Liverpool's mini Premier League renaissance ended emphatically when they fell 3-1 at Brentford.
The Reds had won four league games in a row before heading west to London, raising hopes that a poor start to the campaign was little more than a problem.
However, they went into half-time 2-0 down thanks to an own goal from Ibrahima Konate and a goal from Yoane Wissa, and were lucky that the linesman's flag saved them from conceding two more goals.
Hopes of an unlikely comeback were fueled shortly after half-time when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored and Darwin Núñez had a goal disallowed.
But Brentford sealed three fully deserved points in the dying moments when Bryan Mbeumo took advantage of Konate's weak defense to finish past Alisson Becker.
Below, The Sporting News rounds up 10 things to know about the game.
MORE: Watch every Premier League match live with fuboTV in CanadaFinal result Brentford vs Liverpool
|1 hour||2 hours||Final|
Goals: Ibrahim Konate, 19, John Wissa, 42, and Bryan Mbuemo, 84; Oxlade-Chamberlain (50)10 things to know about Brentford vs. Liverpool
1. Cody Gakpo is not enough to fix this
Liverpool already recognized that their team needed a makeover in the January window by bringing in Cody Gakpo from PSV Eindhoven. But if they were under the impression that signing the Dutchman would be enough to fix this mess, then tonight's performance at Brentford showed that belief. The current crop of players have shown enough times that they can't figure this out; more help is needed on this window.
MORE: Why did Liverpool sign Cody Gakpo? Explain transfer, position, long-term plans
2. The midfield is still a mess
Of course, the obvious problem area is a central midfield that has looked porous no matter who started there this season. It says it all, the small improvement that was seen in that part of the pitch in the second half was brought about by Naby Keita, a man with no future at the club. Liverpool have no long-term options in the engine room or indeed no one they can trust to perform consistently in that area any time soon and that simply has to be corrected.
Brentford go up 3-1 and Bryan Mbeumo hits 'The Silencer'!
: @USA_Network #MyPLMorning | #BRELIV pic.twitter.com/dQGIshYTep— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) January 2, 2023
3. Darwin Núñez an important topic
For all the attention Liverpool's midfield receives, it's also worth mentioning that their big-money summer signing at the top end of the pitch has yet to reach the heights. There were significant green shots evident during a run of seven goals in 10 games before the World Cup, but Núñez has returned to his worst form since he returned. This was the fourth game in a row in which he missed big opportunities, he struggled to stay in position and left a lot to be desired with his contribution to the setup. He is now costing the Reds games.
4. Liverpool concede first, again
Given all the problems Liverpool are currently fighting, they could do it without making games difficult early on. But that's what they did again here, conceding the first goal in a game for the 13th time in all competitions. That may not have been a problem for a quad-chasing giant toward the end of last season, but the current crop just doesn't have enough to launch consistent comebacks.
5. Klopp's in-game management is questionable
That Liverpool managed to reach halftime with not one less goal was due more to luck and VAR than to their high line doing their job. And that makes you wonder why Klopp didn't make the switch sooner, given that it was obvious to everyone in attendance that the hosts had all the momentum and were about to double their lead. The German's half-time substitutions really allowed his team to regain some momentum but, due to his hesitation in the first half, it was too late.
6. No Ivan Toney, no problem
Brentford were given an unwanted taste of what life would be like without Ivan Toney for this game, the striker sitting out with a knee injury sustained against West Ham. But the good news for Thomas Frank and company. it's just that it looks like they can get by just fine without their talisman striker, at least in the short term.
MORE: Ivan Toney betting allegations: Details of alleged FA rule breaches and possible ban for the Brentford striker
7. Brentford extends remarkable record
It may not have felt that way at the time, but those who watch Brentford closely will know that the three points were essentially in the bag once Konate broke through his own net. That's because the Bees have won every Premier League game they've taken the lead in, an incredible record for a team so new to the division.
8. The home environment of bees is a key strength
Without a doubt, the hosts were helped to maintain their lead in this game by a home crowd that gave their all to get their team across the line. This isn't the first time that the incredible atmosphere at Brentford Community Stadium has played a key role in a major Premier League game and it won't be the last.
The ball hits Ben Mee and Konate deflects it for an own goal.
: @USA_Network #MyPLMorning | #BRELIV pic.twitter.com/a6g1BPtGAu— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) January 2, 2023
9. Virgil van Dijk's injury is less significant than before
In years past, the sight of Virgil van Dijk on the bench with his legs tied would have sent chills down any Liverpool fan, such was his importance. But he says a lot that it was not initially obvious that the Dutchman had not withdrawn for tactical rather than physical reasons. As long as he doesn't face a lengthy layoff, the Dutchman needs to rediscover his best form quickly.
10. Flawed opponents can help Liverpool
This is not the first time this season that Liverpool have been seen as a team with no chance of finishing in the top four. That Klopp's men have moved within arm's reach of those positions recently speaks volumes about their rivals' failings and gives hope that, with much of the campaign remaining, Champions League qualification is not out of the question. Still, big improvements are needed.Credit: https://www.sportingnews.com/us/soccer/news/brentford-vs-liverpool-reds-hit-new-low-point-need-more-january-additions-underlined/p6znld0jahmqogp1mbufzw3z
For the past 11 months, Patrick Mahomes has been the arch villain of the Buffalo Bills.
