Runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool survived a nervy finish, following the 76th-minute dismissal of Alisson, to equal their longest unbeaten run in the top flight and capitalise on another Manchester City slip-up with a 2-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion.
City’s 2-2 draw at Newcastle United earlier on Saturday gave Jurgen Klopp’s men the chance to extend their healthy lead over last season’s champions to 11 points, a task they looked set to complete with ease after Virgil van Dijk scored twice inside 24 minutes at Anfield.
Brighton were given an unexpected lifeline when Alisson was sent off for handling outside his box – meaning he will miss Wednesday’s Merseyside derby – and Lewis Dunk caught out replacement goalkeeper Adrian with a quick free-kick.
The Seagulls could not find a late equaliser, though, and while Leicester City can cut Liverpool’s advantage at the summit to eight points by beating Everton on Sunday, there looks to be no stopping a team who have now gone 31 league games unbeaten, matching their record streak from May 1987 to March 1988.
A Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick set up the opener for Van Dijk in the 18th minute and the same combination soon provided a second goal as Brighton were found wanting at a corner.
After a quiet start, Liverpool were looking rampant and Mat Ryan made a trio of fine stops as Sadio Mane laid on two chances for Roberto Firmino before being denied himself.
Dunk should have pulled a goal back eight minutes before the interval during Brighton’s best spell, but the defender clumsily shinned the ball wide from Dan Burn’s cross, having perhaps been put off by Yves Bissouma failing to get fully out of the way from a clearly offside position.
After heading wide from a corner early in the second half, Dunk made it third-time lucky by drilling home a free-kick with Adrian out of position, after Alisson had used his hands outside the area to deny substitute Leandro Trossard.
Liverpool were on edge thereafter and Adrian saved well from Aaron Mooy before almost spilling a tame Pascal Gross header into his own net as the hosts just about clung on.
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson 5; Alexander-Arnold, 8 Lovren, 7 van Dijk,9 Robertson 7; Henderson, 7 Oxlade-Chamberlain, (Adrian, 78, 5) 8 Wijnaldum 7; Salah 7 (Lallana 68, 7), Firmino, 6 (Origin 77, 6) Mane 7
Subs not used: Milner, Keita, Gomez, Shaqiri
Goalscorers: Van Dijk 18, 24
Sent off: Alisson 76
BRIGHTON (4-4-2): Ryan 8.5; Montoya, 6 (Alazte 68 6) Webster 5.5, Dunk, 6 Burn 6; Gross, 7 Propper, 6.5 Stephens, 7 Mooy 7; Connolly, 6.5 (Maupay 75, 6) Bissouma 7 (Trossard 7)
Subs not used: Button, Duffy,Murray, Schelotto
Goalscorers: Dunk 79
Referee: Martin Atkinson 7
Liverpool protested, not least the embarrassed Adrian, but in vain.
He then saved well from Aaron Mooy on 87 minutes but in added time, he fumbled Pascal Gross’ header, For an awful moment, it looked as if he wouldn’t recover and that Neal Maupay, closing in, would gather at the spill.
Just as the worst seemed inevitable, Adrian scrambled the ball to his chest. Liverpool would survive that scare. Just the five months to go to see if they can exorcise the real ghost that haunts them.