Klopp: Liverpool win “not an opera… but really nice song”

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Leave it to Jurgen Klopp, the master of heavy metal football, to describe Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat of Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Saturday in musical terms.

“I liked the performance,” he said. “It wasn’t an opera of football but it was a really nice song.”

Call it “Clampdown,” as the Reds held Brighton without a goal at home for the first time since March.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Brighton limited Liverpool’s chances on the day, falling victim to the referee’s whistle when Pascal Gross was mismatched on Mohamed Salah and dragged his fellow forward down in the box.

Salah finished his chance, and Liverpool increased its table lead before Man City plays Wolves on Monday.

“It was clear that we had the ball a lot but it is really difficult,” Klopp said. “Chris Hughton is a smart fox. They close the space perfectly. It is really difficult to stay 100% for the whole game. It is a challenge but this is a proper football game which we won and I like that.”

And, as Liverpool chases its first top-flight title in the Premier League era, Klopp was again asked about his team’s long-term focus.

“We have to win each game. That is how it is. We are Liverpool and we have to win football games. That’s nothing new. You don’t want to draw games here but you have to work in each step of the game. Try to create and if you find a way then use it.”

Liverpool is at home for its next two matches, Jan . 19 versus Crystal Palace and 11 days later against Leicester City.

Salah penalty leads Liverpool past Brighton (video)

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  • Liverpool snaps mini-skid
  • Salah converts penalty
  • Reds have 73 percent possession

Mohamed Salah won and converted an early second half penalty as Liverpool scrapped its way to a 1-0 defeat of Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Saturday.

Liverpool goes seven clear of Man City ahead of the latter’s Monday match with Wolves.

The match marked the first time Brighton was shutout in a home match since March.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

After a mostly chance-free first half, Salah won a penalty after being harassed by Pascal Gross in the box. Gross was all over Salah’s shoulder, and the Egyptian comically made sure it was spotted with an airkick and back-flop to the deck. If he hadn’t fallen, it may not have been called, and it was certainly a penalty, but my was it funny.

Gross had a chance to level it blocked in the box, as Brighton was undeterred by its concession.

The Seagulls stuck around despite Liverpool’s chance creation, the Reds’ attack typified by Georginio Wijnaldum just missing on a drive through traffic in the 80th minute.

Salah casually missed a tremendous chance to make it 2-0 in the 88th.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Midseason grades for each PL club

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Boxing Day in the Premier League marks the halfway point of the season.

19 games down, 19 to go.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

With that in mind, now seems like the perfect time to grace each PL club on their displays so far in the 2018-19 campaign.

Some will be spitting their Christmas dinners out reading this, others will not be able to wipe that smug grin off their faces for the rest of the day.

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Below we grade each team. Let us know if you agree in the comments below…


(AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

Arsenal: B+
Unai Emery has transformed the DNA of this Arsenal team and a 22-game unbeaten run in all competitions proved he has them heading in the right direction. Defensive injuries have decimated their backline in recent weeks, but shoring up their defense remains the long-term goal. Going forward the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (the PL’s leading scorer) and Alexandre Lacazette continue to deliver, while Lucas Torreira and Mateo Guendouzi have been stars in midfield. The big issue: can Mesut Ozil fit into Emery’s 3-4-3 system? A really good start for the Spaniard in north London.


Bournemouth: B+
The Cherries have been hovering around the top six for most of the season and Eddie Howe has successfully taken them to the next level. Jefferson Lerma and David Brooks have been inspired signings, with the latter complementing the pace and power of Josh King, Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser perfectly. They are in the hunt for Europe.


Brighton & Hove Albion: C
A weird season so far for Chris Hughton‘s Seagulls. Big home wins against Man United, West Ham and Wolves have them in midtable, but they continue to struggle on the road and that must change if they’re going to stay clear of being sucked into the relegation zone. Glenn Murray is their main man, again, but after his injury Pascal Gross is struggling to regain his form from last season.


