Liverpool hosted Brentford at Anfield and the objective was simple – win! If they could overcome the Bees, the Reds would close the gap to United to one point. It was all to play for.
Before a ball was even kicked, both sets of players gathered around the centre circle for the playing of the National Anthem to make the Coronation of the King Charles. It was basically drowned out by jeers and, not long after, the anthem of this mighty club was played to a choir of faithful fans who had come hoping for another victory.
The hosts came roaring out of the gates as has been their custom in recent times. Jurgen Klopp had made three changes from the team that started against Fulham. Kostas Tsimikas, Jordan Henderson and Luis Diaz made way for Andy Robertson, Cody Gakpo and Diogo Jota.
An early yellow card for Virgil van Dijk wasn’t ideal and would ensure him playing with a little more caution for the majority of the match. The first move of real significance was a phenomenal outside-of-the-foot cross from Mo Salah that was just out of reach on Darwin Nunez’s header. This was closely followed by the opening goal of the game. Salah started on the right wing by playing the ball inside to Fabinho who dinked a lovely back chip/cross to a waiting Van Dijk who unselfishly headed back across goal to an open Salah who took one touch to control and the flicked the ball across the line for send the home team in front, taking him level with Steven Gerrard on 186 goals for the Reds in half as many games.
The next portion of the game consisted of half a dozen Liverpool half chances, Brentford long throw-ins, an outrageous first time outside of the foot 40-yard switch from Trent Alexander Arnold and let’s just say a rather ambitious Van Dijk shot for outside the box that you will not see in a highlights package of spectacular long-range efforts.
Liverpool threatened to break away on a counter in the 27th minute until Mbeumo stepped and ensured that Jota made it not much further than the halfway mark. His indiscretion cost him a yellow card. Trent nearly made it another assist with a beautiful chip over Brentford’s defence in the 29th minute that Nunez just needed to get any touch of significance on but instead he took an air swing and the ball ran out for a goal kick.
Trent was caught dwelling on the ball in the 32nd minute but his lapse was not costly as Virgil did what Virgil does and bailed him out. Ivan Toney skimmed a free kick just past the post in the 38th minute and in the 40th minute the Bees thought they had equalised through an Mbeumo breakaway. However, the Brentford man was adjudged to have been in an offside position and so the scoreline remained unchanged until the interval.
Both teams started the second half with the same eleven that they started the match with. The game remained uneventful for the first five minutes and then began to resemble an NBA playoff match as each team swept end to end without having an impact on the scoreline. A couple of highlights from this time were two outlandish pieces of play. One flick from Curtis Jones on a Liverpool breakaway and then an audacious back heel from Ivan Toney that sent Mbuemo down the left-hand flank. A few minutes later Jota played in a cross, come surface to air missile, across the box which hit Gakpo and rebounded back passed the Portuguese star. The game had became very scrappy by the time then 60th minute had rolled around and was crying out for some fresh players. Klopp answered the call first bring on one South American for another, Diaz for Nunez.
Brentford were having the better of the second half and Frank decided it was time for a change. Da Silva and Schade were the two players he introduced to proceedings at the expense of Henry and Onyeka. Meanwhile, Klopp decided to bring on his skipper in place of Jota. One would only assume it was to gain more control of the ball in midfield and get the advantage back in possession and potentially on the scoresheet. The doldrum the match has drifted into was awakened by a thunderous shot from outside the box by Alexander-Arnold which was brilliantly saved by Raya.
In the 81st minute both managers rolled the dice one last time. James Milner came on for Jones and Tsimikas for Robertson. Damsgaard and Baptiste entered the game for Brentford. In the 84th minute Gakpo almost pounced onto a defensive error from The Bees but blazed high and wide. Thomas Frank took the dice he rolled one last time back and rolled them one extra time by bringing on Wissa but it made no change to the outcome of the game. Four minutes extra minutes were played without incident. A couple of Brentford caused some slight concern but nothing eventuated and Liverpool had seen our their sixth win in a row.
All in all, Brentford have had a phenomenal season and this was another fine display. Liverpool may have left this run a little too late but the wheels on the United bus are wobbling and Newcastle have a couple of tricky games to negotiate. We go again.