Liverpool’s hope of retaining the Premier League title received another setback as they crashed to Brighton a shock second successive home defeat.
It was the worst possible way to warm up for Sunday’s showdown with Manchester City who will go into the game seven points clear and with a game in hand.
Steve Alzate’s 55th-minute goal was enough to give Brighton their first-ever Premier League win at Anfield on another frustrating night for Liverpool and their manager Jurgen Klopp.
They appeared to have rediscovered their best form in the wins at Tottenham and West Ham but couldn’t break down Graham Potter’s stubborn and well-organised team.
After winning all but one of their home games in their runaway title success last season, Liverpool have now lost two and drawn two of their last four games at Anfield, losing their 65-match unbeaten home run to Burnley in the process.
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And they haven’t managed a goal at home since Sadio Mane scored in the 12th minute of the 1-1 draw with West Brom.
Caoimhin Kelleher was handed only his second Premier League start when No 1 keeper Alisson Becker going down unwell before kick-off but the young Irishman could not be blamed for Brighton’s slightly fortuitous winner.
Dan Burn headed Solly March’s deep cross back across the goal, and Nathaniel Phillips’ attempted clearance hit Alzate and looped up and beyond a stunned Kelleher, who denied Brighton a second goal when he tipped aside a shot from Ben White.
It might have been a different story if Mo Salah had not wasted a great chance to give Liverpool the lead after only two minutes. The Egypt international lifted his shot over the bar after Henderson’s superb long pass had put him clear of the Brighton defence.
But Liverpool were strangely flat in a first half when neither side managed a shot on target,.
For all Liverpool’s pressure, Brighton had the best chance after 24 minutes when Burn skied a close range shot over the bar when it looked easier to score after Neal Maupay’s shot had deflected off Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Brighton – winners over Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham on Sunday – grew in confidence as the first half progressed.
Solly March cut inside and fired over after 34 minutes as the Seagulls threatened again.
No doubt fired up by some choice words by Klopp, Liverpool stepped up the tempo in the second half but a combination of poor finishing and superb defending kept them at bay.
Salah was the biggest culprit when he fired wide from Alexander-Arnold’s pass while Roberto Firmino twice saw shots blocked as Brighton put bodies on the line.
Alzate’s goal after 55 minutes set the alarm bells ringing for Liverpool. Klopp sent on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Divock Origi for Georginio Wijnaldum and Xherdan Shaqiri. But it was to no avail and Brighton held out with some comfort to secure a famous victory.
Now Liverpool simply have to beat City on Sunday if they are to keep up their hopes of retaining their title.