Disjointed Reds find a way to the top of Premier League
A wave of relief swept around Anfield at the final whistle.
This was a rarity for Kopites – a visit to L4 which had to be endured rather than enjoyed.
Liverpool made painfully hard work of beating Brighton. It was scrappy, it was disjointed and it was far from convincing.
The atmosphere was as flat as the error-strewn performance delivered by Jurgen Klopp's side.
But, crucially, the Reds found a way to win as Mohamed Salah's first-half strike extended their perfect start to the campaign.
The ability to grind out victories when nowhere near your best is key to any title challenge and Liverpool have shown over the past week they can do just that.
The Reds cashed in on Manchester City's surprise slip up at Wolves to climb to the top of the table. That counts for little at this stage but this is a squad built to ensure they have a genuine chance of staying there.
Liverpool no longer have to be at their sparkling best going forward to win games because Klopp has added defensive resilience to attacking flair.
Remarkably, the Reds have scored 20 league goals without reply at Anfield dating back to February and that represents the club's best run since 1987/88.
Three games, three victories, three precious clean sheets. Alisson Becker has yet to pick the ball out of the net.
While others were losing their heads on Saturday evening, the Reds' new No 1 remained ice cool.
No wonder Liverpool were prepared to break the bank to sign him from Roma this summer. The £65million keeper pulled off a fine save late on when substitute Pascal Gross looked destined to secure the Seagulls a share of the spoils.
Alisson is so comfortable with the ball at his feet and commanded his penalty box with a swagger. He's living up to the billing. The upgrade is huge.
There were other eye-catching displays with Joe Gomez growing in stature alongside Virgil van Dijk. The young centre-back will take some shifting even when Dejan Lovren is fit after the international break.
In front of them, Gini Wijnaldum once again excelled in the holding midfield role. The Dutchman misplaced just one of his 76 passes and put in a tireless shift.
Having named an unchanged line up for the third successive week, Klopp cut an agitated figure on the touchline early on as Liverpool were slow out of the traps.
The Reds predictably dominated possession and territory but pressure wasn't maintained as passes repeatedly went astray.
They should have had the breakthrough when Salah teed up Sadio Mane but with Mathew Ryan rooted to the spot the Senegal international, who was strangely out of sorts, knocked it wide.
The atmosphere was as low key as the football. It was as if Anfield was simply waiting for the expected demolition job to materialise.
Roberto Firmino looked certain to score when he powered a header goalwards from Andy Robertson's pin-point cross but Ryan pulled off an impressive reflex save. The Brazilian's wait for a first goal of the season continues.
Trent Alexander-Arnold's free-kick cannoned off the bar after Naby Keita had sparked panic in Brighton's backline with a surging run.
The goal Liverpool craved finally arrived midway through the first half.
The Reds were indebted to the tenacity and desire of James Milner, who slid in on Yves Bissouma to win back possession.
Brighton were left exposed with Mane and Firmino moving it quickly into the feet of Salah. The Egypt winger dispatched an ice cool first-time finish into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Salah has now scored 29 goals in 29 appearances for Liverpool at Anfield in all competitions.
The Kop paid homage to their icon and Wijnaldum was afforded the same honour after some show-boating with keepy uppies.
Wijnaldum threatened to add to the Reds' tally but after turning smartly in the box Ryan turned his strike behind. The Australian keeper thwarted the Reds again soon after after Mane had connected with Robertson's centre.
At the other end Gomez won his physical battle with Glenn Murray, while Alisson was alert and decisive when called upon.
The Brazil No 1, who comfortably dealt with Anthony Knockaert's effort, rushed out to tackle Solomon March and then came off his line in a crowded box to punch a corner away to safety.
Hearts were in mouths when he dallied with the ball at his feet and was closed down by Glenn Murray but he got away with it.
Liverpool started the second half sluggishly and Brighton wasted a golden opportunity to restore parity.
After Murray made a nuisance of himself, Gomez's attempted clearance dropped kindly to Knockaert but with the net gaping he sliced wide. It was a massive let-off.
Fortune didn't exactly favour the Reds with Firmino bizarrely penalised after being flattened by Ryan as the keeper tried to deal with a high ball.
There was another penalty shout for handball against Shane Duffy but that would have been harsh.
With the deficit still so narrow, Brighton grew in confidence and as Liverpool floundered anxiety levels in the stands started to rise.
Klopp sought fresh legs with the introduction of captain Jordan Henderson for Keita and Daniel Sturridge soon followed for Mane.
The nerves were jangling but Alisson was unflustered. After being put in trouble by Van Dijk's backpass, he nonchalantly lifted the ball over the on-rushing Knockaert and controlled before giving it back to the Dutchman.
Anfield responded with a standing ovation but the reaction was less enthusiastic soon after when Alisson decided to take on Murray rather than clear his lines and almost lost it.
A second goal rarely looked like arriving. Firmino fired straight at Ryan before Alexander-Arnold drilled just wide after a clever pass from Robertson.
Two minutes from time the Reds were indebted to the brilliance of Alisson as he pushed away Gross' header.
It wasn't pretty but Liverpool got the job done.
Liverpool : Alisson, Alexander-Arnold (Matip 89), Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Milner, Wijnaldum, Keita (Henderson 66), Salah, Mane (Sturridge 79), Firmino
Not used : Mignolet, Moreno, Lallana, Shaqiri
Brighton : Ryan, Montoya, Duffy, Balogun, Bong, Stephens, Propper, Bissouma (Gross 79), Knockaert (Jahanbakhsh 75), Murray, March (Locadia 75).
Not used : Button, Kayal, Suttner, Bernardo.
Referee : Chris Kavanagh
Attendance : 53,294
Goals : Salah 23
Bookings : Balogun, Alexander-Arnold.
Man of the match : Gini Wijnaldum. Another impressive display from the Dutchman.
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