Brighton & Hove Albion booked their place in the FA Cup fifth-round draw after running out 2-1 winners over cup holders Liverpool this afternoon.
The Reds were seeking a semblance of revenge after being humbled on Brighton’s home soil two weeks ago. Jürgen Klopp described that 3-0 loss as the worst he’s suffered during an illustrious managerial career. Liverpool was second-best throughout back then, and despite today being a considerable improvement, it wasn’t enough and they are still missing what made them among English football’s most feared teams.
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Nothing illustrates this more than Trent Alexander-Arnold’s curious decline in performance. He wouldn’t last an hour as Japanese international winger Kaoru Mitoma continually made his life difficult. Alexander-Arnold looked less than amused when coming off but you have to believe Klopp was doing him a favour. Mitoma was irresistible driving the ball forward having completed six of his nine attempted take-ons which is more than anyone else on the pitch managed.
Mitoma’s rapid acceleration and electric pace was too much for Alexander-Arnold to handle but his manager Roberto De Zerbi would have liked a consistent end product. Before netting the winning goal, a delicious piece of individual close control brilliance, he would create one meaningful chance when his low cross was met by the onrushing Solly March, but Alisson responded with an excellent, close-range save before the ball ricocheted back off March and out for a goal kick.
Kaoru Mitoma for Brighton against Liverpool:
100% shot accuracy
8 duels won
6 take-ons completed (most)
2 shots on target
2 fouls won
1 big chance created
Terrorised Liverpool's defence and then scored the winner. ⚽ pic.twitter.com/7RiQWFa8Hw
— Squawka (@Squawka) January 29, 2023
Harvey Elliott put the visitors in front before Lewis Dunk inadvertently equalised before half-time. Liverpool raised the game’s tempo following the interval though were a tad fortunate to finish the game with a complete set of players as there was a strong case for Ibrahima Konaté and then Fabinho, who had only been on the pitch for a few minutes, to be shown a straight red card.
Just when it seemed that both teams would be reconvening at Anfield on February 8th to settle this contest once and for all. Mitoma rounded off a brilliant match-winning performance. After neutralising Alexander-Arnold he ensured there would be no replay by popping up at the back post in the 92nd minute to first control, then dummy, before smashing the ball home.
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“It’s nice to have him in our side. I’m glad I’m not chasing him! He’s a top player and he’s come out of nowhere,” Dunk told ITV Sport after the game. “We’re just lucky to have him in our team. Hopefully we can keep him for a long time and he can keep producing stuff like that.”
Dunk is right. Mitoma is fast becoming a key cog in this exciting Brighton side. He’s either scored or assisted in eight of his last 11 appearances for the Seagulls in all competitions (six goals and two assists).
Having emerged from relative obscurity to grab centre stage one can only imagine the growing list of suitors for his signature. For now, Mitoma will continue to play his role in Brighton chasing a first piece of silverware as well as the Amex Stadium tasting European club football.