Fabinho opens scoring moments before half time against Brentford
Oxlade-Chamberlain doubles lead with powerful header from Robertson cross
Sub Minamino seals the win after Brentford defensive mishap
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are back into their ‘turning doubters into believers’ routine. No matter how great the challenge, how formidable the leader, there is still a Premier League title to chase. Neutrals need convincing. So does the Kop, even when their side is strolling to a home victory like this.
But of all the gestures on a comfortable afternoon at Anfield, Klopp’s treble fist pump to his own fans at full-time carried as much weight as the three goals that saw off Brentford. That celebration has become a tradition for the German coach although it is usually reserved for the most feisty fixtures, or most important moments.
Here, it felt like a rallying cry, not dissimilar to his demeanour after a 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion in the early years of his reign in December 2015, when he was trying to energise his new home. Although the manager played down its significance, it seemed like he was making a timely request to keep fighting on in the belief City will make mistakes.
“We don't have to convince anyone outside to believe,” said Klopp. “If they want to believe they can believe. If you are with us, you will enjoy the ride and we will go for everything. We are ready to go as much as we can. This is not the situation to talk about a title fight, it's 11 points now with one game in hand. In a normal world nothing happens any more. But what is normal nowadays?”
There is certainly nothing normal about a world in which the owner of a team which has lost only twice in its last 31 Premier League games is accused of lacking ambition. There is nothing normal about a team which has scored 55 goals (one more than City) finding itself so far behind at this stage of a season. The problem is clearly not a lack of quality at Liverpool. Liverpool’s - and everyone else’s problem - is the immense, game-changing quality at Manchester City.
The champions win over Chelsea 24 hours earlier meant it was impossible to shake off the feeling Liverpool were strengthening their claim on finishing runners-up. None of Liverpool’s goals provoked a rendition of ‘we’re gonna win the league’. None of them prompted that celebratory atmosphere witnessed in this venue when they were going head-to-head and ultimately going past City two years ago, when you could feel the momentum growing with each victory. That’s the reality of the league table.
It’s a mood of defeatism Klopp is wise to address before it really is all over. Liverpool retain a glimmer of hope catching the runaway leaders given they still have a game in hand, and will believe they can make life uncomfortable for Pep Guardiola by beating them at The Etihad. Klopp would willingly take still being within touching distance when the clubs meet in April.
After the turgid midweek draw with Arsenal, Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Taki Minamino proved a cutting edge is possible without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, although it took 44 minutes to find it.
Until then, it was more of the same as Thursday night as Liverpool’s attackers toiled and Brentford’s defenders heroically flung themselves in front of every goal-bound effort. The resistance was broken in avoidable circumstances for Thomas Frank. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner evaded everyone and bounced kindly for Fabinho to head at the back post, the Brazilian’s third in three games.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s 69th minute header from Andy Robertson’s left-wing delivery made the scoreline comfortable, before Roberto Firmino and sub Taki Minamino exchanged one-twos by the penalty spot - the Japan international almost walking the ball into the net on 77 minutes.
Liverpool could have had plenty more, Diogo Jota striking the post and Alvaro Fernandez forced into a couple of excellent saves. Beyond that, the crowd was at its most vocal when chanting the name of former manager Rafa Benitez, whose sacking at Everton was confirmed at half-time.
Brentford will curse the chance squandered by Bryan Mbeumo when it was still 1-0, the striker narrowly wide having beaten Alisson. Generally, it was a tough afternoon for Frank’s side, who have lost some of their early season spark and may soon be glancing over the shoulder as they endeavour to keep away from the relegation conversation.
“I thought we played sixty very good minutes, and maybe even better in the first forty-five,” said Frank.
“We gave nothing away in open play. They had a few half chances on set-pieces. I would love to see what would have happened if it was 0-0 at half-time.” Klopp lost Oxlade-Chamberlain to a worrying ankle injury late on, and handed a Premier League debut to 17-year-old Kaide Gordon in the closing stages. Gordon became the fourth youngest league player in Liverpool history, and had the chance of adding to last weekend’s FA Cup goal when sent clear with two minutes left, but struck at Fernandez. Had he scored, he would have become Liverpool’s youngest league goalscorer.
No matter for this result, Klopp hoping to prove predictions of a City title procession are premature. “We try to do our part, there is nothing else to do,” he said.
