Klopp content to sacrifice style as Reds extend lead

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Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri shoots wide as Brighton's David Button attempts to save on Saturday. [Photo/Agencies]

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp hailed his title-chasing team's maturity after breaking down an obdurate Brighton for a 1-0 win on Saturday.

Klopp's Reds had lost their last two games in contrasting fashion-Manchester City inflicted Liverpool's only Premier League defeat of the campaign on Jan 4 before a much-changed XI lost to Wolves in the FA Cup three days later.

Liverpool was far from its fluent best on England's south coast, but Mo Salah's 50th-minute penalty earned a vital win that moved the Reds seven points clear of City, which was due to host Wolves on Monday night.

Significantly, it was the Merseysiders' 13th clean sheet in 22 league games this term.

"We are not the Harlem Globetrotters, we have to deliver results," said Klopp on his team's bid for a first top-flight title in 29 years.

"For that, we need to perform. The performance was good. It was not the best performance of the season in a few departments but I would say it was the most mature performance of the season.

"It's so important. On the good days everybody can win; on average days not a lot of teams can win football games, and on a bad day only a few can win.

"Today was not a bad day but it was a difficult day because Brighton is doing really well."

Salah was just one a number of first-team regulars to return from the Cup defeat at Wolves, but the Egyptian and the rest of Liverpool's forward line were starved of service before the break as Brighton sat deep and the visitor dominated possession without any cutting edge.

"It was very hard but that is how it is," added Klopp. "I liked the performance. It wasn't an opera of football but it was a really nice song."

Salah immediately signaled a change in Liverpool's intent after halftime as his powerful shot at the end of a surging run was well saved by David Button.

Brighton, though, was the architect of its own downfall moments later. Salah was given too much room inside the area to turn before Pascal Gross clumsily hauled down last season's Premier League player of the year.

"I feel for Pascal because Mo Salah is probably the most dangerous player once he gets in those positions one on one," said Seagulls manager Chris Hughton, who had no complaints over the penalty award.

Salah stepped up to blast the spot-kick past Button and move level with Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Tottenham's Harry Kane at the top of the league's scoring chart on 14 goals.

One moment of madness from Gross undid Hughton's game plan to frustrate the league leader.

The German had a chance to make amends almost immediately with Brighton's best opportunity to equalize, but his shot was bravely blocked by Reds midfielder Fabinho.

From then on, Liverpool looked more likely to add to its lead than concede as Firmino, Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane all went close. Salah wasted a glorious late chance when he turned James Milner's driven cross wide from point-blank range.

That could have proved costly when Florin Andone escaped in behind the Liverpool defense in stoppage time, but his low cross found no takers.

And Liverpool held out to ensure a largely forgettable 90 minutes could be remembered as another important step on course to the title come May.

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