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Liverpool are sick of the sight of Brighton. They’ll be sick of this season, too.
It goes from bad to worse for club that was on the cusp of a clean sweep of trophies last season.
Merely two weeks since their 3-0 chastening here at Amex in the Premier League, Liverpool were dispatched again by brilliant Brighton as they crashed out of the FA Cup.
Kaoru Mitoma celebrates after scoring the winning goal against Liverpool on Sunday
Mitoma took a great touch at the back post before prodding the ball past Alisson
The Japanese star wheels away in celebration after giving his side the lead in injury time
Mtioma was embraced by Roberto Firmino after scoring what proved to be the winning goal
How has it come to this? Jurgen Klopp needs answers because Liverpool’s season is disintegrating in front of his very eyes.
All they have left to go for now is the Champions League and a place in the top-four.
The way they are playing, it’s highly unlikely that either challenge will prove successful.
Their defeat here a Brighton the latest disappointment in a burgeoning compilation of shattering lows this season.
Brighton were superb; what a project Roberto De Zerbi is leading here on the seaside.
Brighton equalised when Tariq Lamptey’s shot took a deflection off of Lewis Dunk
Lamptey (left) and Dunk (cente) celebrate after helping draw their team level at the Amex
Brighton (4-2-3-1): Steele 6.5; Lamptey 7 (Van Hecke, 90), Webster 6.5 (Veltman 46, 6), Dunk 8, Estupinan 6; Gross 7, Mac Allister 7; March 7.5, Welbeck 7 (Gilmour 66, 6.5), Mitoma 9; Ferguson 7 (Undav 89).
Scorers: Dunk 39, Mitoma 90+2.
Manager: Roberto De Zerbi 8.
Liverpool (4-1-2-3): Alisson 6; Alexander-Arnold 5.5 (Milner 59, 5), Konate 6, Gomez 5.5, Robertson 6; Bajcetic 7 (Fabinho 84); Thiago 6.5 (Jones 79), Keita 5.5 (Henderson 59, 5.5); Salah 7, Gakpo 6.5, Elliott 7 (Nunez 59, 6).
Scorer: Elliott 30.
Booked: Bajcetic, Konate, Robertson, Fabinho. Manager: Jurgen Klopp 6.
Referee: David Coote 4.5.
The Seagulls are bursting with energy and talent. De Zerbi’s stock is rising by the day; as are the reputations of his players.
He’d never admit it, but Klopp must look on enviously at what De Zerbi is building.
This is a Brighton team in the ascendancy. Liverpool, in contrast, are currently plummeting at a rate of knots.
The game itself was gripping, if the FA Cup is losing its magic then no-one told either team.
An opening 45 minutes seeping with intent and drive from both teams, the 30,000 or so packed into the Amex could hardly remove their eyes from it.
It was 1-1 by the time David Coote blew up for half-time; it could have been 3-3.
Liverpool drew first blood, Elliott running onto Mohamed Salah’s pass before slotting past Jason Steele in the 30th minute.
Brighton were furious, they felt Naby Keita had handled in the build up.
But Liverpool will take what they can get right now; one victory in five matches ahead of this trip to the south-coast not what English football has become accustomed to in the Klopp era.
Yet there were promising early signs here that Liverpool maybe coming out the other side.
Salah was terrorising Pervis Estupinan down Brighton left, while academy graduate Stefan Bajcetic was showing why so much is expected of him in central midfield.
Then, there was Elliott – Liverpool’s little bundle of energy and ingenuity.
During what has been a season of mediocrity, Elliott has emerged as one of Liverpool’s undoubted pluses.
Time will tell whether Liverpool can revive their season, but Elliott’s evolution should certainly be viewed as a triumph.
It is surely a matter of time before Gareth Southgate takes notice.
Harvey Elliott gave Liverpool the lead with a nice finish during the first half of the game
Elliott celebrates after breaking the deadlock in the FA Cup fourth round clash on Sunday
By the time Liverpool took the lead, Salah should have scored twice, the best of his opportunities miraculous cleared off the line by Lewis Dunk in the fourth minute.
But this wasn’t the Liverpool show – far from it.
Brighton were brave and fearless in possession, undeterred by Liverpool’s rapid start.
Evan Ferguson saw his own effort bundled off the line by Trent Alexander-Arnold in the 15th minute before the excellent Kaoru Mitoma saw his shot saved by Allison.
Mitoma, in particular, looks like the latest excellent discovery from Brighton’s recruitment team.
Brilliant balance, tremendous work ethic with touch-perfect technical ability to boot.
He was tormenting Alexander-Arnold here. Given the season the Liverpool right-back has had, it was the last thing he needed.
The Japan international is already attracting admiring glances, Brighton will have a job on their hands to keep the vultures at bay.
Of course, they are used to that dance; Moises Caicedo an absentee from Brighton’s squad as a consequence of his public attempts to force a move to either Arsenal or Chelsea this month.
Jurgen Klopp’s side suffered another defeat to add to what has been a disappointing season
Before Caicedo, there was Marc Cucurella, Yves Bissouma, Ben White and Leandro Trossard.
Caicedo’s immediate future will be resolved one way or another in the next 48 hours; whatever happens Brighton, certainly on this evidence, will be just fine without him.
They drew level in the 39th minute; Tariq Lamptey’s speculative effort taking a wicked deflection off Dunk to wrong foot Allison.
It was no more than Brighton deserved, their response to falling behind was compelling – yet if it wasn’t for Lamptey’s last-ditch challenge on Elliott during the dying seconds of the first half then the host’s would have fallen behind before the break.
The second half was less captivating – but that is perhaps unfair given the rip-roaring opening 45 minutes.
Dunk went close with a dipping free-kick in the 50th minute before Salah was thwarted by Steele after breaching Brighton’s offside trap moments later.
Alexander-Arnold made abundantly clear what he thought of Klopp’s decision to replace him in the 59th minute.
With a face like thunder, he trudged off – stopping briefly to applaud Liverpool’s fans.
He acknowledged Klopp – but it was hardly the warmest of embraces.
But truth be told, Klopp was doing his full-back a favour – Alexander-Arnold had no answer to Mitoma’s brilliance.
Alexis Mac Callister should have applied the finishing touch to Mitoma’s outrageous outside of the the foot pass in the 70th minute before Ibrahima Konate produced a brilliant block to deny Ferguson.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes, Liverpool were spent – clinging on for dear life.
Substitute Fabinho’s horrendous challenge on Ferguson deserved a red card, while Konate was lucky to escape after appearing to bundle Mac Callister to the ground when the Argentine was through on goal.
Fabinho was fortunate not to be given a red card after a poor tackle on Evan Ferguson
Ferguson, who has been a breathe of fresh air in recent weeks, worryingly limped off – on a euphoric day that will be a concern for De Zerbi.
By this point a replay was the best Liverpool could hope. But the resplendent Mitoma had other ideas.
The winner, when it arrived in the 91st minute, was a thing of beauty, Mitoma controlling Estupinan’s back-post cross before selling Joe Gomez a dummy and then proceeding to delicately guiding his effort beyond Allison.
The celebrations were tempered slightly by an offside VAR call.
But nothing could placate the full-time festivities as Liverpool’s season lurched to deeper depths.