Burnley: D
Awful start to the season for Burnley and Sean Dyche‘s men are deservedly in the bottom three. Yes, their run in the UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds didn’t help their small squad at the start of the season but that was a long, long time ago. After finishing seventh last season, the expectation levels at Turf Moor have changed. The only thing we can expect from Burnley in the second half of the season is an almighty scrap against being relegated. Their main issue has been a leaky defense, which is so unlike them.


Cardiff City: C+
Better than we all expected would sum things up nicely for the Bluebirds and Neil Warnock after their promotion. They are hard to beat, especially at home, and they can hit teams on the counter and cause problems from set pieces. Picking up big wins at home against teams around them has kept them out of the relegation zone, but they must start winning games on the road. A relegation dogfight coming up, and this squad will relish that challenge.


(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Chelsea: B
A bizarre season so far. At times, Maurizio Sarri‘s men have been unstoppable, but like Eden Hazard‘s form they flitted in and out of games and shock defeats to Wolves and Leicester underline just how far they have to go to be called genuine title contenders. A top four finish is on, which was the goal before the season, but Sarri-ball has yet to take the PL by storm. Wins against Arsenal and Man City at home proved they can outplay the best, but getting the best out of Hazard and N'Golo Kante will be key to kicking on in the second half of the season. Also, their defensive line needs to step up in games against the so-called smaller teams.


Crystal Palace: C
Average start to the season, but that big win away at Man City boosts their grade a little. Roy Hodgson‘s side dig deep in each game and are hard to beat. Wilfried Zaha‘s pace on the breaks causes big problems but having him out injured for a few spells has hit Palace hard. Scoring goals remains an issue, but maybe the shackles will come off if they can sign a new striker in January.


Everton: C+
Signs of promise for Marco Silva, but perhaps this grade is a little harsh considering the hammering they took at the hands of Tottenham. Everton are at least going for it in games and new signings Richarlison, Lucas Digne and Andre Gomes have all been very good so far. The Toffees are still well placed to finish seventh, but Silva must sort out their defensive issues (not helped by injuries) which have hampered their progress. In fairness, defending has never been a strong point for the teams he has managed.


Fulham: F
Bottom of the table after spending over $150 million on new players in the summer, the Cottagers are a bit of a  mess. Claudio Ranieri arrived to take over from Slavisa Jokanovic, and with him came a complete 180 in terms of their playing philosophy. Fulham were lovely to watch in the early weeks of the season but were opened up easier than a tin of beans by opposition attacks. Ranieri has brought some solidity to their play, but there’s a long way to go. Relegation favorites, as things stand, and that will remain unless this squad is freshened up in January.


Huddersfield Town: D
Another favorite for the drop, as the Terriers just can’t score goals. David Wagner‘s men have had some great performances and have lost so many games narrowly, but the euphoria over promotion seems to have evaporated this season. Losing the likes of Aaron Mooy and Danny Williams through injury were big blows, and if Huddersfield are serious about staying up this season they have to bring in an experienced striker in January. Simple.


Leicester City: D
Another team who have been a real Jekyll and Hyde so far, as Claude Puel had been under intense pressure to be fired. That was before Leicester won away at Chelsea over the weekend. With the tragic situation off the pitch at Leicester, many would forgive the Foxes for letting their season peter out, but a strong second half of the campaign should see them battle for seventh and Europa League qualification. Puel’s system doesn’t really suit this Leicester squad though, and it is probably best for everyone if he moves on in the summer.


(Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Liverpool: A+
Pretty much perfect. Liverpool have got better in almost every department and especially in defense, where Alisson and Virgil Van Dijk have kept things together and they’ve let in just seven goals in their first 18 games of the season. Up top the usual suspects are firing with Mohamed Salah almost back to his best and Xherdan Shaqiri helping Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino with their workload. Fabinho has been key in recent weeks and this squad is strong and dealing with injuries well. Jurgen Klopp‘s men remain the only PL team unbeaten, and their huge clash at Man City on Jan. 3 will likely determine if the PL trophy is finally heading to Anfield. Lot of pressure for the second half of the season.


Manchester City: B+
Some funny displays mixed among sheer brilliance for Pep Guardiola, as City have now dropped further behind Liverpool in the title race after that shock defeat against Palace. Kevin De Bruyne, Benjamin Mendy and Sergio Aguero missing for large chunks of this season has hurt, but the form of Raheem Sterling and reemergence of Leroy Sane has been a plus. Keeping David Silva and Fernandinho fit is key to them getting back on top as the reigning champs are feeling the heat.


