Despite their recent poor league form where they had picked up just one win in their last five matches, Liverpool came into Sunday’s clash with the Seagulls knowing that just a point would do as they looked to qualify for Europe’s top competition for the second consecutive season.
Brighton on the other hand had nothing other than pride to play for as they had already confirmed their safety in the Premier League with a hard fought victory against Manchester United earlier this month.
Jurgen Klopp’s men were straight out of the firing blocks, playing with the sort of attacking intent which has seen them remain unbeaten at Anfield in the league this season.
Roberto Firmino had the first effort of any note as he looked to rifle in an effort from distance after five minutes. The shot was blocked superbly by Shane Duffy and just moments later captain Jordan Henderson dragged a shot wide of the far post from a similar distance.
Liverpool kept up the pressure and they were almost one up after youngster Dominic Solanke forced Duffy into a mistake whilst the defender attempted to pass the ball back to his ‘keeper Matty Ryan. Solanke rounded Duffy but was unable to get the ball from out under his feet and Ryan comfortably gathered the ball.
The game was being played at an electric pace and Duffy was almost in trouble again when a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross deceived the Brighton man, who misjudged the bounce of the ball and appeared to handle it. On another day this could have easily been a penalty but any Liverpool protests were waved away by referee Kevin Friend.
The Reds found themselves aggrieved again seconds later as the Premier League’s top scorer, Mo Salah, was sent tumbling in the box by Duffy by a poorly timed tackle – but Liverpool’s protests were waved away once again.
Regardless of the penalty decisions, or lack thereof, Liverpool should have been a goal to the good after Sadio Mane raced beyond the Brighton defence and was through one on one with Ryan in the Brighton goal. With the whole goal to aim for, the Senegalese winger could only direct his effort straight at Ryan who, to his credit, stood up well to block the shot.
But Brighton were unable to keep Liverpool at bay for long. To nobody’s surprise it was the diminutive Egyptian who broke Brighton’s resilience, breaking Alan Shearer’s long standing record in the process.
After twisting around in the box, Salah stroked home a textbook finish into the bottom left hand corner for his 32nd league goal of the season. This tally is now the most goals any individual has recorded in a 38 game Premier League campaign.
He should have made it 33 on the 30 minute mark with an easier chance than his opening goal. Mane broke away from the Brighton defence and Salah chased after him enthusiastically. Mane hesitated and tried to lay the ball off to Salah, but it gave Ryan the chance to spread himself to block the initial effort. Salah had another bite at the cherry, but this effort when was then cleared off of the line by Duffy.
Liverpool, who were playing in their 1000th Premier League match, looked to be hungry for more goals with first Wijnaldum and then Firmino coming close to doubling their lead.
The Reds finally managed to double their lead and it came from an unlikely source this time around. Croatian defender Dejan Lovren scored his first ever league goal at Anfield after Brighton failed to clear a corner effectively. Andy Robertson reacted quickly and whipped in a sumptuous cross, inviting Lovren to rise highest and nod home a pin-point header into the corner of the goal.
This was to be the last action in an utterly dominant display from the home side in the first half, who were deservedly ahead at break.
Liverpool picked up where they left off in the second half, with Roberto Firmino calling Ryan in to action once again, this time saving down low to his right.
Brighton failed to clear the subsequent corner just as they had done in the first half, but on this occasion the ball fell to Lovren’s centre-back partner Virgil van Djik. The big Dutchman was only able to scuff a volley down the middle of the goal.
Brighton couldn’t hold on for much longer however Liverpool widened the margin through a first Liverpool for Dominic Solanke. A jinking run through the middle of the park from Salah teed up the young English striker who took his chance with aplomb, thundering an effort in off the crossbar.
The young Englishman had played well all afternoon and the goal was fully deserved as he looks to provide Gareth Southgate with a potential selection problem when he picks his provisional squad for the World Cup next week.
The chances continued to come for Liverpool who were cutting through Brighton like a hot knife through butter. The next player to have a pop on goal was Firmino, who saw his effort denied magnificently by Ryan – who had played well regardless of the scoreline.
It took until the 85th minute for the next piece of action and it was to be a fourth goal for Liverpool, and a first goal of the season for Andy Robertson. The Scotsman reacted quickest after the ball pin-balled around the Brighton box to fire home an emphatic finish.
It proved to be the final action of the match and Liverpool, having secured their Champions League status for next season, will now be looking ahead to this season’s Champions League final where they face off against Real Madrid in Kiev.
It will be the chance for the Merseyside club to obtain their sixth European title.