Brighton 0-1 Liverpool: Salah's spot-kick sends Reds seven clear at Premier League summit
(Getty Images - John Powell)

Brighton 0-1 Liverpool: Salah's spot-kick sends Reds seven clear at Premier League summit

Mohamed Salah's penalty was the difference as the Reds were made to work hard to win their 18th league match of the season.

Joshua Kerr
Brighton & Hove AlbionButton, Montoya, Dunk, Duffy, Bong, Stephens, Propper, March (Knockaert 66), Gross (Kayal 79), Locadia, Murray (Andone 66)
liverpool-fcAlisson, Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Shaqiri (Milner 72), Mané (Keita 90), Firmino, Salah (Origi 90+4)
SCORE0-1, Min.50, Salah.

If it was small margins that saw Liverpool lose their titanic title bout with Manchester City at the Etihad then the same outcome applied at the Amex Stadium as the Reds were pushed to their limits to clinch a 1-0 victory against Brighton in the South Coast.

Once again, it was Mohamed Salah who decided yet another contest for Liverpool as the Egyptian King made it 17 for the season after emphatically converting from the spot after Pascal Gross brought down the Reds winger. 

It certainly wasn't pretty for Jürgen Klopp and his players at times who were truly made to work to clinch their 18th league win of the season to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table to seven points with the Citizens still to play at home to Wolves on Monday night.

In a time where performances go out the window and everything is defined by the results, this afternoon in the South Coast reached yet another gruelling point as a fascinating encounter at the Amex meant the Reds really had to rally to secure their 13th clean sheet of the season.

It's the Reds first win of 2019 to put their New Year stumble to bed as Klopp also protected his impressive record of never having lost back-to-back league games in charge of Liverpool.

Story of the game

Klopp yet again made nine changes to the team that was dumped out of the FA Cup by Wolves with the likes of Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson, Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah all returning for league duty. 

Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabinho were the only surviving members of the Reds 2-1 defeat at Molineux on Monday. Joel Matip returned from a broken collarbone to make the bench whilst Daniel Sturridge was left out of the squad with a virus.

Liverpool's first-half efforts failed to take the sting out of proceedings as their ball retention was overshadowed by their lack of creativity in front of goal.

Despite dominating 77 per cent possession in the opening period, the Reds failed to muster even one shot on target.

Shaqiri came closest to finding the outlet for the visitors after a fine move that was orchestrated by the darting Mane who breezed past two Brighton players before teeing up Alexander-Arnold on the right-hand side who cut onto his left before delicately lofting a cross onto the head of the Swiss winger who angled his header just wide.

Fabinho oozed confidence from the heart of the defence alongside the returning Van Dijk who made his 50th appearance since his club-record signing in January 2018.

The defensive duo were incredibly active in ball retention and the Brazilian international was alert for one of Brighton's rare attacking moves that saw Gross curl a cross into the centre of the box that was imminently cleared by Liverpool's No.3.

The former Monaco man's defensive qualities were matched in his passing range after Fabinho swung an exquisite pass to Robertson who fired a fierce cross along the byline that eluded Mane leaving the ball in the path of Firmino who just failed to latch onto the cross.

Brighton looked to their top-scorer to inspire a rare goal against Liverpool as Gross's cross met the head of Glenn Murray whose effort flew over.

The Amex roared in anger when the assistant referee flagged Jurgen Locadia who was goalbound following a sublime curled pass on the outside of the boot from Sam March.

Liverpool failed to quell the hosts in a frustrating opening 45 as their dominance on the ball went supremely unpunished. The second half started similarly to the first as another effort was squandered, this time through Salah whose shot was struck firm at David Button who did well not to parry.

The inevitable breakthrough eventually came five minutes into the second period as Salah toyed with Gross darting around the 27-year-midfielder before snapping at the bait lured by Salah to bring the Reds forward down.

Liverpool's leading goalscorer didn't need a second invitation to fire his 14th league goal of the season as Salah comfortably dispatched the spot-kick thundering the ball into the right-hand corner past a helpless Button.

