Wissa and Mbeumo strike as Brentford inflict top-four blow on limp Liverpool | Premier League

This was a thudding reality check for anyone who thought Liverpool, having dusted themselves down over the winter break, would stroll back into the top four. They were beaten here by a bright, resolute Brentford but also by a shambolic opening night’s work by their own back line that ultimately took the game away. Ibrahima Konaté’s own goal typified that and was followed before half-time by a header from Yoane Wissa, who had already seen two efforts disallowed.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s riposte appeared to have shifted the dial but Bryan Mbeumo’s cool late finish, from Brentford’s only significant attack of the second half and resulting from a costly slip by Konaté, completed a chastening evening for Jürgen Klopp. Brentford, unbeaten in six, are in fine form and move up to seventh. Klopp may reflect that Liverpool remain a shadow of themselves.

The stroke of fortune behind the opener was of no concern to Brentford. They had just started to get going, earning a corner after Mbeumo blazed a trail past Virgil van Dijk only to be foiled by Alisson’s block, and within seconds there was no need to regret the near miss. Mbeumo’s delivery, swung in from the right, did not look especially threatening as it went over the heads of Mathias Jørgensen and Fabinho but the players behind them were unsighted; it meant Konate, with Ben Mee in close attendance, was at a loss as the ball struck his leg and squirmed untidily inside the near post. Konate’s first match since the World Cup final had begun as unhappily as that night in Doha ended.

It changed the dimensions of a game Liverpool had started well. There was a snap to their work in the early exchanges and it should have brought a goal within eight minutes. The chance fell to Darwin Núñez but arose through magical play from Mohamed Salah, who brought a high ball down from the sky and, turning 90 degrees at the same time, angled himself perfectly to spot his teammate’s run. His through ball was perfectly weighted and there was nothing wrong with Núñez’s touch was David Raya; where things fell short was in the finish, from an angle and on his weaker left side. It was blocked superbly by a sliding Mee, but Núñez ought to have made sure.

Bryan Mbeumo scores Brentford's third goal to secure a deserved victory.
Bryan Mbeumo scores Brentford’s third goal to secure a deserved victory. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Núñez had already exposed Brentford once, seizing on to a weak Ethan Pinnock header and drawing a foul from Jørgensen, who was booked. But it was his loose hold-up play inside the box that led to the counterattack from which the Bees ultimately scored; While Brentford were missing their own target man, Ivan Toney not quite fit enough to play after his injury against West Ham, the home side looked amply troublesome through sheer speed and attacking movement.

That was only the start of it. Liverpool, for all their territory and despite coming close to an equalizer when Raya saved by Kostas Tsimikas, were all at sea when pressurised. Another Mbeumo corner was eventually bundled in by Wissa, who was correctly ruled offside amid the scramble. Then a third such cross found Wissa completely alone, able to control and rifle past Alisson via a deflection; Brentford rejoiced but VAR found the shot had touched an offside Mee on its way in.

The let-off was significant but Liverpool did not learn from it. They lost the ball from the resulting free-kick and Brentford countered immediately, Mbeumo teeing up Mathias Jensen for a cross to the far post. With Konate nowhere to be seen, Wissa converted a standing header that Alisson could not claw out in time. Third time lucky, but Liverpool’s defending had been broken.

That Klopp made three half-time changes was little surprise; Van Dijk had been given a torrid time by Mbeumo and, rather than Konate, was the central defender replaced. Liverpool re-emerged at speed. Núñez thought he had given them impetus within three minutes of the restart but was flagged offside; there were no such concerns almost immediately afterwards when Trent Alexander-Arnold checked on to his left foot and crossed for Oxlade-Chamberlain, on the run, to head deftly past Raya. It was his first league goal since last January.

For all their chaos at the back, Liverpool had always looked capable of scoring. Fabinho sought a quick second, turning sublimely before forcing Raya to parry a daisycutter, and had two efforts blocked on the hour as Brentford struggled to get out. But further clear chances were few as proceedings entered their final quarter; if sometimes messy, Brentford’s defensive work was stout.

Another opening eventually arose but, in space on the right, Núñez dragged horribly wide. Salah, peripheral for considerable periods, saw a shot deflected off target and Konate headed the subsequent corner just beyond the far upright. But when the Frenchman appeared to have beaten Mbeumo to Christian Nørgaard’s long pass only to stumble, the game was up.

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