Football News

The “modern-day Wimbledon” perform their party trick as Brentford capitalise on Liverpool’s defensive woes

By Harry Edwards

Published: 19:48, 2 January 2023

Liverpool were left cursing their poor defensive performance in the first half as they were beaten 3-1 against Brentford on Monday evening.

A lot has been said about Liverpool and their starts to matches this season, with the Reds conceding the first goal in 10 of their 17 Premier League matches so far, having done so just 12 times in 2021/22. But they had managed to pull matches back a fair few times.

In the first nine occasions in which Liverpool had conceded the opening goal in the Premier League this season, while they had still lost four matches, the Reds had rescued points five times. There were three draws and two wins, coming from 1-0 down to beat both Newcastle United and Leicester City. However, on Monday night it was different.

First of all, this was Liverpool conceding the first goal in a Premier League game away from home. Not including Monday’s match, the previous four occasions in which Liverpool had conceded first away from home in the league this season had seen the Reds draw one and lose three times, beaten by Manchester United, Arsenal and Nottingham Forest while rescuing a point against Fulham on the opening day.

On this occasion it was a Liverpool player scoring the opening goal, with Ibrahima Konate putting the ball into his own net, but the goal came from an excellent Brentford set piece which caused Jurgen Klopp’s side problems. This was a growing theme in the match, as Brentford had another two goals disallowed for offside, both of which had come from corners.

Just moments after the second disallowed goal, with Yoane Wissa’s strike hitting an offside Ben Mee, the Congolese forward did find the net to make it 2-0 to Brentford, a lead they held onto until half-time. History wasn’t looking fondly on Liverpool, who had lost each of their last 20 Premier League games in which they had been at least two goals behind at half-time.

And the way Brentford were opening Liverpool’s defence, completely pulling apart their high line and overpowering at set pieces, forced Klopp into a triple change at half-time. Off went Kostas Tsimikas, Harvey Elliott and Virgil van Dijk (the latter appearing to be due to injury) and on came Joel Matip, Andrew Robertson and Naby Keita.

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Within the first five minutes of the second half, Liverpool had pulled a goal back. They first had a Darwin Nunez goal disallowed for offside, but there was no such problem for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when he headed home from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross. That should have kickstarted Liverpool’s comeback, but in the end it turned out to be more about Brentford being slow starters in the second half, with only Nottingham Forest (10) and Southampton (eight) conceding more than their seven in the first 15 minutes after half-time.

Liverpool continued to push but it was Brentford who scored the fourth goal, as Bryan Mbeumo made it 3-1 with six minutes left to play. And really, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Brentford love playing the big boys.

Liverpool are the sixth and final team of the Big Six to take on Brentford this season, and the Bees have an excellent record. Thomas Frank’s side have now recorded three wins, adding Liverpool to Manchester United and Manchester City, while drawing against Tottenham and Chelsea. Only Arsenal have managed to beat Brentford this season among the Big Six, so perhaps that’s a sign the Gunners are on the way to the Premier League title.

And Gary Neville had a word of warning for the big clubs.

“There’s always been a team in the Premier League that has asked the question of whether you want to run, whether you want to fight, head the ball, defend set pieces, and Brentford do that,” he told Sky Sports.

“They’re more than that as well. This is the modern-day Wimbledon from 25-30 years ago, of spirit. I know it’s very different now than it was 25 years ago, but they’re that team, that if you’re not quite right, if you’re not up for it, if you’re just a little bit short in those areas of competitiveness, they’ll beat you up.

“They’ve beaten Liverpool up today, they beat (Man) United up earlier this season, Arsenal last season although Arsenal have won here this season. They’ll beat big clubs up if you’re just not quite right and at it.”