Ten changes for the Tricky Reds today, with only Curtis Jones keeping his place in the starting lineup after the trip to Norwich in the Carabao Cup earlier in the week. It was good to see Bobby back, on the bench at least, and the Joel and Virgil Show return at the heart of the defence, although both Gomez and Konaté had both performed well.
Brentford haven’t beaten us since 6th November 1937, when a hat-trick from a certain Bobby Reid (nope, never heard of him either) helped the visitors defeat us 4-3 at Anfield (we got our revenge later that same season, beating them 3-1 at Griffin Park).
A fairly lively opening five minutes, with the Reds spreading the ball around nicely, came to an abrupt end as Ajer injured himself challenging Jones for Henderson’s cross. The defender was down for a couple of minutes but recovered well enough (sadly) to clear off the line in the eighth minute, after Mo had beaten Raya with a low shot. It did appear that the shot was slightly under hit but it was a terrific clearance all the same.
At the other end, Toney glanced a header across goal and Onyeka fired over a minute later; then, Mbeumo thought he had scored with a dink over Alisson but Joel got back to clear off the line. Goal line clearances 2 Goals 0.
After a period of mediocre play, the hosts made the breakthrough in the 27th minute. Fabinho was harshly adjudged to have given away a free kick by the right touch line and a well worked routine saw Canós eventually square the ball across the six yard box for Pinnick to stab home, ahead of our bald Brazilian, at the far post.
The hosts’ lead didn’t last long, however, as Salah found Henderson on the right and the captain’s beautifully flighted cross sailed over Ajer for Jota to head home at the far post. 1-1 after 31 minutes.
Pinnock went down injured in his own penalty area but was able to continue; Jones’ deflected shot from 20 yards came back off the post to Jota, who looked certain to score, but Raya somehow clawed away the follow-up from the Portuguese forward. An excellent bit of goalkeeping.
The Brentford goalscorer finally succumbed to his injuries in the 43rd minute, being replaced by Jorgensen, and Trent, whose delivery had been uncharacteristically poor all half, blazed a free kick over from 25 yards as we entered stoppage time.
Given that Ajer and Pinnock (twice) had both been treated on the field for injuries, three minutes seemed a little parsimonious from my perspective. Mané tried to release Mo on the counterattack after some Brentford pressure but Henry did well to win the ball from the Egyptian and snuff out the threat.
As the players trudged off for their halftime oranges, it was all square and few could have complained about that. The Reds had started the brighter but Brentford had also threatened in several occasions; both sides had also seen an effort cleared off the line.
The second stanza started with a period of intense Liverpool pressure but a series of corners came to nothing as Robertson overhit one and it drifted behind for a goal kick.
A few minutes later, the visitors were in front. Fabinho floated the ball to the far post and Salah fired first time past Raya. The Egyptian was beyond the last man in this side but a defender on the opposite side was playing Mo onside and, after a brief VAR review, the goal stood. 2-1 to the good guys after 54 minutes. It was Salah’s one hundredth league goal for Liverpool, coming in his 151st appearance.
Alisson gave the ball away with a sloppy pass but the Bees were unable to capitalise; the dangerous Toney then curled an effort wide as we neared the hour mark.
A few minutes later, Jansson lifted the ball to the far post; Ajer saw his shot cannon back off the bar and Janelt headed the rebound home. 2-2 after 63 minutes.
Jones blazed an effort miles over the bar but soon atoned by rifling a 25 yard effort past Raya at his near post after cutting in from the left hand side; 3-2 to the Tricky Reds after 67 minutes.
That was the promising midfielder’s last involvement, as he was immediately replaced by Bobby; I strongly suspect that the youngster knew he was about to be subbed and thought “Fuck it” and took a pop as a parting shot. I’m glad he did.
The Reds should have extended their lead but Salah inexplicably chipped over when one on one with the keeper after Mané’s delightful pass; seconds later, Salah returned the favour from the right but Sadio fired his, admittedly much harder, chance over. Mo should definitely have scored- should have been 4-2 and game over with fifteen minutes to play.
There was a nagging doubt that that miss would come back to haunt us and, sure enough, Brentford equalised again. Trent was outnumbered at the far post by Toney and the substitute Wisa, and the latter bundled it home before Alisson could close him down. 3-3 with eight minutes left.
Jota was being held back by Henry in the box but- surprise, surprise- no penalty for us, where either of the Manchester clubs would definitely have been awarded one. Virgil had to slide in to deny Toney; seconds later, the Brentford striker, a Liverpool fan, thought that he’d scored the winner but he was half a yard offside.
And that was that. Five minutes of stoppage time passed with the visitors just pumping aimless balls into the Bees’ box- utterly pointless. Two points dropped, courtesy of the usual wasteful finishing, some terrible defending and poor refereeing. Our previously watertight defence went AWOL; we really need to tighten things up quickly.
Next up is a trip to Portugal to face Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday evening. Our hosts showed that they will not be pushovers by holding Atletico to a goalless draw in Madrid on matchday one, but we should be too strong for them.
MOTM: Ciro Salvo. No, not a little-known defensive midfielder but a rather good pizzaiolo. He opened a place near Trafalgar Square last year but I hadn’t visited, due to Covid, until this week. All I can say is that if you like pizza and you’re ever in London, give them a try. Bellissimo!