Wednesday 3 February 2021

'Phenomenal' Brighton win at Liverpool

Liverpool 0, Albion 1
Wednesday 3rd February 2021

This is my team in a nutshell: Brighton play attractive, free flowing football with lots of possession but until recently the team lacked that killer instinct in the final third, they needed to be more ruthless. Sometimes you have to win ugly when you're near the bottom of the table. There have been too many draws and narrow one goal defeats for the fans liking, compounded with the managers tendency to frequently change team line ups causing even more frustration. However, it's also true to say that Brighton are a very hard team to beat and as a fan I would far rather be watching attractive attacking football than a boring defensive style of play. It's not often Brighton have been well beaten, Leicester away springs to mind, but fans can get notoriously fickle when things aren't going the way they would like or expect. 

Brighton manager Graham Potter tends to look at things as a long term project even though some fans are impatient for results and look worryingly at the league position. Relegation is not something the Albion board desire but they, and particularly chairman Tony Bloom, have every faith in their manager and getting rid is not an option in their eyes. They believe in what Potter is trying to do. The manager is not afraid to introduce younger players into the starting eleven, his brave decision to let first choice goalie Maty Ryan move on loan to Arsenal and bring in rookie Robert Sanchez as his replacement showed a remarkable amount of bravery and confidence in the 23 year old shot stopper.

So it was that Brighton travelled to Anfield on the back of some good results having recently taken seven points out of a possible nine in their last three games against Spurs, Fulham and Leeds. Perhaps more significantly Albion hadn't conceded any goals in those three matches. Having only lost one game since the turn of the year (a narrow 1-0 defeat away to Manchester City) Brighton fans were beginning to wonder if the tide was about to turn. And so it proved to be. 

In the pre-match press conference the Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was full of praise for Graham Potter and the style of football that he is trying to introduce on the Sussex coast. Indeed, Klopp was more complementary than many Albion fans of late about what the Brighton manager is trying to achieve. The possession based brand of football played out from the back is attractive but not always fruitful in terms of results in Brighton's case. 

Was this to be the match where some of those doubting Albion fans began to believe in the Potter project? The team took to the pitch to show what they were capable of and to a man they were strong, calm and magnificent. They passed the ball consistently well all game, they outplayed Liverpool for large spells and defended like lions when they had to with a solid wall of blue shirts between their goal and the Liverpool forwards. And for once Brighton took their chance when it presented itself after some beautiful intricate one touch passing movement which led to young midfielder Steven Alzate thumping the ball into the corner of the Liverpool net in the 56th minute. It was 1-0 to the Albion and Liverpool never really looked like they were going to score as their lackluster front line huffed and puffed but found no way through. The Brighton players worked their socks off, with Adam Webster looking particularly assured in the solid back line of three centre halves. Even Dan Burn had a wonderful game, foraging forward from his left wing back position to create several opportunities for himself and his team mates. It was a pleasure to watch this team at last realise the potential that they have.

Believe me, this was no lucky win, it was fully deserved for a Brighton team who showed courage, commitment and a sense of belief in the plan that their manager had given them. They were not overawed or intimidated by the Premier League champions. The team finally showed us what Graham Potter knew all along, that they can play attractive football and get the desired result. It was an outstanding performance that will live long in the memory and will surely raise the players confidence levels. They visit Burnley on Saturday and that will be a physically tough battle, Albion will need to work hard and be on their mettle if they are to gain all three points. The victory at Liverpool pushes Albion up to 15th in the Premier League with a comfortable 10 point cushion between them and third from bottom Fulham. The team now need to carry their recent good form into their upcoming matches, in particular the home match against Crystal Palace on 22nd February which all Albion fans will want to win.

Brighton have generally been playing well all season but just not taking their chances. The defence is now starting to look rock solid and the team appear to have learned how to grab their goal scoring opportunities when they come along. Onwards and upwards, hopefully. 

Click on the image below to watch BBC's Match Of The Day analysis of Brighton's performance. Look out for pundit Danny Murphy saying that Brighton were 'phenomenal'. Who am I to disagree. 

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