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Brighton & Hove Albion v Liverpool - Premier League
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The Liverpool boss gave a contentious post-match interview following a tough 1-1 draw with Brighton.

It is becoming a farce at this point.

Liverpool drew 1-1 with Brighton take the lead at the top of the Premier League table, but the Reds will be disappointed to not have all three points after VAR intervened to give a stoppage time penalty.

However, the overarching narrative was once again match overload and the injuries that result as the Reds lost another defensive option as James Milner left the game with what looked to be a hamstring complaint. It added to a horror list of defensive injuries for Jürgen Klopp as his vice-captain appears set to join the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold on the physio’s table.

The Liverpool boss had expressed frustration coming into the match with the scheduling that assigned his side to the early kickoff despite having played Wednesday in the Champions League in 2-0 loss to Atalanta.

The irritation bubbled over in his post-match interview, with the German getting into a combative and extended debate with BT Sport’s Des Kelly over the lack of concern shown by the decision makers over player welfare.

“Yes, congratulations,” Klopp sarcastically responded when asked if Milner’s knock was in fact to the hamstring.

Kelly retorted that the broadcaster was not at fault for scheduling Liverpool for a time agreed upon by the Premier League and its shareholders. It led to a heated back and forth in which Klopp argued that, at the end of the day, the player welfare was not being adequately taken into consideration by all parties, but in this particular case, specifically by the broadcaster:

“Playing Saturday at 12:30 pm after playing on Wednesday is really dangerous for the players,” he continued adamantly.

“In this season it’s a bigger problem. Because of no preseason, because of the intensity, because of the shorter season. So, when BT Sport [picks Liverpool for] that slot, I say it’s not OK.”

The German manager has been leading calls for the Premier League to adopt the five substitution rule that the other major European leagues and even the rest of the English football pyramid have adopted amidst an unprecedentedly dangerous time for player health.

Klopp reiterated that that the current consensus among Premier League managers for implementing the rule change might be as much as 16 for it and only 4 against, expressing frustration that the proposal has not been brought up again as injuries continue to mount.

The 53-year-old called out Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder by name after the Blades manager openly criticized his Liverpool counterpart for advocating for five subs.

“[Brighton] had injuries as well. Surprise,” Klopp continued after the Gull’s leading scorer Neal Maupay was withdrawn with what also appeared to be a hamstring complaint. “But ask Chris Wilder how we can avoid [injuries].

“Nothing’s happened,” Klopp admitted incredulously of lack of movement since the latest manager call regarding five subs. He then concluded by throwing in a dig at the last place side.

“Chris Wilder says constantly that I am selfish. I think all the things he says shows he is selfish. They have three subs and one point if I am right.”

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Brighton & Hove Albion v Liverpool - Premier League
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We dare dig into the controversy surrounding the Reds’ VAR-assisted draw at the AmEx.

In what was mostly a messy and bad 90 minutes from both sides, we still got the maximum possible amount of drama, as VAR took center stage in deciding the outcome of the match. Below, we take a closer look at how messy and bad it was, how messy and bad it will continue to be, and whether or not the replay dramatics are worth the column inches they will receive.


Winners

Andy Robbo: We’ll get to his injury time involvement in a second, but this was a captain’s performance from the Scot. As the only remaining member of the first choice back line, Robertson looked the part, bossing his comrades around, and getting up and down the pitch like he hadn’t played more minutes than any other player this season, in the most physically demanding position in the system. He would’ve had an assist too, were it not for the devilish video assistant.

While he can occasionally be a bit of a liability for the offside line and has never been a spectacular man defender, Robbo has stepped up huge when needed in recent weeks, and all we can do is cover him entirely in bubble wrap and hope and pray he can stay healthy.

Losers

Neco Williams: It can’t be easy. Coming up as a young right-back at one of the biggest clubs in the world is a massive challenge in and of itself, but doing it as an academy graduate, in the immediate footsteps of what looks set to be the greatest talent that academy has produced in two decades, seems nearly impossible.