Liverpool vs Brentford, as it happened:
That's all for this afternoon's coverage, thanks for joining us
In the other 2pm kick off, Leeds edged past West Ham in a five-goal thriller, with Jack Harrison picking up a hat-rick. Read Jason Burt's match report here.
On Benitez's sacking, Telegraph Sport learns that Roberto Martinez is favourite for the job after Jose Mourinho rules himself out.
Only one win in five for Thomas Frank's side - the rest all being losses
Brentford are still 10 points above the drop zone in 14th, but Thomas Frank may be starting to look over his shoulder after a strong start to the campaign.
They'll play Man United on Wednesday, followed by Wolves next weekend.
Another assist for Alexander-Arnold this afternoon, his 10th of the season
42 - Since the start of the 2018-19 season, only Thomas Müller (64) and Lionel Messi (47) have provided more assists in Europe's big-five leagues than Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold (42). Platter. pic.twitter.com/ntDC6hI6YJ
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 16, 2022
Full time: LIVERPOOL 3-0 BRENTFORD
Liverpool secure the points at Anfield in a very dominant performance.
Minamino sealed the game in the 77th minute after defensive calamity. There was no way back for Brentford from that point and it was just a question of whether the home side would get a fourth.
The Reds go above Chelsea in the league table into second place, 11 points behind Man City with a game in hand.
Two minutes of added time.
Can Liverpool get a fourth?
Minamino plays through Gordon, who seems to be just onside. He's one-on-one with Fernandez, who is able to make himself big enough and deny the 17-year-old a debut league goal.
Alexander-Arnold gets a shot away on the follow-up but he's flagged for being offside.
Curtis Jones picks up the ball, 30-odd yards out, and goes for an up-and-under volley after spotting Fernandez off his line.
Not a bad effort, but Fernandez was more alert than Jones expected by the looks of it.
A ninth corner for Liverpool now.
Alexander-Arnold sends it in from the right, but a challenge by van Dijk in the box is deemed a foul.
81 mins - final Liverpool sub
It's a Premier League debut for 17-year-old Kaide Gordon, who comes on for Jota.
He's already scored his first goal for Liverpool - in their 4-1 FA Cup win over Shrewsbury.
79 mins - Liverpool sub
Milner comes on for Firmino.
76 mins GOAL! Liverpool 3-0 Brentford
An absolute gift of a third, which is finished by Minamino.
A fumbled play-out by Fernandez to Nørgaard is pounced upon by the high Liverpool press.
Firmino squares it to Minamino who fires into the back of Brentford's net.
75 mins - and a final Brentford sub
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) January 16, 2022
74 mins - Liverpool sub
The injured Oxlade-Chamberlain is off; Minamino enters the field
A Brentford sub to tell you about, just before that goal
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) January 16, 2022
Oxlade-Chamberlain has gone down in the Brentford box.
No-one's touched him, but it looks like he's rolled his ankle. He's receiving medical attention.
68 mins GOAL! Liverpool 2-0 Brentford
Oxlade-Chamberlain doubles Liverpool's lead!
He gets in between Pinnock and Canos as Robertson picks him out from a deep cross on the left and powerfully heads home.
An instinctive reaction from a bit of pinball in the Brentford box sees Jota rattle woodwork with his strike.
It then drops to Firmino on the left side of the penalty area, who pulls the trigger from the wide position, but it's well-saved by Fernandez.
Another Alexander-Arnold corner... it's away by Toney, to Mbeumo, who tries to break but he's shutdown and it's back to Alisson to build from the Liverpool defence again.
Mbeumo goes close! A fantastic ball through from Nørgaard to split open the Liverpool defence. Mbeumo takes a touch turns, and rolls his foot cleverly under the ball to quickly get a shot away. It's just past Alisson's right hand post, but a huge chance for Brentford there.
Liverpool corner. Matip gets to the ball but it's a very congested penalty area and there's no way through, allowing Brentford to clear their lines.
Shandon Baptiste launches a promising looking cross from a deep location on the right hand side into Liverpool's box, but Alisson rises high and collects the ball confidently.
Curtis Jones with a lovely run down the left hand side. He beats a couple of white shirts before cutting in towards the Brentford box and getting a shot away with his right foot.
It doesn't trouble Fernandez, but it's a great bit of individual skill from the 20-year-old academy graduate.
