The Brentford Community Stadium was left buzzing after Liverpool once again drop points on the road this season being bullied and defeated by Brentford 3-1.
A return to Premier League football in the new year showed no signs of a new Liverpool, as the same old problems for the reds’ were showcased by a brilliant Brentford performance on Monday night, beating Liverpool 3-1.
Missed chances will yet again leave Liverpool fans frustrated, as Darwin Nunez and Kostas Tsimikas both missed glorious opportunities early in the game, failing to put Liverpool into an early lead.
But it was Brentford who struck first in this game, as they used their physical prowess to bully Liverpool in aerial duels, looking susceptible to any cross whipped into the box as they struggled to organise a solid defensive structure.
Brentford had the ball in Liverpool’s net on four separate occasions from crosses into the box in the first half, displaying a clear incapability to deal with these situations from Klopp’s men, however, two were called back for offsides by VAR, leaving them with a two-goal deficit heading into the half-time break.
Jurgen Klopp commented on Brentford’s physical nature in the game in his post-match interview, saying:
“We played here last year and it was 3-3 and it’s a very similar game, a wild game, a game Brentford wants,” said the Liverpool boss.Embed from Getty Images
“I’m not sure you can really control it all the time because each corner is a massive threat. They stretch the rules in these moments, full-body contact.
“There was only one offensive foul off a set piece tonight which was whistled and it was against us, which is really funny!
“Of course, we don’t behave perfectly but, like I said, they stretch the rules in these moments. They’re really pushing, really holding and everything. That’s why it’s really difficult. I wish we could have done better there.
“We had a meeting before the season where they told us the refs will whistle that but unfortunately they don’t do it. A foul is a foul, holding is holding, pushing is pushing.
“If the refs see it, you would expect them to whistle it. If they don’t see it, they can’t whistle it, and that’s how it is.”
“There’s a reason they’re so successful with offensive set-pieces and still concede a lot of defensive goals around set-pieces – because there you cannot do the same stuff, because in your own box it would be a penalty.”
But despite Klopp’s frustrations with the officiating, he was quick to act at half-time as he made a triple substitution, withdrawing Virgil Van Dijk, Kostas Tsimikas, and Harvey Elliot, replacing them with Joel Matip, Andrew Robertson, and Naby Keita.
The changes seemed to make an impact in the opening stages of the first half, with Liverpool looking dangerous down both wide channels.
This bright start to the half saw a wonderfully placed cross by Trent Alexander-Arnold neatly headed into the far corner by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
However, Liverpool failed to put Brentford to the sword, as a lack of tempo in their ball movement allowed Brentford to sit in a compact shape and break with pace.
This is exactly how Brentford scored their third goal of the game, a quick transition from defence to attack saw Ibrahim Konate tumble over softly, allowing Bryan Mbuemo to slot home a goal to finish off the game.
A goal that left Jurgen Klopp furious, as he told Sky Sports: “The third goal, I have no clue. In that situation, when you are in a full sprint and get a push in the back, you lose control and go down.
“[Stuart] Attwell thought it’s not a foul and VAR hides behind the phrase ‘it’s not clear and obvious’. The other way round, if it is a foul, you’d never say ‘no, no, no’. He’d explain that, if somebody would ask him.
“The third goal has nothing to do with anything else, it’s just a foul. The third goal I really cannot respect.”
Klopp was also questioned on the half-time substitution of Virgil Van Dijk, explaining that the central defender was forced to be withdrawn due to a hamstring issue.
“Virgil felt a little bit the muscle, but that is fine,” said Klopp.
“I didn’t want to take any risks. The physios were happy with that. It’s not an injury, he just felt intensity.
“Virg said ‘I’m fine’ but he got treatment of the hamstring, so we said ‘don’t risk’.”
Liverpool’s next game will come against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the third round of the FA Cup, a game that Van Dijk will be expected to miss through precaution measures.
Thomas Frank expectedly had differing opinions from the Liverpool boss on the officiating, however, wanted to focus on his own team’s performance, saying:
“I guess we have some very good referees,” said Frank. “We have four on the pitch and then the VAR room.
“Konate is a big lad and pretty strong. In a dual with Bryan, I would back Konate to win that nine out of 10 times. So well done to Bryan.
“These players keep surprising me. They keep massively impressing me with mentality, effort and willpower as a group,” continued Frank.
“It shouldn’t, in a way, be possible to beat Liverpool, but with everything together we managed to do this.
“Set-pieces, we know, we are good. Against Liverpool, they are very successful but it’s no secret we can get in behind them.
“The way we defend is incredible. Clear structure but brave to go high sometimes. We are very difficult to break down. The second goal is a good example of that, we are brave and aggressive.
“We’re confident but humble. We need to have confidence we can beat any team in the world.”
Brentford were without the services of lethal talisman Ivan Toney due to a knee injury, making their victory on Monday night even more special.Embed from Getty Images
“It’s so impressive we managed to win [without Ivan], it’s very likely he’s 100 percent ready for Bournemouth [January 14],” explained Frank.
But another game of missed opportunities and poor defending for Klopp’s side leave them with only eight points from eight away games played this season.
Meanwhile, Brentford’s victory will take them within only two points of Liverpool, proving to be tricky customers against the ‘big six’ as they have now beaten Manchester United, Manchester City, and Liverpool this season.