They are accustomed to the No 11 scoring hat-tricks at Anfield. It is just that it is normally Mohamed Salah, rather than Leandro Trossard. Yet the Belgian garnished Roberto De Zerbi’s bow as Brighton manager with a historic hat-trick. Not since Arsenal’s Andrey Arshavin scored four in 2009 had a visiting player left Anfield with a treble to his name in a Premier League game. Trossard did to ensure that, on a day of fluctuating emotions and a rapidly shifting scoreline, Brighton deservedly avoided defeat.
For De Zerbi, it seemed an ideal start when his side surged into a 2-0 lead; perhaps it was too good to be true, and Liverpool illustrated that Jurgen Klopp did not brand them “mentality monsters” for nothing with a terrific response to their own terrible defending.
Yet when they led, Trossard pounced with an equaliser to keep Brighton four points ahead of their hosts in the table. If De Zerbi could not claim Albion’s second notable scalp this season, after Graham Potter won at Old Trafford, he found a way of outdoing his predecessor. Potter drew 2-2 at Anfield last season. In sharing six goals, De Zerbi took the excitement a step further.
For Liverpool, however, it continued their worst start to a season under Klopp. They showed a fighting spirit, but also a slipshod nature that has characterised too many of their performances this season. They keep needing to chase games and their comeback came courtesy of Roberto and Robert: Roberto Firmino’s brace took him to five goals in three games at Anfield and means that he is now Liverpool’s top scorer, a development few would have predicted when Liverpool signed Darwin Nunez to join Salah. Then Robert Sanchez blundered as the unwitting Adam Webster accidentally put Liverpool ahead; it was probably not what De Zerbi intended when he said the centre-backs were the most important players in his squad.
If nothing else, it illustrated that costly defensive mistakes were not confined to Trent Alexander-Arnold on a chastening day. The chances are that Gareth Southgate’s mind is already made up, but this was not a persuasive case to take him to the World Cup.
Klopp had mounted a vehement defence of Alexander-Arnold’s defending; one answer on Friday took five minutes and 40 seconds but, within four minutes of kick-off, Liverpool were behind. If there are times when Alexander-Arnold’s culpability has been exaggerated, he was partly to blame for Brighton’s first two goals.
Proceedings were barely under way when Brighton were gifted possession by his poor header; while Liverpool appealed for a foul for Moises Caicedo’s challenge on Jordan Henderson, Danny Welbeck released Trossard with a backheel and Alexander-Arnold was at fault for a second time as the Belgian span away from him and angled a shot beyond Alisson.
Liverpool’s habit of conceding first continued. Their problems were compounded when they conceded a second as well, Trossard whipping a shot past Alisson after a low cutback from Welbeck and a lovely, cushioned pass by Solly March. Yet the initial problem stemmed from Alexander-Arnold again: chesting the ball up in the air, he was dispossessed by the relentless Welbeck. De Zerbi had opted for continuity, making a solitary change by bringing in Pervis Estupinan for the ill Enock Mwepu, but reaped a rich reward for a tactical switch. Trossard was used as an inverted wing-back by Potter, in a leftfield move for a right-footed player, but shifted further forward by his successor. Trossard was unleashed. Liverpool were unable to stop him.
Before their fightback began, the deficit could have been greater; Alisson twice stopped Brighton doubling their lead earlier, holding the unmarked Welbeck’s header and advancing off his line to block Trossard’s shot after a deft turn by the striker. If it showed each side of Welbeck, who is yet to score this season but otherwise playing superbly, it demonstrated Liverpool were far too open defensively.
Yet it is no coincidence they are unbeaten at Anfield in the top flight with a crowd present since 2017. A run was extended to 82 games. Firmino’s goals used to come on the road but he slotted in after a selfless touch by Salah. The Egyptian was initially adjudged offside. A VAR review later and the Brazilian had halved the deficit. He levelled with a lovely, assured finish, strolling past Lewis Dunk to sidefoot in after a move that took Liverpool from one penalty box to the other, with Thiago Alcantara and the substitute Luis Diaz combining to set him up. Firmino scored five league goals in the whole of last season; he equalled that tally on the first day of October.
Their third goal came gift-wrapped. Sanchez had made a brilliant block from Salah when Albion were 2-0 up. At 2-2, however, he erred badly, missing his punch from Alexander-Arnold’s corner. The ball struck the unfortunate Webster and rolled over the line.
Yet Liverpool were unable to close the game out. Alisson was required to repel a forceful header from Welbeck but even he could not preserve Liverpool’s lead. He was left powerless when substitute Kaoru Mitoma’s deep cross evaded everyone – and Virgil van Dijk perhaps should have cut it out – until Trossard hooked in a shot at the far post. A new era at Brighton started with a slice of history.
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