Verdict: Reds find their shooting boots to offer hope not all is lost without Salah and Mané

After Liverpool returned to winning ways at Anfield, Paul Connor reflects on impact from fringe players and celebrates being one game closer to the return of our African goal-getters.

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In the same fashion as on Thursday night as Liverpool laboured against Arsenal, I and most others watching on as this game crept towards half time still goalless were in a familiar mindset – ‘oh no, it’s happening again’.

But – and this is a massive but – we were able to get over the line in usual Reds fashion. With attacking prowess. With consistency. Mercifully, with end-product. And Fabinho getting his beautiful noggin on the ball at the far post to break the deadlock.

Everything that was missing on Thursday.

Liverpool impressed in the second half of this game as they came out of the dressing room a revitalised side – possibly with a Jürgen Klopp bollocking still ringing in their ears, ensuring that the game was put to bed.

Those on the pitch showed the urgency, determination and accuracy (I’m looking at you, Robbo *wink*) that we so desperately needed against Arsenal in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final, a game that needed consistency in the final third.

Put simply, the first 45 minutes of the game had been stressful. Many of them seemed uninterested to really bust a gut in an attempt to make something happen, with a lack of half-space runs. Some sloppiness also questioned whether the players were fully awake alongside Brentford’s collective defensive and attacking efforts.

The Bees looked due a goal, and deservedly so, but we can rest on the fact it just wasn’t to be for the Londoners this time. It’s also unfortunate to point out the still very noticeable absence of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané at times, away with their national teams.

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stole the limelight for me in the first half, running at and concerning Brentford’s defence alongside the welcome added dimensions to our attack, which he has done a lot when playing for us this season.

His hard work was eventually rewarded in the 69th minute as Robertson’s sublime cross met his head to make it 2-0. Man of the match for me, though my colleague The Don did not concur in his player ratings.

Joël Matip also impressed as always with his last-ditch tackles and pulse-raising runs at defences – one day he will find a goal at the end of one of his little adventures up the middle of the pitch – while Curtis Jones is very welcome back in the Liverpool side.

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The victory banishes certain frustrations from the 3-3 draw at the Brentford Community Stadium and, more importantly, puts us that bit closer to the blistering-hot Manchester City at the top of the table – still eight points behind the league leaders, though it’s three points that could still define a whole football season.

Liverpool now look towards the return leg of the cup game at Arsenal this Thursday, though gaze at the faint, shiny object in the horizon as they have done since 2020 – the Premier League trophy.


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