Fabinho's wants a second!
He's gone for a 30-yard effort, but it's straight down the middle and Fernandez gathers.
49 mins - Brentford sub
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) January 16, 2022
Alexander-Arnold spreads the ball out to Henderson on the right, who runs towards towards the box before planting a near-post cross in. Pinnock gets ahead of Firmino and does just enough to allow Fernandez to gather.
Robertson with an early cross into the Brentford box; it's headed away by Jansson before Alexander-Arnold goes for a speculative 30 yard effort that whistles over Fernandez' crossbar.
Second half begins!
Liverpool get us back under way
BREAKING NEWS: Benitez is out
Rafa Benitez has left Everton six months into a three year deal, leaving the club looking for their sixth manager in six years.
Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Norwich City proved the final act of a reign which has been stumbling towards an inevitable conclusion for weeks, Everton having lost nine of their last 12 Premier League fixtures and just six points above the relegation zone.
Half time: Liverpool 1-0 Brentford
The hosts lead at the break. They were knocking for a long time and were finally able to break the deadlock minutes before the whistle.
But a few defensive mistakes did allow Brentford a few chances of their own in the final 15 minutes of the half. The Bees have defended well on the whole and could yet get something out of this.
Just one minute of added time to come.
43 mins GOAL! Liverpool 1-0 Brentford
Fabinho! Alexander-Arnold whips the corner in from the left. It bounces in the box and comes to Fabinho at the far post, who is ahead of a flapping Ajer to head home.
The home side's pressure finally reaps rewards.
Matip cuts inside a couple of men, dropping his shoulder twice to get the ball onto his left foot and fire a shot from just inside the Brentford box. But it's straight at Fernandez there. Another missed opportunity by the home side.
Ivan Toney takes an early shot, outside the Liverpool box after Matip gives the ball away to him sloppily.
The speculative shot whistles just past Alisson's right-hand post. Matip off the hook after a poor defensive pass.
Toney almost in! He's played in from his right by Mbeumo after a Liverpool defensive mistake, but he can't quite get his feet right as he gets into the penalty area and the lapse is enough for Liverpool to recover and get the ball away.
Outstanding defending from Brentford. Janelt does just enough to take the ball away from Firmino in the middle of the box after Robertson volley-crosses Alexander-Arnold's switched ball over the top.
Janelt has an effort from distance - he's well outside the box there. Not a bad effort, but it's over Alisson's crossbar.
Brentford with a long throw chance via Pinnock. He winds it up, but it's not the longest and it's cleared by Alexander-Arnold to go all the way back to Fernandez.
One way traffic at Anfield. Alisson is half way into his own half - that's how deep Brentford are having to defend at the moment.
Alexander-Arnold and Robertson - the two full-backs - are playing high and wide, allowing the three-pronged Jota - Firmino - Oxlade-Chamberlain attack to play a bit narrower and dominate possession in the final third.
Jones to Alexander-Arnold on the right. He beats a couple of white shirts and gets the ball to Oxlade Chamberlain in the penalty area, but Henry is there to put it behind.
Liverpool keep knocking, but there's no way through yet. Brentford are defending very well here.
Another Liverpool corner here. Alexander-Arnold whips it in low and flat.
It comes to van Dijk who fires it towards goal, but it's an absolutely brilliant save by Fernandez with his left boot to deny the Dutchman.
Ajer goes sliding into Jota on the left side of the Brentford box.
A yellow card for the Norwegian, and Liverpool with a free kick in a threatening position, edge of the penalty area.
It's played in by Alexander-Arnold and Matip is almost to it, but Pinnock gets a vital touch on it.
Mbeumo connects with Rico Henry up the left hand side, but Alexander-Arnold is able to deal with the attack and it goes back to Brentford's back three.
Brentford can't get out of Liverpool's press at the moment. The Bees have hardly ventured into the home side's half.
Alexander-Arnold goes for a screamer, just outside the Brentford box, hit with his left foot, but it's just past the right hand post. Good effort. All Liverpool so far here.
Alexander-Arnold sends the ball in, it ricochets out and returns back to him. He puts a pacey cross into Jota, which the Portuguese international gets a head to, but it fizzes just over.
Another corner for Liverpool. A great touch from Jota to bring it down on his chest, but Ajer is there to snuff him out.