Neco Williams is 19. Nobody knows how good he might turn out to be, but he probably isn’t ready to be second choice at a club of this stature, and he definitely shouldn’t be starting for them every week. That will nonetheless probably continue to be the case, however, as Trent Alexander-Arnold remains unavailable, and guess what, so does every other option at the right-back position, because…

That Squad Depth: It’s taking a real beating right now. After Neco was hauled off at half-time, James Milner, an 18-year pro turning 35 in a month and a half, and coming off 180 minutes in the preceding five days, was moved to right-back. That lasted for about half an hour, before he had to be replaced by another midfielder in Curtis Jones after apparently feeling a hamstring issue.

Hamstring trouble also saw Naby Keïta subbed off last weekend, and Liverpool are already missing Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez in the backline, while Thiago, Jordan Henderson, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all various levels of unavailable, even though the captain did feature for a half today.

This is the deepest squad Jürgen Klopp has had in his Liverpool tenure and a quarter of the way through the season, we are seeing fourth and sixth choice centre-backs pairing up, while the lone healthy midfielder, Georginio Wijnaldum, continues to look more and more ragged each passing game. It’s real bad, and in a campaign that will be filled with firsts and unknowns, it is literally impossible to guess how the starting XI will look a month from now.


ControVARsy

We’re gonna have to talk about it so we might as well give it a whole segment.

VAR intervened thrice today, and on all three occasions ruled against Liverpool in score-deciding situations, taking the Reds’ VAR tally on the season to negative eight in only ten matches. It’s a staggering handicap on paper, but not one that should necessarily feed fans’ persecution complex.

Mohamed Salah is offside for the first goal. In the end, it was closer than it looked initially — two or three inches, maybe — but there was no confusing sleeves or armpits, just a toe — similar to João Moutinho’s toe at Anfield last season — planted slightly in front of the last defender as Salah was slow to walk back from behind the line. It stings, because it takes away a spectacular assist from Roberto Firmino and a slick into-the-ground-and-over finish from Mo, but, by a frustrating but genuine margin, it was the correct decision.

Sadio Mané is offside for the second goal. This one was pretty clear — by a foot or so — even though, unlike the previous call, it never occurred to this writer that he was off when watching it live. Camera movement and the cluster of bodies made it hard to tell, but the replay made it undeniable. It was a tremendous header too, with what would have been Mané’s sixth touch of the match, but again, quite correctly called back.

Andrew Robertson kicked that man. He didn’t get much of him, but with a wild swing of his boot in his own area, Robbo missed the ball and caught Danny Welbeck’s foot, as the Englishman’s dangling ankle can attest to. It’s an aggravating one, because it happens so late, and it’s the third call that goes against them, and they’d already given up one penalty, and Robbo had been really good all game, and even Welbeck thought it was soft, but if we’re going to defend a penalty for, say, the contact Mohamed Salah received in that one-goal win at West Ham, it is difficult to deny Brighton this one.

(Yes, Jordan Pickford should have been sent off and banned in the derby.)


What Happens Next

The mess continues, as the Reds host Ajax on Tuesday, knowing that a draw will be enough to ensure qualification from Group D on tiebreakers, before facing off with Wolves at Anfield the following Sunday, after a majestic five day rest.

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Brighton & Hove Albion v Liverpool - Premier League
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After the Reds drop two points to an injury time penalty, we want you to rate your man of the match.

Following the dreary display against Atalanta on Wednesday, fans and players alike would have hoped for a bounce back win at Brighton today, but instead what was served up was a damp, messy affair that will mostly be remembered for the impact VAR had on the final result.

Now tell us how you saw it! With our favoured polling tool out of service, we’re instead giving you a choice between a few of the players we thought looked best today for the Reds, so make your choice below and vote for who you think should be the man of the match—or take to the comments to let us know that we got it wrong by leaving the real man of the match off the list entirely.

As always, anyone visiting on Apple News or Google AMP who wish to vote and can’t see the poll can make it visible by navigating to the front page of The Liverpool Offside and re-entering the story.

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Brighton & Hove Albion v Liverpool - Premier League
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A late penalty and questionable VAR decisions mean that Brighton and Liverpool share the points.


Brighton 1 – 1 Liverpool

Brighton: Groß 90+3’ (PEN)Liverpool: Jota 59’

Pre-Match

Klopp continues his mixing and matching in defense and the midfield. The Reds start the game with a Nat Phillips/Fabinho center-back pairing and a midfield of Milner, Minamino and Wijnaldum. It’s a cold and dreary day in Brighton as the team kicks off.