The Reds opener completely took the sting out of proceedings for the hosts as Liverpool continued to rally and dominate possession. 

Fabinho was imperious for the Reds in defence and made another crucial block to deny Gross who looked to atone for his early sins lurking in the box after gifting the Reds their penalty.

Locadia looked to inspire the crowd after his fierce 30-yard effort left Alisson taking no chances to parry for a corner.

Robertson continued to bomb up and down that left-hand side and his cross into the path of Firmino marginally missed the Brazilian before the Reds No.9 looked to add to his four goals in two league outings as Firmino hit another testing shot at Brighton's busy shot-stopper Button. 

Lewis Dunk almost gift wrapped the Reds a second after the Brighton skipper squirmed a mishit to Salah as the Egyptian was pouncing, but Button bailed him out to clear.

Another positive move from Klopp's attacking juggernauts saw Salah and Firmino enjoy a number of intricate touches before finding Wijnaldum on the edge of the box who saw his shot deflected for a corner. 

The record home support of 30,682 were disgusted with a number of decisions from referee Kevin Friend as the 47-year-old official awarded the visitors yet another free-kick with the hosts beginning to grow in confidence.

Mane later hesitated an effort that deflected wide before Salah almost doubled his tally after a Milner pullback found the Egyptian who looked bemused at the ball falling to him so suddenly before shooting wide.

It was a classic title-chasing victory; away from home in a narrow, nervy and cagey affair that was decided by the slightest of margins. Liverpool were never in total control and it may have been a contingency that got Klopp and his players over the line. 

It may only be 12 January, but this time of year is when supporters continuously start ticking games off their calendar in a desperate attempt to start racking up points.

As omens go, Liverpool have this title race firmly in their control. Win 16 more times this season - or even just 15 then the Reds will lift the Premier League crown come May.

There may still be four more agonising months ahead for Reds supporters but this match meant everything as the away end roared in jubilation to extend the gap to seven points.

At least until Monday night.

Takeaways from the match

Fabinho outstanding in heart of the defence

The story before the game was the Brazilian Fabinho was opted by Klopp to start alongside Van Dijk in defence despite Matip returning to training days ago only to make the bench.

The Reds £40 million signing was utterly imperious as a makeshift centre-back to frustrate the hosts to zero shots on target and get his teammates over the line to help secure Liverpool's 13th clean sheet of the season.

Liverpool's summer signing from Monaco made a number of key interceptions alongside his outstanding positioning saw Fabinho thwart countless Brighton counter-attacks and consistently clear away danger as the Brazilian continued to frustrate the Seagulls.

Salah the difference yet again 

Liverpool's Egyptian King once again rose to the task to get Liverpool over the line in a match that was calling out for a sprinkle of magic following limited opportunities.

The Premier League's joint top-scorer not only tucked away the spot-kick but also orchestrated it as Salah completely bewildered Gross into making the German midfielder force a challenge that the Reds winger anticipated before thundering his penalty into the right-hand corner.

Liverpool's talisman now has 17 in all competitions - including 14 in the league - to take joint at the summit of goalscoring accolades as the former Chelsea player is now leading alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Harry Kane in Salah's pursuit to retain his 2018 Golden Boot.

Brighton a sturn test but lacked creativity

Chris Hughton's team have recently established themselves as one of few giant killers in the league - alongside Wolves - with the Seagull's already dispatching Manchester United and Everton at the Amex as well as holding Arsenal to a 1-1 stalemate.

However, the hosts lacked urgency to take the game to Liverpool and failed to muster even one attempt on target at the Reds goal.

The home side sat deep for large periods of the match and only attempted to take the match to the visitors when it was almost too late.

Supporters in large voices asserted their frustration at referee friend for a number of decisions going Liverpool's way, but the reality is that Brighton didn't do enough on the day to really justify themselves as deserving of more in a match that got away from them in the slightest of margins.