There was an extra edge, and an extra punch, to Jürgen Klopp’s trademark celebration in front of the Kop after the final whistle that suggested this was more than just a routine win for Liverpool. There may be a gulf between themselves and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League but there is no sign of deflation creeping in at Anfield.
Liverpool leapfrogged Chelsea into second place with an ultimately comfortable victory over Brentford, who made life complicated for their hosts until Fabinho opened the scoring. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Takumi Minamino, two players with added responsibility to improve Liverpool’s threat in front of goal in the absence of world-class teammates, obliged with a goal each in the second half. Fabinho’s goal a minute before the break lanced growing irritation with Liverpool’s performance around Anfield and punctured Brentford’s previously comfortable resistance.
Liverpool were without Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mané in a Premier League game for the first time since the former’s arrival from Roma in 2017, and for 44 minutes it showed as the hosts increasingly resorted to hopeful crosses that suited the visitors’ three towering central defenders. A series of misplaced passes out of defence that gifted Brentford their brightest moments also added to Anfield’s anxiety.
The mood, the contest and the threat from Klopp’s team all changed on the stroke of half-time, however. Trent Alexander-Arnold operated as an auxiliary forward at times as Liverpool pressed the visitors into a deep retreat and it was from his corner that Liverpool broke through. Brentford had defended impressively up until that point but, as the right-back’s delivery arrived in the six-yard box, it was allowed to bounce through to the back post where Fabinho held off Kristoffer Ajer and headed in from close range.
Brentford’s afternoon deteriorated from that point, although Bryan Mbeumo was close to levelling early in the second half when turning away from Joël Matip and shooting narrowly wide of Alisson’s right-hand post. Liverpool’s intensity, threat and composure all improved after the restart. Diogo Jota, tireless on the left of Klopp’s forward line, struck a post with the Brentford goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez well beaten after a surging run from Alexander-Arnold.
The Liverpool manager opted for Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right of Roberto Firmino, with Minamino dropping to the bench following Thursday’s stalemate with Arsenal in the Carabao Cup semi-final. The switch was vindicated when the makeshift forward doubled Liverpool’s advantage from Andy Robertson’s perfectly flighted cross.
Oxlade-Chamberlain stole in ahead of Brentford substitute Sergi Canós as Robertson’s delivery sailed just over Ethan Pinnock and sent an unstoppable diving header inside Fernandez’s near post. In keeping with the injury misfortune that has plagued his Anfield career, Oxlade-Chamberlain turned his ankle moments later and had to be replaced by the Japan international.
Minamino had been on the pitch only three minutes when he benefited from Firmino’s unselfishness – and Brentford’s carelessness – to score Liverpool’s third. Fernandez and Pinnock over-elaborated from a simple goal-kick before the keeper played Christian Norgaard into trouble on the edge of his own area.
Firmino pounced to dispossess the midfielder and find Minamino unmarked in front of goal. Minamino squared to Firmino, Firmino repaid the favour and helped the substitute repair his confidence after that 90th-minute miss against Arsenal with a simple tap-in.
Kaide Gordon became the fourth-youngest player in Liverpool’s history when he was introduced late on. He had a glorious chance to became the club’s youngest goalscorer when sent clean through by Minamino but Fernandez saved to deny him that place in the record books.