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 progressed into the fifth round.
Harvey Elliott’s opening goal had raised Liverpool’s hopes of securing only their second victory in six games since the turn of the year. Brighton recovered, 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.
Brighton’s victory came at the cost of an injury to Evan Ferguson following a poor challenge from behind 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. The win, though, was no more than Roberto De Zerbi’s side deserved as they put the disruption caused by the absent midfielder Moises Caicedo, a target for Arsenal, to engineer a move away from the club to one side.
“They asked (VAR) about the foul of Fabinho but I think I am sure he is an honest player, a correct player,” said De Zerbi. “On the pitch it can happen this accident. No (Ferguson is not OK). We will see whether it is a serious injury in the next few days.”
Addressing Caicedo’s position, the Brighton manager made it clear he wants the midfielder to remain at the club and strengthen the club’s push for a possible place in the Europa League.
“I was surprised,” said the manager when asked about the player posting a message on social media confirming he wants to move. “But I can understand where it started. This mistake. I don’t know if you understand. Moises is a good guy. I think so (he was influenced by others).
“I can understand him because when you are 21 and you receive a request of a big big team playing in European competition. I would like he can finish the season with us. But we are ready to go without him. We lost Trosaard. If we lose also Caicedo, it will be a problem for us. If we want to fight for Europa League or the maximum in the table.”
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.
“We had the game in mind from a couple of weeks ago which was pretty much the bottom of my time,” said the Liverpool manager. “So this was better, much better. But we still conceded two goals from set-pieces.
“We have to improve, body language, a couple of boys have to do much better. But last game here we couldn’t have won. I think today nobody would have been surprised if we had won the game.
“The body language wasn’t ok. The next time it has to be better. I’m not over the moon with this performance, but the only thing that happened really was we lost against a good side who we lost to two weeks ago in a horrendous game and today was much better. There is no other way than to fight through.”
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 March. 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 chances 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, 4), Thiago 6 (Jones79, 6); Salah 6, Gakpo 6, Elliott 6 (Nunez 59, 6).
Kelleher, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tsimikas, Matip.
David Coote 6.