First Half

Liverpool start off brightly. Within the first five minutes, Diogo Jota and Minamino both nearly set up Salah. Jota’s pass doesn’t quite meet the target while Salah gets blocked for the second and the ball goes out for a corner.

After that, however, Brighton began to work themselves into the game, finding easy ways around the makeshift defense.

In the 19th minute, substitute right-back Neco Williams concedes a reckless foul in the box, and Brighton find themselves with a penalty. Alisson dives the wrong way for Neal Maupay’s spot kick, but luckily the shot is wide. For the second week in a row, Liverpool are let off after conceding a penalty.

The game remains goalless, but Brighton look like the best side at the moment.

Maupay’s day has gone from bad to worse. He falls down with a likely hamstring injury and limps off of the pitch after failing to get his team ahead. Liverpool play for several minutes up a man as Brighton ready Maupay’s substitute, but they can’t make the numerical advantage count.

Only Brighton’s inability get a shot on target have saved Liverpool so far. The Reds have been chasing the home side who, thankfully, couldn’t seem to make that final touch count. That experimental midfield will need an overhaul at halftime, because they’re getting spanked right now. Jordan Henderson is on the bench, so look for him to come on and tighten them up.

Then against the run of play, Salah scores in the 33rd minute. However, the goal is deemed offside, and Liverpool’s momentary joy has been extinguished once again through the scourge of VAR.

A missed penalty and an offside goal mean that the two teams head into halftime without a goal.

Second Half

As expected, Henderson comes on in the second half, but it’s as a replacement for Williams. Milner moves to right-back and Henderson takes his place in the middle of the pitch.

As in the first half, Liverpool start off well, but begin to let Brighton work their way back inside the first 10 minutes.

GOALLLL! 59 Jota – Any surprise, it’s Jota who opens up the scoring for Liverpool. Thanks goes to Andy Robertson, who deftly maneuvers around Yves Bissouma to begin the attack. Robertson gets the ball to Salah, and there’s an interchange between him and Jota, before Jota slots it home.

And now Brighton bring off their best player today, Aaron Connolly, who is not pleased to be replaced by former Liverpool man Adam Lallana. Not to be outdone, Salah visibly sulks when he’s substituted by teammate Sadio Mané at the 60 minute mark. It’s clear that Klopp is trying to manage his superstars’ fitness in the face of mounting injuries and, like, 5,000 upcoming games.

Speaking of injuries, first Lallana goes down within eight minutes, and then moments later, Milner massages his hamstring and gets taken out for Curtis Jones. Jones himself is just barely back to fitness, so this is fun. Loving it. Great game.

Oh hey, and there goes Phillips, falling heavily and requiring medical assistance. Liverpool have already made their three changes, so though Klopp looked concerned, the young defender stays on the pitch.

Ben White goes studs up on Jota and earns himself a yellow card and Liverpool a free kick. Robertson takes it, and Mané scores, but the goal is rightly called off by VAR. Can’t complain about that one…but I will, obviously.

There are five additional minutes for Liverpool to try and hold on for the three points here. Wow, Robertson…I don’t even know. Kind of touches Danny Welbeck’s foot with his toes as they both go for the ball. After doing a VAR check, the referee deems this a penalty. I guess Robertson kicked out? I don’t know. I’m tired. It’s too early for this.

Goal 90+3’ Pascal Groß – Groß converts the penalty and the two teams split the points.

Final Thoughts

A draw is probably a fair result given the performances, but I’m not happy about it.

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Super Eagles forward Dennis Bonaventure is back in Club Brugge’s squad for their league game clash with Excel Mouscron on Saturday.

 

Dennis missed the club Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League defeat to Borussia Dortmund after he was axed from the squad due to a disciplinary issue.

 

The Nigerian striker angered his club hierarchy for storming out of the team bus over a seat, he was later fined and was asked to train away from the team.

 

Ahead of Club Brugge’s league game, gaffer, Phillipe Clemente has now confirmed that this star striker is back in the team after he tendered an apology to his colleagues and the club at large.

 

”The Nigerian has apologized to the staff, the board, and the players’ group, and is now making a fresh start.

 

“That is the end of it for me,” said Clement during his weekly press talk. “On Saturday he will be in the selection for the match against Mouscron.” He said.

 

Dennis is yet to hit top form for the Belgian champions this term as he has only found the back of the net on three occasions.

 

 

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