THE problems confronting Jurgen Klopp continue to mount.
Kaoru Mitoma’s superb added-time goal brought an end to Liverpool’s defence of the FA Cup and ensured it was Brighton who progress into the fifth round.
Brighton's victory, however, came at the cost of an injury to Evan Ferguson following a poor challenge by Fabinho who was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card.
The forward hobbled from the pitch and was clearly in some distress as he made his way to the the tunnel.
Harvey Elliott’s opening goal had raised Liverpool hopes of securing only their second victory in six games since the turn of the year. Brighton recovered, though, levelling through Lewis Dunk before claiming victory in the second minute of added time when Mitoma juggled Pervis Estupinan’s cross before volleying past Alisson Becker from close range.
Having insisted before the game his side was moving in the right direction, Liverpool manager Klopp was forced to confront yet another setback in an increasingly challenging season.
There was more of an edge to the way Liverpool approached this game compared to their dismal performance in the league two weeks previously. Then. Klopp’s side had struggled to develop any kind of momentum but on this occasion there was more of a sense of purpose to their play.
Equally, Brighton quickly demonstrated their intention to play on the front foot, ensuring the game quickly sparked into life with both teams creating early chances during a vibrant opening. Salah was soon prominent for Liverpool while Solly March and Tariq Lamptey made headway down the Albion right.
It took just four minutes for the visitors to create the first chance of the game which fell to Salah, who got in behind left-back Pervis Estupinan and saw his initial shot saved before his follow-up was cleared off the line by the alert Dunk.
Brighton responded in kind and Evan Ferguson should have done better with a close-range opportunity after being set up by Match. The young striker struck his shot wide of Alisson but too close to Trent Alexander-Arnold who produced the second goal-line clearance of the game.
Salah featured prominently in Liverpool’s best attacking moves but the Egypt international’s recent difficulties in front of goal were again evident when he was sent clear by an excellent through ball from Elliott. Keeper Jason Steele came out to narrow the angle and Salah pulled his shot wastefully wide.
The forward made up for that miss, however, in the 30th minute when he again found space, running from halfway to collect Naby Keita’s pass. And this time roles were reversed as Salah played the role of provider, setting up Elliott to put Klopp’s side in front.
The pattern of the game meant it was almost inevitable Brighton would soon have chance to level and it came nine minutes later after Liverpool failed to properly deal with Alexis Mac Allister’s cross following a short corner. The ball fell to Lamptey 25 yards out and the full-back’s low shot was diverted past Alisson by Dunk.
Dunk came close to adding a second when he directed a free-kick narrowly wide at the start of a second half that followed a similar pattern to the first although it was Brighton who had the clearer opportunities.
Alisson saved superbly from March and Ibrahima Konate, who had earlier made an excellent block to deny Ferguson, was fortunate to escape punishment when he stopped Alexis Mac Allister’s run on goal with his arm.
The breakthrough then came when a replay appeared certain.
Steele 7; Lamptey 8 (Van Hecke 90, 6), Webster 5 (Veltman 46, 6), Dunk 8, Estupinan 5; March 7, Gross 6, Mac Allister 6, Mitoma 9; Ferguson 7 (Undav 89, 6), Welbeck 6 (Gilmour 67, 6).
Sanchez, Sarmiento, Enciso, Moran, Hinshelwood.
Alisson 7; Alexander-Arnold 6 (Milner 59, 6) Konate 7, Gomez 7, Robertson 6; Keita 6 (Henderson 59, 6), Bajcetic 6 (Fabinho 84, 6), Thiago 6 (Jones79, 6); Salah 6, Gakpo 6, Elliott 6 (Nunez 59, 6).
Kelleher, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tsimikas, Matip.
David Coote 6.