Liverpool earn a corner. The ball comes into Van Dijk, and then Henderson - there's a bit of a scramble - and Brentford clear for another corner.
Liverpool on top in the first few minutes. They're patiently building, but so far the Brentford defence has stood strong. Liverpool look more balanced today with Jota on the left and Firmino down the middle.
Brentford get us under way.
There's a short delay to the start of proceedings here
Looks like there's an issue with communication between the officials.
The players are emerging from the tunnel
A reminder of today's line ups:
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Fabinho, Jones, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Firmino, Jota.
Brentford: Fernández, Ajer, Jansson, Pinnock, Roerslev, Janelt, Nørgaard, Baptiste, Henry, Mbeumo, Toney.
The players complete their warm ups... kick off in 10 minutes
Expect a good battle between Ivan Toney and Virgil Van Dijk this afternoon
The Brentford forward produced a superb display when the clubs last met in September, grabbing an assist and proving a constant threat with his aerial presence.
Liverpool's Van Dijk sprung into action with a game-saving tackle to deny the Bees striker from getting a winner late on in the match.
The former Peterborough striker goes into today's clash without a goal since the end of November. After scoring five times during the opening months of the season, he's gone seven weeks and seven games in all competitions without finding the net.
Liverpool suffering from a drop in form
Liverpool's faltering form has allowed City to romp to the top of the Premier League; the Reds have won just one of their past six fixtures in all competitions and none of their last three in the league.
They've racked up 42 points this season and sit 14 points off City and one behind Chelsea - albeit with two games in hand.
Can Klopp's men get that winning feeling back today?
Brentford make just one change
Thomas Frank has opted for only one change following his side's 4-1 midweek defeat to Southampton, with Rico Henry replacing former Liverpool winger Sergi Canos.
He's made two changes to the starting XI that was held by Arsenal on Thursday.
Curtis Jones is in for James Milner, and Oxlade-Chamberlain is in for Takumi Minamino.
Jones has endured a difficult time since October, with a freak eye injury in training being followed by a Covid-enforced absence, but the 20-year-old scored his only goal of the season against the Bees in the reverse fixture in September.
And here's Brentford's squad:
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) January 16, 2022
The team sheets are in. First up Liverpool:
Will this game match September's thriller at the Bretford Community Stadium?
That one ended 3-3 and both teams could have had another three each in what was the first league encounter between these two sides since May 1947.
Salah, who got his 100th Premier League in the game won't appear as he's at the African Cup of Nations, giving Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Takumi Minamino a chance to step in today.
Good afternoon and welcome to Telegraph Sport's coverage of Liverpool vs Brentford
Liverpool are missing Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, on Africa Cup of Nations duty, but a goalless draw against 10-man Arsenal on Thursday cannot be blamed on their absence, according to manager Jürgen Klopp.
Liverpool were frustrated in the League Cup semi-final first leg at Anfield with the Reds blocked by a determined Arsenal defensive display after Granit Xhaka was sent off in the 24th minute.
Egypt forward Salah is the Premier League's top scorer with 16 goals while Senegal's Mane has contributed eight to Liverpool's tally.
"The situation is clear. They are not here and they are world class players. So that's how it is. Do we miss them? Yes," Klopp said.
"But we had with Sadio and Mo before some struggles against 10 men, when they were both on the pitch and we still couldn't create enough," added the German. "You have to break down a really low block and that in football is the most difficult thing.
"It's all about how can we do better and we can do better and that's what we will do."
Sunday's game will be Klopp's 350th in charge of Liverpool and it comes against opponents who drew 3-3 in the fixture in London last September.
Klopp will select from the same squad which failed to score against 10-man Arsenal in Thursday's goalless Carabao Cup semi-final first leg.
Liverpool striker Divock Origi has returned to light training but is not in contention for Sunday's visit of Brentford, having been out for five weeks with a knee injury.
Brentford's Sergi Canos will be fit to face his former club after a recent hamstring issue, and fellow wing-back Rico Henry could also return on the opposite left flank.
Henry has not played since December 22 due to a thigh injury but Brentford remain without a handful of other key personnel.
Goalkeeper David Raya (knee), Charlie Goode (hamstring), Mathias Jorgensen (thigh), Julian Jeanvier (knee) and Josh Dasilva (hip) remain on the treatment table while Frank Onyeka is away with Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations.
PA and Reuters