(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Manchester United: D
Should probably be lower than a D, but given all of their issues and Jose Mourinho being fired, the fact United still remain in sixth and are eight points off the top four points towards the quality players they possess. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s arrival as caretaker boss will help rebuild the confidence of Pogba, Rashford, Lukaku and others, as this team has woefully underperformed in the rigid defensive style Mourinho wanted them to execute. United should be challenging for the title with the squad they have, but a top four finish would be a wonderful achievement and could just land Solskjaer the job on a full-time basis.


Newcastle United: C
They are where they should be after spending little cash and Rafael Benitez working wonders. The Spaniard has said it will be a “miracle” if they stay up again, and the only way they will do that is by staying solid in defense and getting crosses into the box for Salomon Rondon to finish. Newcastle could easily get sucked into a relegation scrap if, as expected, they don’t reinforce in key areas in January. Mike Ashley’s long-awaited sale of the club still hasn’t happened and it needs to happen if the Magpies are to realize their true potential.


Southampton: D-
The only reason this isn’t a big fat F is because of the last few weeks under new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. The Austrian took over from Mark Hughes as Saints had won just once all season and were devoid of any confidence going forward and were leaking goals galore. That is not a great combo. Hasenhuttl has galvanized this young side and given them a high-pressing style which already has the fans back on board after a few years of drifting along. Hiring the former RB Leipzig manager was a massive coup for Saints and the equation for him is quite simple: keep Danny Ings fit and Saints will pull well clear of the relegation zone.


(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur: A-
Spurs have been superb in recent weeks and despite so many struggles off the pitch, Mauricio Pochettino has kept his squad focused. Six points off the top of the table, in the last 16 of the Champions League after recovering from an awful start and in the last four of the League Cup suggests this team is moving forward. All of that was done without signing a single player in the summer and having the move to their new stadium delayed several times as they’re still at Wembley. With Harry Kane getting better, Son firing on all cylinders and Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen back to their best and several squad players stepping up admirably, Pochettino’s well-oiled machine shows no signs of slowing down. Spurs are genuine title contenders, while their manager is wanted by both Man United and Real Madrid this summer. If Tottenham win a big trophy, that seems like the only way Pochettino would stay.


Watford: A
Javi Gracia and Watford have proved everyone wrong in the opening half of the season and I for one hold my hand up and say I didn’t see this coming. At all. They’ve beaten Tottenham at home and pushed plenty of other big clubs all of the way as they sit in seventh and have dreams of qualifying for Europe. Gracia was handed a new long-term deal and that suggests the Hornets may buck their trend of getting rid of managers each and every season. Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra have been sublime on the wings and the duo of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue dominant in midfield, with Ben Foster rolling back the years in goal. Overall, a wonderful season so far.


West Ham United: C+
Manuel Pellegrini has definitely turned things around at West Ham, but it will still take a bit more time for the Hammers to push up the table. Four wins on the spin had them flying into the festive period, and that was based mainly on their new defensive reinforcement settling in. Fabianski, Diop and Balbuena have made a big difference and without Arnautovic, Lanzini and Yarmolenko at the other end of the pitch (the former with a small injury, the latter out for the season) Felipe Anderson, Robert Snodgrass and Javier Hernandez have stepped up. West Ham will aim to finish in the top 10 and that should easily be attainable in the second half of the season.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: B+
Right in the hunt for seventh place, Wolves have been one of the stories of the season so far. Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side have played without fear and recovered from a bit of a wobble after their stunning start to the season. Raul Jimenez, Ruben Neves, Matt Doherty and Rui Patricio have all been superb, while the fluid 3-4-3 formation has worked wonders in opening up opponents on the counter. This team has a clear identity and when they decide to take their chances they can beat anyone in the league. European qualification is possible if they can kick on in 2019.

