[Liverpool 3 – 0 Brentford].
Last season, this was exactly the kind of game Liverpool might have lost. Earlier this season, Liverpool would have been odds-on favorite to concede the first goal. Brentford came into this game with momentum, with three wins on the trot. They are also a team that can sting painfully, testament yet again, perhaps, to the power of a nickname. Liverpool, on the other hand, were off an embarrassing outing to Toulouse in the Europa League, coming on top of a very lucky draw with minnows Luton in the league.
If there was a game in which the Bees could make some honey for themselves, this was it.
It almost did go that way in the first half, when a terrific counter left Mbeumo with only Alisson to beat. But the catlike Brazilian showed, yet again, why he is the best in the world today, with a brilliant reaction that took the sting out of the forward’s clever dink. Ali came to the rescue a few more times before the game ended, at times even rescuing himself from his own personally inflicted physical comedy, as for a 15 minute stretch the Reds were auditioning to appear on an episode of Benny Hill. Still, he kept his clean sheet, so good on him.
Up front, Darwin Nunez scored twice, both gorgeous, both offsides. The first was a matter of inches, and kudos to the linesman who spotted it. The second was a clever bicycle kick that earned many bonus style points. Nunez had to settle for his favorite kind of goal involvement (even if he won’t admit it), namely assisting Mo Salah, for the opener. It was the outcome of a smooth, very Liverpool sort of buildup, and Salah made it look easy even though it was anything but.
Attacking the Kop at the second half, you knew the Reds were going to come up with the goods, and they did. Salah’s second off a brilliant Tsimikas last ditch cross was the very definition of cool. Jota’s hit, a precision guided curler from the edge of the box, off another Greek service, was similarly clinical. All three were worthy goals, and they needed to be, because Brentford’s Flekken had a lovely game between the sticks and, one suspects, would have handled anything lesser with ease.
So why did it go this way?
I’m going to name here who, for long stretches, I was going to offer as my surprise choice for man-of-the-match, Wataru Endo. The experienced Japanese holding midfielder was crucial to breaking down Brentford’s spirited bursts forward, but even more so, he made Trent look good in defense. Time and again he covered on the right in those situations where our vice captain often seems lost. His awareness in those moments really made him shine, but then he almost got himself sent off and subsequently lost his cool.
Endo bounced back by the end of the game but by then I had a different player in mind. Was it Mo? Almost, but not quite, because while Mo did everything well (as he always does), he was wayward in his passing, leaving me with a bit of an aftertaste. Instead, it is time to honor the chef, Kostas Tsimikas, for what I think was a surprisingly good performance. He’s been struggling a bit recently, but as is evident from his two assists, was especially effective going forward today. And in the back, his partnership with Van Dijk, while not perfect, looked significantly improved.
We’re going to need as much of that as we can have going into a very busy December without Robbo.
In the meantime, let’s enjoy another moment tied at the top.