Comfortable Liverpool win breathes some life into title race

Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and substitute Takumi Minamino were all on the mark for Klopp’s team
Comfortable Liverpool win breathes some life into title race

Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, right, celebrates with Liverpool's Roberto Firmino after scoring his side's second goal during an English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Brentford at Anfield in Liverpool, England, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Premier League: Liverpool 3 Brentford 0

AN emphatic win by Jurgen Klopp’s under-strength Liverpool breathed some degree of life into the title race as they moved into second place and to within 11 points of Manchester City.

Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and substitute Takumi Minamino were all on the mark for Klopp’s team, who still also have a game in hand on the runaway league leaders.

Brazilian midfielder Fabinho broke the deadlock a minute before half-time, after a period of dogged resistance from the visitors’ defence.

Eventually, they were undone from a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner which Virgil van Dijk just missed connecting with at the near post.

The ball flew through a crowded area to the far post where, for once, Brentford had failed to mark adequately and Fabinho headed home.

It was a goal that Liverpool fully merited, on the balance of play and possession, but which they had struggled to carve out - no surprise given that, for the first time since the summer of 2017, Klopp had named a Premier League line-up with neither Sadio Mane nor Mo Salah in it.

The pair, on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations, will also miss next week’s visit to Crystal Palace although, to Klopp’s relief, they are the only two Premier League fixtures for which they will be absent.

Without them, Liverpool took their time breaking down Brentford’s defence although their keeper Alvaro Fernandez was required to make a fine reflex stop to keep out an attempt from van Dijk at a 22nd minute corner.

Indeed, the visitors even enjoyed threatening moments themselves in the first half, particularly when Joel Matip gifted the ball to Ivan Toney and his low shot from 25 yards flew just wide.

But Jordan Henderson and Curtis Jones started the second half with long shots that posed only minimal concern to Fernandez and Liverpool looked to take control.

It proved more tricky than might have been expected and Christian Norgaard played in Bryan Mbeumo just before the hour who created space for himself and might have done more than shoot narrowly wide.

Liverpool responded, with Oxlade-Chamberlain striking the post and Roberto Firmino hitting the rebound straight at the keeper.

Diogo Jota might then have wrapped up the three points as he rode a couple of challenges in the Brentford area to set up a shooting opportunity which was well saved by Fernandez.

And, finally, on 68 minutes Andy Robertson’s superb left-wing cross was timed perfectly for Oxlade-Chamberlain who sent a superb diving header flying past Fernandes for Liverpool’s second.

The points were in the bag, but Fernandez contributed to his team’s downfall on 77 minutes with a terrible pass which fell directly to Firmino who twice exchanged passes with Minamino before the Japanese international converted into the open net.

Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson 6; Alexander-Arnold 6, Matip 6, van Dijk 7, Robertson 7; Henderson 6, Fabinho 8, Jones 6; Oxlade-Chamberlain 7 (Minamino 74, 7), Firmino 7 (Milner 77, 6), Jota 6 (Gordon 81). Substitutes (not used) Konate, Gomez, Tsimikas, Kelleher, Williams, Morton.

Brentford (3-5-2): Fernandez 5; Ager 6, Jansson 5, Pinnock 5; Roerslev 6, Janelt 6, Norgaard 7, Baptiste 5 (Wissa 67, 6), Henry 7 (Canos 49, 6); Mbeumo 5 (Jensen 75, 5), Toney 6. 

Substitutes (not used) Forss, Ghoddos, Bidstrup, Bech Sorensen, Stevens, Lossl.

Referee J Moss 7

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