Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho sprinkled some samba magic as the Red smashed Brighton & Hove Albion 5-1 at the American Express Community Stadium to move above Arsenal in the Premier League table on Saturday.
The Reds took time to get going against the Premier League newcomers but a two-minute blitz on the half-hour mark saw them race into a 2-0 lead.
Emre Can, starting in defence after Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan had been ruled out, sent in a thumping header from a Coutinho corner in the 30th minute and barely two minutes later, the visitors had doubled their lead via sweeping move which was finished by Roberto Firmino.
Firmino would then add to Liverpool’s tally early on in the second-half after a frantic opening period in which the Reds almost conceded but rode their luck thanks to Simon Mignolets’ point-blank save from Brighton striker Glenn Murray.
As the ball was released for Liverpool’s pacy forwards to hit the hosts on the break, Mohamed Salah ran at full tilt and the Premier League’s top scorer unselfishly set up Firmino to score the Reds’ third goal and seemingly put the result of the game beyond doubt.
However, Liverpool’s defensive inadequacies were laid bare within a minute of going 3-0 up when captain Jordan Henderson needlessly conceded a penalty.
Murray stepped up and made amends for his earlier miss by beating Mignolet to give the home side a glimmer of hope.
Despite fielding a defence that had a very makeshift feel to it, Liverpool managed to withstand the Brighton pressure and would score two late goals to give the final scoreline a flattering outlook.
While 5-1 was not a honest depiction of the tie, there was nothing fortuitous about Liverpool’s fourth goal. Coutinho cheekily sent his free-kick under Brighton’s wall in the 87th minute and would force a fifth when his shot was turned into his own net by Lewis Dunk two minutes later.
Liverpool are now in fourth place with a points tally of 29 from 14 games, but Arsenal can move above them if they beat Manchester United later on Saturday.
While it was a chastening defeat for Brighton, they will take heart from their display and the fact that they are in 11th place, a lofty place for a newly-promoted side.