Isn’t football just a fabulous game? Any neutral watching this game should be immensely pleased. Even a totally biased fan, like me, must admit that this was tons of fun to watch.
Yes, the Reds dropped a couple of points. But they did so to an incredibly spirited team that, it is already clear, is going to present a major thorn in the side of any and all opposition. Let’s make this clear: the Community Stadium is going to see a lot of points picked up there by the home side, and nobody should feel safe when coming for a visit. At least judging by this game, and by how they have opened their season, Brentford are legitimate members of the premier league. And they are fun to watch, in exactly the same way that Liverpool are, and that makes me like them even as I groan at today’s final scoreline.
Which leads me to an important point: while the Bees earned their goals, and could have even beaten Liverpool, it was only because they took advantage repeatedly of, to me, the worst collective defensive performance by the merseysiders thus far this season. Van Dijk was constantly caught out of position, as was Trent. Between the two of them, and by throwing numbers at the 50/50 balls in and around the Liverpool box, did the Bees find all the space they needed to create one dangerous opportunity after another, leading to two of their goals. Robbo did well enough on his end, though the Bees played around him most of the time, and Matip played ok, which might have been enough against a different team, but not one that plays like Brentford does.
For stretches, it felt as if Liverpool weren’t giving their opponents enough respect. That’s always a problem when playing a talented, underdog team that has nothing to lose.
Look, also, at Salah’s miss. How many times out of a hundred do you think he would miss a chance like that? Once or twice, maybe? It isn’t a matter of quality, or sharpness, and it wasn’t a difficult finish, since Raya was still collecting himself and wasn’t even properly set up to stop it. It was purely a matter of focus, of concentration, and it kinda looked as if Salah had a sense that the game was over. It surely would have been, had he simply passed into either corner of the goal, or dragged it around and beyond Raya, which we have seen him do countless times before. Maybe it was the fact that he had just crossed that century mark (in gorgeous fashion, I might add). Regardless, it kept a door open for Wissa to walk through, and that he emphatically did.
Speaking of emphatic finishes, that scorcher by Curtis Jones was something else, and it was perhaps symbolic of the game that he was substituted right after. Clearly Klopp felt there was no reason to alter the plan, and this is the kind of decision we can’t second guess watching the game on TV. Still, Jones presented a significant attacking threat with the potential for long shots that was dulled upon his departure. Jota’s goal was all about positioning, timing, delivery, and concentration, culminating in a classic Jota goal; simple, effective, and right when you need it.
And Jota might well have had a second were it not for the true hero of Brentford’s game today. It’s not every day that I feel compelled to give a man-of-the-match award to an opposing player when the game ends in a draw, and I don’t think it would ever occur to me to give one to a keeper who had to pull three balls out of his net. But David Raya was enormous today, exhibiting the kind of catlike instincts and box presence that his more illustrious counterpart at the other end is known for. There was nothing he could do about the goals he did let through. What he did to deny a few more was remarkable. And other than perhaps our skipper, who had a pretty good game in central midfield, I really can’t point to any Liverpool player who stood out.
The Reds still top the table, yet this result – like the draw against ten-men Chelsea – is unfortunate. We may come to rue these missed opportunities. Then again, Liverpool is still the only unbeaten team in the league this season.
Let’s keep it that way for as long as we can.