Liverpool receives a ‘shock’ from Virgil van Dijk as Jurgen Klopp’s warning goes unheeded.
Virgil van Dijk will remember this game for a long time.
If the Liverpool defender had been permitted to work his way back to fitness this season after a lengthy layoff, this evening would have been a rude awakening.
It’s not often that the Dutchman is knocked off his stride and forced to lose his cool.
Brentford, in particular, and the ever-dangerous Ivan Toney, did more than most prior opponents to force Van Dijk out of his comfort zone.
With its talismanic leader out, Liverpool’s defense struggled, allowing as many goals in 90 minutes as they had in their previous seven games this season.
As a result, the Reds’ failure to establish a three-point buffer at the top of the Premier League after twice letting the lead slip in an exhilarating if irritating 3-3 draw was as unexpected as it was worrying.
Sure, there were gilt-edged chances to seal the win at the opposite end before home substitute Yoane Wissa scored with eight minutes to go.
The main flaw, though, was in the back. At times, they might have used some help from the midfield – Trent Alexander-Arnold was terribly exposed for the final two Brentford goals – but the Reds’ defense was practically scared into submission, a throwback to Klopp’s dismal early days.
Andy Robertson has rarely played for Liverpool in a less impressive defensive performance. The only visiting defender who came close to matching Joel Matip’s quality was Bryan Mbeumo, who was making his 100th Premier League appearance for the club.
It’s not as if Liverpool didn’t expect this, with Klopp warning before the game, “We have to be ready for a proper struggle today.” It was a waste of effort to come here if we only brought 90 percent.”
To be honest, 70% would have been an improvement on what Liverpool provided for much of the first half, when they were harried and overpowered far too often, before their great second-half reaction was thwarted by those same defensive flaws.
Van Dijk at least ensured a draw and indicated he had settled by tracking down and cleanly challenging Toney during injury time. “The summary has come to an end.”