Liverpool stretched their lead at the top of the table to seven points after a modest 1-0 win against Brighton. This will further put pressure on Manchester City, who face Wolves on Monday.
Both teams failed to create many chances and eventually, it was Mohamed Salah’s second half penalty which decided the game.
A cleansheet in his first league game in defence, we take a look at Fabinho’s performance against Brighton
Aerial duels won: 3
Shots blocked: 8
With Joel Matip still to return and Joe Gomez plus Dejan Lovren sidelined due to injury, Fabinho was asked to operate from the centre-back position by Jurgen Klopp. The Brazilian did a good job at a position he is not fashioned to function in.
Arguably the best centre-back in Europe, Virgil van Dijk had yet another near-perfect game but Fabinho put on an equally impressive show by the Dutchman’s side.
Positioning, tackling, blocking – Fabinho’s game had it all. The 25-year-old was one of the best players on the field and ensured that the leaders did not drop any points on their trip to Brighton.
Positioning: It’s never easy to function in a different role when positioning sense is taken into consideration. Safe to say, Fabinho did a great job in ensuring that the Liverpool backline maintained a good defensive shape and remained unrattled by Brighton’s annoying swarm of attacks in the death.
The summer signing from Monaco also made van Dijk feel comfortable to move out of his area and play the ball to Andrew Robertson who played very high up the pitch throughout.
Blocking: Fabinho can lay claim on two of the three points Liverpool managed to garner. Although blocking a shot is an aspect of good positioning, Fabinho’s crucial stops against Brighton deserve a special mention.
The Brazilian blocked Jurgen Locadia’s shot from the right side in the 14th minute, which was Brighton’s first real attack on the Liverpool goal.
In the 59th minute, Pascal Gross found himself in the centre of the Liverpool box with the ball at his feet and an excellent chance to level the game. But Fabinho sensed the danger and put his body in the way.
Liverpool had to deal with yet another heart in the mouth moment in injury time when Gross found himself in a promising position in front of goal, only to be denied by a stretching Fabinho.
This is probably as good as it could have got for Fabinho in his first game as a centre-back. Outperforming the best centre-half in the league is no mere joke and the Brazilian deserves huge credit for Liverpool’s win on the night.
This further opens up possibilities for Klopp and we can probably see the van Dijk-Fabinho partnership more often, in case of any injuries to the first choice Gomez.
Liverpool returned to 2018/19 Premier League action without their unbeaten record, but a 1-0 win at Brighton – courtesy of a Mohamed Salah penalty – ensured their gap at the top of the table was back at seven points.
Defeat to Manchester City on January 3rd – they’re next in action on Monday – and a third-round FA Cup exit to Wolves meant Jurgen Klopp’s side had opened up 2019 without a victory.
However, despite struggling to make inroads against an organised Brighton outfit, they squeezed another important three points from a tight fixture thanks to Salah’s second-half penalty.
The Egyptian was their best attacker after the break and he was hauled down by Pascal Gross after slaloming into the box. He then emphatically dispatched the resulting penalty in the 50th minute for his 14th Premier League goal of the season, his 17th in all competitions.
Below, we rate how the league leaders fared at the Amex Stadium.
Alisson 6 – Relatively relaxed fixture for the Brazilian goalkeeper considering Brighton failed to muster a single shot on target for the first hour. A 13th clean sheet of the season is a welcome statistic.
Trent Alexander-Arnold 6 – Huge concern greeted the opening whistle with the young full-back struggling after rolling his ankle in the warm-up. Perhaps explains why he was a little more restrained, although he made a vital interception late on.
Virgil van Dijk 7 – A 50th Liverpool appearance for Van Dijk and this was much like the other 49. Read the game so well and helped to calm any anxieties around Fabinho’s new role in alongside him.
Fabinho 6 – Glenn Murray is far from the most mobile forward so was never likely going to test the Brazilian too much. However, he was still caught out of position on a couple of occasions. Did produce a great block to deny Gross, though.
Andrew Robertson 8 – Same every week. Liverpool struggled for fluidity in this fixture but the Scot remained brilliant. A massive threat going forward, dangerous delivery as his signature and more than at ease to quell any Brighton attacks when flying back into his defensive slot.
