Liverpool dealt blow to top four hopes after convincing defeat at Brentford

After a 2-1 victory against Leicester City on December 30th, Liverpool travelled to West London desperate for three points to bolster their points tally in their quest for Champions League qualification. Despite the win at Anfield, Liverpool were by far inferior to their opponents – and emerged victorious due to two own goals from Wout Faes.

Brentford’s last game was a short trip across London to West Ham, and the Bees came away with all three points after goals from Ivan Toney and Josh Dasilva resulted in a 2-0 win that saw Brentford climb up the table into 9th.

Both goalscorers against West Ham were absent from the starting lineup v Liverpool. Ivan Toney sustained a knee injury in that fixture, and missed out on the matchday squad as they hosted Liverpool – with Yoane Wissa coming in as his replacement. Josh Dasilva was replaced by Vitaly Janelt.

Jordan Henderson was absent for Liverpool due to concussion protocols, with Fabinho serving as his replacement in defensive midfield. Ibrahima Konate returned to the starting eleven, with Matip dropping to the bench. Kostas Tsimikas also replaced Andy Robertson, who started on the bench after suffering from a dead leg. Liverpool were without star signing Cody Gakpo, as the ex-PSV winger still awaits Premier League clearance.

Brentford Starting XI: Raya; Mee, Pinnock, Jorgensen; Henry, Janelt, Norgaard, Jensen, Rasmussen; Wissa, Mbuemo

Liverpool Starting XI: Alisson; Tsimikas, Van Dijk, Konate, Alexander-Arnold; Thiago, Fabinho, Elliott; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nuñez, Salah

An early booking for the hosts saw Mathias Jorgensen receive a yellow card just two minutes into this fixture, having clumsily brought down Nuñez – and the Danish defender had to exercise caution throughout the remainder of the match.

David Raya was forced into action early on, after Alexander-Arnold’s corner found Harvey Elliott, who played in Virgil Van Dijk. The Dutchman forced Brentford’s keeper into a sublime save from close range, before the linesman’s flag was raised for an offside.

Ben Mee’s goalline clearance was vital in keeping the scoreline at 0-0, with Nuñez failing to find the back of the net after working his way past David Raya from the left flank. The Uruguayan simply had to score, and this will undoubtedly raise questions about his finishing ability once again.

Harvey Elliott was the first Liverpool player in the book, having obstructed Rico Henry as the Bees winger threatened to dart past him.

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Brentford grew in confidence throughout the first half, progressing further and further towards the Liverpool goal – but to no avail. An acrobatic effort from Yoane Wissa was sent just wide of the target – but the striker was offside and the goal wouldn’t have counted anyway.

Van Dijk – widely regarded as one of the best defenders in world football – was made to look like an amateur throughout the game, including when Bryan Mbeumo darted past the Dutchman and into the penalty area, though Alisson’s presence prevented an opener for the Bees as the Brazilian made a confident save.

Brentford took the lead from the resulting corner, with Ibrahima Konate unable to deal with the pressure from Ben Mee – launching the ball into his own net despite the best efforts of Alisson. Thomas Frank’s side were ahead, much to the excitement of the fans at a packed Gtech Community Stadium.

Their lead was soon threatened by Tsimikas, who had received the ball from Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left wing and unleashed a low driven shot towards David Raya – forcing the Spaniard into action.

Brentford thought they’d doubled their lead when Yoane Wissa poked the ball home after a scramble in the penalty area, but the forward was marginally offside – keeping their lead at 1-0, but not for long!

It was Wissa who found the back of the net again – firing home from Mbuemo’s corner and slamming the ball past Alisson. However, the ball struck Ben Mee on its way in – and the defender was offside, ruling the goal out.

Yoane Wissa’s third attempt would count though, as he edged past Alexander-Arnold and Konate to head home from Jensen’s cross. Despite an impressive dive, Alisson couldn’t get a hand to it, and the goal stood – making it 2-0 to the hosts at the break.

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Three half-time subs for Klopp’s side saw Harvey Elliott, Tsimikas and Van Dijk all make way for Keita, Robertson and Matip. A superb pass from Thiago shortly after the break split the Brentford defence, finding Nuñez who sent the ball past David Raya – but once again, a VAR check ruled that the goal was offside! Chaotic scenes in West London!

Liverpool pulled one back through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has been filling in at left-wing recently due to the club’s lack of options in that position – although Cody Gakpo is expected to claim that spot after his league clearance is complete. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s header into the bottom-left corner from Alexander-Arnold’s cross – and David Raya couldn’t get to it, halving Brentford’s lead in the process.

Thiago was also on the receiving end of a yellow card, having committed a needless foul on Yoane Wissa. The Spanish midfielder unleashed two well-struck efforts from range, with both taking deflections off Brentford’s defence. The second attempt was sent out for a corner, which ultimately didn’t result in much for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Darwin Nuñez was the next player to be booked, shoving Ben Mee to the ground as he attempted to reach a cross – but instead, the Uruguayan saw yellow. Wissa and Jensen made way for Keane Lewis-Potter and Josh Dasilva with fifteen minutes left to play, and ideally, Brentford wanted another goal to avoid a nervy final few minutes. Liverpool’s goalscorer was replaced by Curtis Jones, just minutes before Bryan Mbuemo restored his side’s two-goal advantage by firing home following a perfect through ball from Norgaard.

Three changes for Brentford in the dying minutes saw Janelt, Mbuemo and Henry make way for Sergi Canos, Ghoddos and Sorensen – and the referee blew for full time after six additional minutes had been played.

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For Brentford, this win saw them climb to 7th in the league – though the teams around them all have at least one game in hand. Liverpool remain in sixth, but are at least four points off the top four – potentially six points if United win their game against Bournemouth on Tuesday evening. There’s plenty to consider for Klopp’s side as they face a lengthy trip back to Anfield with a certainly unpleased manager.

So much emphasis has been placed on the Reds’ need for a rejuvenated midfield, and plenty have been calling for attacking options to fill the gap left by Sadio Mane – but it was a traditionally strong defence that let the side down today. Virgil Van Dijk was unrecognisable and looked feeble throughout the game, though it is unfair to pin the blame solely on the back four. The midfield was also dire, with the exception being Thiago who was key in creating chances for his side going forwards. Once again, Darwin Nuñez’s finishing will be called into question – with the forward missing a golden opportunity to open the scoring after just six minutes.

Jurgen Klopp will face a barrage of criticism following tonight’s result, and rightly so. The German boss has spoken out about Liverpool’s inability to splash the cash as other clubs have done, but that does not excuse his tactical ineptness today which has left behind a mess that cannot simply be swept under the carpet.

This isn’t just a one-off result. The Merseyside team have been miles off the pace all season, as demonstrated by their unconvincing win against Leicester last week. Did they deserve to win that game? No – they were completely outplayed by the Foxes, who have themselves been struggling for form this season.

Liverpool have already dropped more points this season they they did in the previous campaign – and we’re only 17 games in. Klopp’s side is beginning to show its age, and unless significant reinforcements are brought in, this could be the beginning of a painful end to Liverpool’s recent success.

Brentford’s win is rather reminiscent of their 4-0 win over United earlier in the season, and Thomas Frank’s side are making easy work of the ‘big boys’. Full praise must be given to the West London side, who have impressed since their promotion to the top flight at the beginning of last season.

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