2021 European Apertura Top 25 (9 of 25)
Not unlike Leeds United the previous year, newly-promoted Brentford entered the top flight as hipsters’ darlings, inspired by their data-driven, analytical approach to the game. A win against Arsenal on the opening weekend was a promising start, and Thomas Franck’s side came into this one having banked 8 points in 5 games. Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool were off to another flying start, having only dropped points in a tie to 1st-place Chelsea. In fact, Liverpool entered the game top of the table on goal difference, following Chelsea’s loss earlier in the day to Manchester City (3rd-place Manchester United, also level on points, had also lost to Dean Smith’s Aston Villa).
The tone of the game was set early, when first Mohamed Salah and then Bryan Mbeumo had shots cleared off the line by Kristoffer Ajer and Joel Matip respectively. Just after the midway point of the first half, a cleverly-designed free kick (one of Brentford’s specialties) allowed Sergi Canós to put a ball across the box, helped on by backheel from Ivan Toney, and center-back Ethan Pinnock slipped in from behind Fabinho to score the opener. Liverpool responded quickly, Diogo Jota heading in a lovely cross from Jordan Henderson. Jota nearly scored a 2nd late in the half from a Curtis Jones shot that rebounded off the post, but David Raya made a fantastic save.
Liverpool started the second half well, and within 10’ Salah scored his 100th Liverpool goal (in just 151 appearances) once VAR confirmed he was onside. That lead lasted less than 10’, however, before a counter-attacking Brentford saw Pontus Jansson hit the crossbar, Vitaly Janelt heading in an equalizer off the rebound. But less than 5’ after that, with Roberto Firmino waiting on the sideline to replace him, Curtis Jones scored a deflected shot from outside the box to put Liverpool back ahead.
Franck brought on Shandon Baptiste immediately after the goal, and then added Yoane Wissa with just over 10’ remaining, just after Salah couldn’t quite chip Raya in a one-on-one breakaway. Almost immediately, Baptiste sent a cross in to the far post that created a mess from which Wissa put in a late equalizer. Baptiste and Wissa would put Toney through in the waning minutes of regulation, but his potential winner was offside. The following weekend Brentford would beat West Ham United 2-1 with a stunning injury-time from Wissa to reach their peak in the first half of the season before a series of losses through October would take them to the bottom edge of mid-table. Liverpool, on the other hand, were set to face Manchester City in one of the most anticipated games of the season to date. Tactical Analysis from: Holding Midfield, The Athletic, Ova D Ba (YouTube).