Brighton 0-1 Liverpool: Salah strikes from the spot to seal vital win

Call it a blip. Or a dip. Or a slump. Or a wobble. Whatever it was, it's over.
Beaten in the Premier League by Manchester City and knocked out of the FA Cup by Wolves in the last nine days, Liverpool hauled their title challenge back on track and settled the nerves of their supporters with a hard-fought win over Brighton on the south coast.
They are seven points clear at the top again now, at least until Spurs play Manchester United on Sunday and City face Wolves on Monday. 
Jurgen Klopp's side was not at its most fluent but it was vital that they did not drop more points and they eked out their victory courtesy of another penalty won and converted by Mo Salah early in the second half.
Those who had been predicting a Liverpool collapse after their first league reverse of the season at City will be disappointed. Liverpool were under pressure going into this game and winning at Brighton is not easy but with Fabinho deputising for Dejan Lovren as a makeshift centre half, Liverpool stayed rock solid at the back.
That was the foundation of their victory even though the Brighton fans preferred to give the credit to referee Kevin Friend for his award of the penalty and a perceived bias towards the league leaders. 'One-nil to the referee,' they sang towards the end but Liverpool will not care. Their lead is seven points again. The ship has been steadied.
Before the game, Klopp had reacted with amusement to talk of a crisis because his team had suffered two successive defeats. Until the turn of the year, he pointed out, people had been telling him Liverpool had built an unassailable lead in the league. Now, they were saying his side were on the verge of collapse as they travelled to the Amex.
 Button 6
; Montoya 5
, Dunk 6
, Duffy 7
, Bong 6.5
; March 5
(Knockaert 65' 5
), Gross 5
(Kayal 78' 6
), Stephens 6
, Propper 5
, Locadia 5
; Murray 5.5 
(Andone 65' 5
 Saltor, Balogun, Steele, Sanders
 Alisson 6
; Alexander-Arnold 6
, Fabinho 7
, Van Dijk 8
, Robertson 7.5
; Henderson 6.5
, Wijnaldum 6
; Shaqiri 6
(Milner 71' 6
), Firmino 7.5
, Mane 7
(Keita 88' 6
); Salah 7.5
(Origi 90' 5
Moreno, Mignolet, Matip, Camacho
Salah 50 (pen) 
Kevin Friend 6.5
'Nothing happened,' Klopp said. 'Each team in the world can lose at Man City. So we spoke about why, what we did, what happened, what we could have done better – of course, but that's how we do it always. And then we moved on.'
Liverpool came close to opening the scoring in the 10th minute when Fabinho spread a long pass wide to Robertson on the Liverpool left. Robertson is one of the best crossers of the ball in the league and his curling pass was measured for Firmino to run on to, only for the Brazil forward to slice it wide from six yards out.
Brighton kept their opponents at bay until midway through the half when Liverpool's pressure almost told again. The move started, as many of Liverpool's had already done, with a perfectly judged chipped pass from Van Dijk to Robertson and the ball was worked across the face of the Brighton box to Alexander-Arnold on the right.
There had been suggestions that Alexander-Arnold had sprained an ankle in the warm-up and that his participation in the game was in doubt but he showed few signs of discomfort as he turned inside Bong and curled a left-foot cross into the box. 
Shaqiri rose to meet it and glanced it towards Button's right hand post but it flashed just wide.
It was a rare headed chance for either side. Much had been made before the game of the aerial dominance of both defences. 
Shane Duffy had made 91 headed clearances this season already before the game began, the most of any defender in the league. Van Dijk had won more aerial challenges than any defender in the league. It was no surprise that high balls into the box yielded little joy.
Liverpool began the second half with more conviction and Salah went close after a mistake from Dunk had ceded Liverpool possession. It was a short reprieve. Four minutes after the interval, Mane played the ball into Salah in the box and he turned past Gross.
As Salah shaped to shoot, he was brought down from behind by Gross and Kevin Friend pointed to the penalty spot. 
Salah's movement in the box is so sharp he has won a succession of penalties recently and when he stepped up to take it, he dispatched it confidently past Button, who guessed the right direction but was beaten by the pace of the ball.
Brighton pressed for an equaliser as best they could but Liverpool were always able to keep them at arm's length. When the final whistle blew, Klopp turned to Salah and wrapped him in a bear hug. Liverpool have momentum again. The blip is over.

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