Instead, Nunez fluffed his lines as he skewed an effort wide of the post – it typified another frustrating day in attack for the Uruguayan, hooked after 60 minutes.
There has been a lot of talk recently about Alexander-Arnold venturing into a midfield role full-time, such is his ability to cut backlines open with regularity.
Couple that with a defensive frailty that hasn’t been shored up despite increased attention to said weakness, and you can make a case that it wouldn’t hurt to try.
Right on cue then, he was robbed in possession rather carelessly in his own half and van Dijk had to bail out the right-back with an important recovery challenge, as Ivan Toney and Mbeumo raced away intently towards goal.
Bees back on level terms, or so they thought
Eight minutes later, the pair combined to devastating effect as Mbeumo buried a well-taken finish after Toney’s incisive around-the-corner pass. Ironic jeers and a VAR check followed, as the linesman on the far side correctly flagged for offside.
Fabinho took liberties with his 50-50 challenges and got booked for a lazy high tackle on Toney just before the interval, while you could sense tension around Anfield as their slender lead was under threat and they didn’t exude confidence defensively.
Konate made an inch-perfect sliding interception to thwart Mathias Jensen setting Mbeumo through on-goal, minutes after the restart, while Mbeumo and Aaron Hickey frequently got into dangerous areas but Thomas Frank’s men failed to test Alisson.
Gakpo didn’t know much about it, but the £37m January signing would’ve wished he adjusted his feet in time to turn Jota’s cross-cum-shot goalwards as the Dutchman and Nunez lurked near goal after Salah slipped the former Wolves man through.
He flashed wide with an ambitious effort after a Hickey mistake in possession late on, the game petering out as both made several substitutions and that suited Liverpool en route to another hard-fought result. Brentford probed, but lacked cutting edge.
Brentford’s hopes of a Europa Conference League play-off berth were dented further, in suffering their ninth loss of the campaign.
A six-match winless run between March and April cost them dearly, though this season is already an upgrade on 2021-22 – four points better with three games left.
They’re harder to beat with experienced centre-back Ben Mee slotting in seamlessly after his free transfer from then-relegated Burnley, though £13m man Mikkel Damsgaard hasn’t yet replicated the creative genius of compatriot Christian Eriksen.
First-choice goalkeeper David Raya made a string of sharp saves and it’s likely the Spanish international will depart this summer, so it’s imperative they replicate him adequately while monitoring the striker market as Toney will also have suitors.
In the same vein, Liverpool need to make significant inroads as far as midfield acquisitions are concerned. Fabio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott, both from the Fulham academy, would benefit from top-flight loans if they don’t play regular minutes.
Perhaps the jury is still out on whether Stefan Bajcetic and Curtis Jones are ready for that elite breakthrough, though Fabinho (29), Jordan Henderson and Thiago (both 32) aren’t exactly getting any younger. They need better defensive cover too.
They currently seem set to qualify for the double-edged sword that is Europa League football: will that be enough to justify the aforementioned young quartet staying?
How much better can they get in the transfer market? These are pertinent questions that need answering over the coming months, seeing how drastically they’ve fallen off championship pace recently. Others will strengthen, so they must do the same.
Picture source: Getty Images