Frank rues Brentford's finishing touches as determined Liverpool keep Champions League quest alive
Liverpool 1 Brentford 0
Julian Taylor at Anfield
Thomas Frank lamented the lack of assertiveness in front of goal for Brentford as they were edged out by Liverpool at Anfield.
An early goal by Mohamed Salah proved to be the ultimate difference between the teams.
Although Brentford grew in confidence and certainly presented a better version of themselves in the second half, they simply didn’t cause the Reds enough problems in the final third in what was an often tetchy and over-physical battle, with six yellow cards issued.
The Bees may have left Merseyside empty-handed, but they acquitted themselves admirably for long spells against Liverpool, who still have an outside opportunity of Champions League football next season.
Perhaps this Brentford display – composed and intelligently-organised – is an overall reflection of their Premier League campaign, at least away from home for the most part. Frank’s men were once dreaming of Europe themselves, although that ship has sailed – but a current ninth position in the top tier continues to win admirers, not least among their own fans, enjoying all this relative optimism.
“In many ways we performed well enough to get something from the game,” said Brentford head coach Frank.
“I think we were on top defensively in the first half. We took some risks and had a marginal offside goal disallowed.
“The quality of the final ball is disappointing for me. That final pass was disappointing and I think there were also two or three times when Bryan (Mbeumo) was in on one-on-one with the keeper but it wasn’t to be. But if you look at this compared to last year when we lost 3-0 here there is a massive difference in how we play here.”
With Liverpool dominating the early stages and the Bees failing to clear aerial danger, Salah nudged the ball home from close range to put the hosts ahead in the 13th minute, as well as claiming his 100th goal for the club..
Frank did have the luxury of fielding a strong line-up, yet Liverpool were dominant throughout the first half and should have at least doubled their lead, but for the profligacy of lumbering striker Darwin Nunez in particular.
It took until the 38th minute, in fact, for Brentford to take sight of the Reds’ goal. Ivan Toney’s well-struck free kick from 20 yards out went a whisker wide in an otherwise bland offering from the west Londoners in the opening 45 minutes. It proved to be the Bees’ best chance of the day
Bryan Mbeumo did stroke the ball into the net two minutes later - but the forward’s run past Reds’ pair Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk was a fraction offside, according to VAR.
Cody Gakpo missed a glaring opportunity to score a second for Liverpool in 52 minutes but the striker somehow skewed the ball wide of an open goal, thus easing the pressure on the Bees.
In 77 minutes, Trent Alexander-Arnold let fly with a right foot shot which brought a terrific save from David Raya. However, the Brentford keeper wasn’t examined with the same intensity late on. Frank’s side, on the other hand, may have grown into the game and even managed to dictate the tempo to a certain extent, but they too, could not create any clear cut chances where it really mattered.
Gakpo blew another chance to seal the encounter but the Dutchman blazed wide for Liverpool, as the fare on offer became studded and intermittent. The Merseysiders, in essence, did just about enough to earn the points and keep their top four hopes alive, against their second west London opponents this week, having beaten Fulham 1-0 at Anfield on Wednesday.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, meanwhile, was relived at the outcome – and was full of praise for Brentford’s organisation.
“Brentford have a lot of qualities but their set pieces are super special. The best set piece team I have ever played,” he declared.
“We had to keep doing the right things and when Brentford had the ball at times we had to be on red alert. I’m really happy with this hard-fought 1-0 win. The goal was great and our defending at times was great as well.”
As for match-winner Salah? Klopp was again relieved that Liverpool’s talisman made the difference to keep the club’s vital Champions League quest alive.
“He will be known as one of the all-time greats,” the German offered. “He showed great work rate and knew the moments that were really important for us. To score again 30 goals is super special and he is so often involved in all our goals.”