Brighton fight back to beat 10-man Huddersfield

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  • Huddersfield took lead after 55 seconds
  • Steve Mounie sent off in first half
  • Brighton’s Andone scores first PL goal to win it

Brighton and Hove Albion beat Huddersfield Town 2-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday, as the Terriers took an early lead but couldn’t build on it after Steve Mounie was sent off.

Mathias Jorgensen scored the fastest goal of the PL season so far to make it 1-0, but Mounie was shown a straight red card and Brighton sprung into life. Shane Duffy made it 1-1 and then Florin Andone was the hero for the Seagulls with his first goal in England to secure all three points.

With the win Brighton move up to 11th on 18 points, while Huddersfield are in 17th and just one point out of the relegation zone.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

The home side got off to a perfect start within the first minute, as poor Brighton defending from a Huddersfield long-throw allowed Jorgensen to nod home the opener off the post.

Jorgensen’s goal was the fastest in the PL so far this season, timed at just 55 seconds.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Brighton battled their way back into the game and Shane Duffy’s header was saved well by Huddersfield goalkeeper Jonas Lossl.

The game then swung in Brighton’s favor as Huddersfield’s Steve Mounie was shown a straight red card. The Frenchman flew into a challenge on Yves Bissouma with his studs showing and referee Michael Oliver had no choice but to reduce Huddersfield to 10 men. Brighton went close through Jose Izquierdo’s shot just before half time, as the Seagulls smelt blood in the water.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ] 

Brighton equalized right on half time as Duffy headed home Solly March‘s cross and the Seagulls went in level at the break.

At the start of the second half Lossl was forced into two fine saves from Bissouma and Pascal Gross in quick succession, and that was a sign of things to come.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The winning goal arrived for Brighton through Romanian striker Andone, as he headed home March’s cross to make it 2-1 and break Huddersfield’s hearts with his first goal for the Seagulls.

Premier League Preview: Cardiff City vs. Brighton and Hove Albion

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  • Joe Ralls is available again for Cardiff but Jazz Richards (hamstring) and Kenneth Zohore (calf) will both miss out through injury and Harry Arter is suspended.   
  • Brighton continue to be without Pascal Gross, Davy Propper (ankle) and David Button (knee), while Alireza Jahanbakhsh is likely to be absent with a hamstring strain. 
  • Cardiff and Brighton have never met before in the top flight. This is the fourth new top-flight fixture this season after AFC Bournemouth v Cardiff, Brighton v Fulham and AFC Bournemouth v Fulham. 
  • The Bluebirds are aiming to halt their habit of conceding the opening goal, having done so eight times in the Premier League this season, the most of any team, level with Fulham.  

Brighton and Hove Albion has the chance to move into the top ten of the Premier League table as Chris Houghton’s side travel to face Cardiff City in the first match of week 12 (Watch live on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Seagulls have enjoyed a great start to the season, with three wins in its last four including a 1-0 win at relegation-threatened Newcastle. The defense, led by Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy has held firm while 35-year-old Glenn Murray continues to drink from the fountain of youth, scoring six goals this early in the PL season. Cardiff on the other side are desperate for three points at home, as it currently sits in the drop zone with five points from 11 games.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

What they’re saying

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock on finding positives out of a rough start to the season: ““I think as a team we’ve improved nearly every game since the Bournemouth game and we’ve played far more football than people give us credit for. But it’s about getting the balance, we have changed and now we need a bit of luck. My wife says my luck is changing from today, so I can’t argue with my wife. But every game is winnable for us until Christmas if we have a good day. If we didn’t win it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but Saturday is one we want to win.”

Brighton and Hove Albion manager Chris Houghton on facing Cardiff: “It goes without saying that when you get used to this league you recognize that trips to teams who aren’t in the top six might not be as daunting – but this is still only our second season in the division. We know them quite well as a team, and their level of performance this season has been relatively good on the whole despite the results. They’re at home and they’ll have good backing from the crowd, so our approach is exactly the same as any other away game – but every game is an opportunity for us.”

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Prediction

It’s a matchup between two teams who display similar playing styles, so like many games with teams farther down the table, this one should come down to a set piece. We’ll give Cardiff the narrow victory, picking up three massive points over Brighton. Cardiff 1-0 Brighton