Defeat him, the plan declared, and the splendor will continue.
That remained the case until October, when the Bills picked up victories over Mahomes and the other two AFC division leaders.
But another team has resurfaced, one that made its Super Bowl run look like a fluke when it came up against it out of the gate, but has now won seven straight behind the best quarterback in the NFL.
For the Bills to get where they want to go, they probably also need to win over Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. Maybe twice.
Buffalo clinched a playoff spot last week, clinched the AFC East crown two days ago, and has won a dozen games.
That's a wonderful regular season, however, with games remaining against the Bengals and New England Patriots, the Bills are still chasing.
The Bills may need to win both to earn the AFC first round bye and home field advantage during the playoffs. A loss to the torrid Bengals at Paycor Stadium can drop the Bills into the third seed if the Kansas City Chiefs win their final games against the lowly Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders.
Cincinnati, especially their offense, presents a colossal test.
Buffalo owns just three wins over opponents with winning records, including Oct. 16 against Mahomes at Arrowhead Stadium and most recently Dec. 17 against the Dolphins.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati has passed the AFC North and is just one game behind Buffalo and Kansas City for the conference lead.
As such, Monday night, fueled by a blockbuster quarterback matchup, will feel like a playoff matchup and offer a potential preview of a January rematch.
I asked Bills fans on social media which story lines excite or worry them most about Monday night's matchup, and the most common response was how the defense will be able to handle Burrow and star receivers Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, with a dangerous Tyler. Boyd mixed.
With that in mind, I've put together some data to present some thoughts worth considering:
(Photo: USA Today)Credit: https://theathletic.com/live-blogs/buffalo-bills-cincinnati-bengals/suynCrMCmQKC/
There's more good news coming out of Dallas related to the team's health as preparation begins for not only the matchup in Washington but, more importantly, the playoffs.
FRISCO, Texas — Being healthy at the right time can go a long way to the Dallas Cowboys' hopes of making a much-needed postseason run this season. After receiving a lot of bad injury news over the course of December, the team is now the beneficiary of some good news, this time involving offensive lineman Matt Farniok.
The loss of starting right tackle Terence Steele forced eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith to move to the right side of the offensive line, a position he hadn't played since his rookie season in 2011, and a sprained high ankle in the center Tyler. Biadasz struggled against the Tennessee Titans last week and created many more trades.
Farniok, a second-year center selected in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft, will see his 21-day practice window open by the Cowboys when practice begins Wednesday, according to head coach Mike McCarthy, and not for a moment. too soon.
Biadasz is still likely to return for the playoffs, yes, but the injury to Steele and Biadasz highlights the need for depth on the offensive front, something the Cowboys haven't lacked all of last season.
Farniok suffered a torn hamstring in October that landed him on injured reserve, and his absence from the regular-season finale matchup against the Washington Commanders will again prompt starting left guard Connor McGovern to move to center. .
That move created a vacuum that lured rookie first-round pick Tyler Smith to left guard and installed nine-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters at his point guard left tackle position.
That's a lot of movement, but it's also something the Cowboys prepared for when they worked on several different OL variations in recent games (and in practice). Still, if Farniok can return for the playoffs, he would theoretically allow McGovern and [the younger] Smith to return to their base positions to allow Farniok to be insurance for Biadasz.
Farniok will have three weeks to show he's physically ready to return, or the Cowboys will revert him to injured reserve, which, this time, would be the end of the season.Credit: https://www.dallascowboys.com/news/cowboys-farniok-returns-to-practice-in-week-18
The NFL has officially announced the details for next week's regular season finale with Washington, a game that still has plenty of playoff implications.
The Cowboys will face the Commanders on Sunday at 3:25 pm CT at FedEx Field. At the same time, the Giants and Eagles will play in Philadelphia. If the Eagles can win and improve to 14-3, they will win the NFC East title outright and land the first overall seed in the NFC. But the Cowboys can still win the division if they beat Washington and the Giants beat the Eagles.
While the Commanders were knocked out of playoff contention on Sunday, the Giants have little to play for next week after clinching the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff picture this weekend.
For the Cowboys, if they don't win the division, they would be the No. 5 seed and face Tampa Bay, which clinched the NFC South on Sunday over the Panthers.
The NFL changed its format this season for Week 18, leaving the entire weekend open to all teams, giving the league a chance to set the final week based on the most intriguing matchups. But since the Cowboys/Commanders and the Giants/Eagles have an effect on each other, the league has decided to play these two games at the same time.
For the Cowboys, the chance to win the division will prevent them from resting key starters. Had the Eagles beaten the Saints, several top players from Dak Prescott to Micah Parsons would be expected to get some much-needed rest in the regular season finale. That's unlikely to happen now that the two divisional games start at the same time.
And if the Cowboys were to win the NFC East, they would have a chance at the No. 1 seed with a 49ers loss to the Cardinals, or perhaps the No. 2 seed, which would guarantee them at home for the first week. and the second week of the postseason if they advance.
But for now, the focus must remain on Washington.Credit: https://www.dallascowboys.com/news/nfl-announces-time-for-dallas-washington-game