Giorgino Wijnaldum 7 – Can’t be misstated how his recoveries when teams try to clear danger is so important. Was the brighter of Liverpool’s midfield with his neat touches and angled passes giving the visitor’s control where it mattered.
Jordan Henderson 5 – Against a deep defensive block, Henderson is not the man you want in midfield. For the big games, it more than makes sense to have his energy and efficiency in there. But he was far too safe against Brighton and he struggled to make an impact.
Xherdan Shaqiri 6 – Operated out wide in the FA Cup defeat to Wolves but returned to a central berth against Brighton. Looks more comfortable there but this wasn’t his best display. Was hooked with Klopp constantly on his back for the Swiss’s slow transitions defensively.
Mohamed Salah breaking the deadlock with a penalty won by himself. 💉 pic.twitter.com/qlH343gHXp— . (@VintageSalah) January 12, 2019
Roberto Firmino 6 – Dropped the ball off into midfield effectively and then tried to find some space in attacking areas. Buzzed around without the boldness we’ve become accustomed to during his time for the Reds.
Sadio Mane 7 – He was probably Liverpool’s biggest threat in the first half and whenever he pulled wide to the left touchline, looked to create trouble for the visitors, either by roaming in field or fizzing a cross into the box.
Mohamed Salah 8 – The Egyptian turned it on after the break. Barely featured in the first 45 minutes but then turned on the style when they needed it most. Won the penalty, scored it and then endeavoured to create or nab another. Did miss a sitter late on, however, which will no doubt infuriate Fantasy Premier League owners.
James Milner 6 – Seemed to warm up for an eternity with Alexander-Arnold threatening to come off from virtually the first minute. Did arrive after the break to replace Shaqiri as Klopp opted for midfield control with a switch from 4-2-3-1 into 4-3-3.
Naby Keita N/A – Brought into the action late on for Mane to run down the clock.
Divock Origi N/A – Stoppage-time switch for goalscorer Salah.
The Reds suffered a second straight defeat as they lost 2-1 at Wolves in the cup on Monday.
It came after their unbeaten top-flight run this season was ended by title rivals Manchester City last week.
They go to Brighton still four points clear at the top on Saturday but Milner knows Liverpool need to improve after recent disappointments.
“Back-to-back defeats isn’t really good enough for us but you have blips in a season,” said the 33-year-old.
“It’s not something you want, especially at Liverpool, we know what’s expected. We have to make sure we bounce back and look at where we can get better.
“It’s not about blips, they are expected but it’s how you respond and bounce back. You’ve seen the character in the squad over the last few years, and the players we have, to know we will bounce back.
“It’s easier saying that but we have to do that at the weekend.”
Milner’s mistake, when he lost possession to Diogo Jota, allowed Raul Jimenez to open the scoring and the former England midfielder took the blame.
He said: “I should do better. The pitch all night was a bit tricky and lively. It’s the same for both teams. It was my mistake for the first goal and it’s cost us, if not it’s 1-1 and we get a replay.
“It was a pretty good finish from their lad but they didn’t have many chances. We didn’t either but that’s what separated the teams, my mistake and a very good finish for the second goal.”
Ruben Neves scored Wolves’ second-half winner from 25 yards just four minutes after Divock Origi had equalised.
"We close this game now and are looking forward to the weekend and the Premier League."@XS_11official is certain #LFC have the quality in the ranks to respond to their #FACup elimination when they return to @premierleague duty this weekend.https://t.co/9HLmpALzey— Liverpool FC (@LFC) 8 January 2019
Jimenez netted his seventh goal of the season when he ran unchallenged to sweep past Simon Mignolet.
He is Wolves’ top scorer and would welcome Tammy Abraham to Molineux if the club manage to resurrect a loan move from Chelsea.
“If any player is coming to help the team it’s welcome,” he said.
“It’s good to have competition inside the team. You don’t give up, you have to feel comfortable but it’s good if there’s someone who can do the same as you.
“That’s what I want and need to do (score more), I have no pressure, maybe I have to do it more and maybe for the next matches I score more.”