Liverpool moved second in the Premier League with a 3-0 victory over Brentford at Anfield.
These two sides played out a thrilling six-goal draw in the reverse fixture but Sunday’s contest was decidedly more one-sided, as Jurgen Klopp’s men showed a good reaction to their goalless draw with 10-man Arsenal in the EFL Cup.
Fabinho headed in a first-half opener before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first league goal of the season and a tap-in from Takumi Minamino sealed the points in the closing stages.
Virgil van Dijk went closest to breaking the deadlock in the opening half-hour, his attempt following a corner brilliantly turned away from the bottom-right corner by Alvaro Fernandez.
The hosts created little else but gifted Brentford some openings with some slack play at the back, with Ivan Toney shooting narrowly wide after a poor Joel Matip clearance.
An offside flag then intervened in another promising Brentford break, and they were behind three minutes later, Fabinho nodding in at the far post after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s inswinging corner had bounced through a crowded box.
Bryan Mbeumo fired just past Alisson’s left-hand post at the start of the second half, while at the other end, Diogo Jota smashed a shot off the base of the post and Fernandez smothered Roberto Firmino’s rebound.
Fernandez again denied Jota when the Portugal forward burst into the box, but Liverpool’s pressure eventually told, Oxlade-Chamberlain diving at the back post to head home Andy Robertson’s cross from the left.
Firmino then pounced on Brentford’s sluggish attempt to pass out from the back before laying the ball off to Minamino to slot home a birthday goal.
5 – Takumi Minamino is the fifth player to score a @premierleague goal on his birthday for Liverpool, and first since Daniel Sturridge against Manchester United in September 2013. Celebrations.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 16, 2022
What does it mean? Liverpool looking like Manchester City’s sole challengers
City’s 1-0 win over Chelsea put them 12 points ahead of the European champions at the top of the table, and Liverpool’s win here sent them into second place.
Should they win their game in hand over Pep Guardiola’s side, the Reds will cut the gap at the summit to eight points – hardly small, but not beyond their means.
They are now arguably the only side who can mount any sort of threat to City’s title bid.
Ox in the box
Deployed in Mohamed Salah’s usual position on the right of the attack, Oxlade-Chamberlain showed the kind of efficiency in his play to make the Egypt star proud.
While he had the fewest touches (38) of any starting Liverpool player, he created a joint-high three chances and showed great determination to meet Robertson’s cross.
Bees lose their sting
After Liverpool’s struggle to break down Arsenal in their previous game, Brentford might have viewed this as a chance to build on their impressive performance in the home fixture.
As it was, they failed to muster an attempt on target until a tame Toney effort in injury time as they slumped to a fourth defeat in five league games.
Liverpool face Arsenal in the second leg of the EFL Cup semi-final on Thursday before a league trip to Crystal Palace in a week’s time. Brentford have two full days to recover before the visit of Manchester United.