Roberto de Zerbi says his Brighton side “have a dream” of qualifying for Europe as Solly March’s double and a late Danny Welbeck strike condemned Liverpool to a heavy defeat at Amex Stadium.
March converted Kaoru Mitoma’s low cross to give the home team a deserved lead, after the returning Alexis Mac Allister had intercepted Joel Matip’s loose pass.
The winger then doubled the hosts’ advantage with a fabulous left-footed strike from Evan Ferguson’s through-ball.
Second-half substitute Welbeck capped a magnificent Brighton display with a superb finish past Alisson after flicking the ball over Joe Gomez.
“I have a fantastic team of fantastic players,” said De Zerbi. “It is an honor to work with them.
“We have a target at the end of the season. Now we have to play another 20-21 games and we have to stay focused on those games.
“We want to work harder to achieve our target.”
De Zerbi’s side dominated the first half but failed to convert their pressure into goals, Trent Alexander-Arnold blocking March’s effort near the goal-line and the lively Mitoma poking wide from a tight angle.
Brighton thought they had won a penalty shortly before the break when March went to ground in the area under Alisson’s challenge, but referee Darren England overturned his initial decision to award a spot-kick after consulting with VAR.
It mattered little, however, as March netted his third and fourth goals of the campaign before Welbeck struck to lift Brighton up to seventh – one place and two points above their opponents.
Defensive frailties and a lack of physicality have proved Liverpool’s undoing in recent weeks, with Klopp’s side conceding poor goals in defeat at Brentford in the Premier League and a draw at home to Wolves in the FA Cup last weekend.
The visitors, lining up in a 4-3-1-2 formation spearheaded by Cody Gakpo and Mohamed Salah, managed to keep free-flowing Brighton at bay in the first half but created next to nothing themselves and were fortunate to go into half-time on level terms.
Mitoma, in sparkling form for Brighton of late, caused Alexander-Arnold and Matip countless problems, with Salah – or any other Reds player for that matter – failing to offer any protection down their right flank.
Liverpool survived a major let-off when Brighton were awarded a penalty for a foul on March by Alisson, only for VAR to rule that the winger had strayed offside from Adam Lallana’s pass.
But the visitors’ luck ran out in the second half as March scored twice in the space of seven minutes to put Brighton on course to a fifth win in seven top-flight games.
Gakpo had a close-range effort saved by Robert Sanchez late on, but Welbeck delivered the final blow with a strike that combined skill and audacity in equal measure.
Seagulls going from strength to strength
Mac Allister was handed his first start since helping Argentina to World Cup glory in December, as Brighton made two changes to the team that thrashed Everton in their last league match.
The midfielder paraded his World Cup winners’ medal before kick-off and was given a rousing reception by the Seagulls supporters, who were hoping to witness a first home league win over Liverpool since 14 January 1961 – precisely 62 years ago.
Buoyed perhaps by Mac Allister’s return to the starting line-up, Brighton played with precision and fluency from the start. March’s low shot was brilliantly cleared to safety by Alexander-Arnold, before Mitoma fired past the far post after breaching the Liverpool defence.
While Brighton’s opener came from a Liverpool error, there was nothing fortunate about the home side’s second as March finished magnificently after being played in by teenager Ferguson, who delivered the latest in a string of eye-catching performances.
Brighton have now scored in each of their last eight games in the top flight, netting 21 goals in that run.
“It’s one of the best performances I can remember for a long time,” March told BBC Sport. “It’s a great day and if we keep playing like that then we’ll do well, that’s for sure.
“It was just about being patient and waiting for that right pass. We play better against the big teams at home. I don’t know why.
“I love playing for Roberto – he’s great. He puts his arm around you and tells you you’re a good player. Maybe that’s what I needed.”