Liverpool fell to an embarrassing 3-1 defeat to a spirited Brentford side in their first Premier League match of 2023 on Monday evening (2 January).
Ibrahima Konate scored an own goal to give Brentford the lead before Yoane Wissa and Bryan Mbuemo found the back of the net for the hosts. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the Reds’ only goal in the second half.
Monday’s result at the Gtech Community Stadium marked Brentford’s first victory over Liverpool since 1938. The Bees have also beaten Manchester United and Manchester City this season.
Liverpool came mighty close to finding the back of the net after only eight minutes of play. Mohamed Salah played a sumptuous through ball to Darwin Nunez, who managed to round off the Brentford keeper before going for goal. Ben Mee made a superb goal-line clearance to keep his team from trailing.
In the 18th minute, Mbuemo led a Brentford counter-attack, zipping past Virgil van Dijk and going for goal from the right side of the box. Alisson came off his line quickly to stop the ball from going in. A minute later, a deflection off Konate gave Brentford the lead.
Five minutes after going behind, Liverpool had a great opportunity to equalize through Kostas Tsimikas. Unfortunately for the Reds, the left-back failed to do justice to Oxlade-Chamberlain’s excellent cutback and ended up hitting it too close to Brentford keeper David Raya.
Bees’ forward Wissa saw two of his goals chalked out for offside in quick succession before getting lucky on the third occasion. In the 42nd minute, he superbly connected with Mathias Jensen’s cross to take the ball beyond Alisson. The Brazilian keeper tried to claw the header out but the ball had already crossed the line.
Three minutes into the second half, Nunez broke free down the right-inside channel and applied a fine finish to reduce the deficit. After a lengthy VAR review, the goal was disallowed for offside. Liverpool finally got their goal in the 50th minute, with Oxlade-Chamberlain ghosting behind the Brentford defense and connecting with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s peach of a left-footed delivery.
Surprisingly, the goal did not instigate a Liverpool uprising as they struggled to breach Brentford’s resistance. The hosts landed the knockout punch in the 84th minute, with Mbeumo completely outclassing Konate to double the home side’s cushion.
Following the heavy defeat, the Merseysiders find themselves 15 points behind leaders Arsenal and four behind fourth-placed Manchester United. Both teams have played a game less (17 vs 16) than Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Here are five Liverpool stars who failed to live up to their billing in their first Premier League outing of the year:
#5 Kostas Tsimikas
Kostas Tsimikas was picked ahead of Andrew Robertson against Brentford, possibly to allow the Scot some extra rest after suffering a dead leg. Tsimikas failed to serve as Robertson’s capable understudy, misplacing crosses and squandering a great chance to equalize in the 24th minute.
Before being hooked for Robertson at halftime, Tsimikas misplaced two crosses, lost two duels, played only 19 accurate passes (76% accuracy), and lost possession 10 times.
#4 Harvey Elliott
Klopp deployed Harvey Elliott to fill in for a concussed Jordan Henderson. The midfielder failed to make the most of the opportunity, struggling to create chances and failing to bring his teammates into play. Elliott also committed a foul on Rico Henry in the ninth minute, clearly obstructing his path and deservedly getting booked for it.
Elliott did not attempt any shots against Brentford, let alone land one on target. He also lost his only attempted duel, lost possession six times, and misplaced two crosses. Elliott was taken off for Naby Keita at halftime.
#3 Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah was considerably below his sensational best in the Premier League clash against Brentford. Except for his link-up play with Nunez, he hardly brought anything to the table. He was weak in duels, did not test the goalkeeper even once, and lost possession quite a few times.
On Monday night, Salah lost three of four duels, lost possession 14 times, and misplaced his only attempted cross. His only shot of the night was blocked by the Brentford defense.
#2 Virgil van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk is widely hailed as one of the best center-backs in the world. On Monday, he failed to live up to his reputation, cutting a clueless figure at the back. The Netherlands international was convincingly outpaced by Mbeumo in the 18th minute. Alisson came off his line to make a smart save. He also did not make any defensive interventions, often failing to provide cover for his teammates.
Before being hooked for Joel Matip at halftime, Van Dijk misplaced two long balls, lost possession thrice, and was caught offside once.
#1 Ibrahima Konate
Ibrahima Konate had a direct hand in two of Brentford’s three goals on Monday night. In the 19th minute, he failed to read the flight of Mbeumo’s corner. He could not clear his feet out of the way as the delivery struck him and found its way into the back of the net.
In the 84th minute, he was muscled off the ball by Mbeumo, who then calmly slotted the ball past a helpless Alisson. The Frenchman appealed for a foul, but it was hardly credible.
Against Brentford, Konate misplaced three long balls, lost three of six duels, and lost possession seven times. It was arguably Konate’s worst performance in a Liverpool shirt.