Liverpool 2 Albion 1

The goals sending Liverpool to an overdue and now surely inevitable title are not just coming from their prolific front three.

Albion talked about that last week before they went to Anfield.

A bit like with Jamie Vardy’s counter attacks for Leicester, knowing the threat and stopping it are two different things, though a step ladder might have helped against Virgil van Dijk.

Two headers from the towering Dutch defender ultimately proved decisive in sending the leaders 11 points clear of Manchester City.

Discussion back at Lancing this week might centre on one key aspect of how Albion performed at Anfield.

And that is how they played – as at the Etihad – with belief, confidence and increasing levels of precision against one of the big guns but came closer to pulling off a shock than in losing 4-0 to City.

It will be about what they can take from that and how they can avoid those caught-in-the-headlights moments which we saw at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford and, fleetingly, at the home of the European champions.

That word ‘belief’ was mentioned a few times in interviews after Lewis Dunk’s clever free-kick had set up a tense finale in front of the Anfield Road End as those on the Kop strained their eyes, bit their nails and eventually found their voices.

Albion showed belief and conviction in what they were doing, right down to the final moments with the towering Dunk playing quarterback and spreading play from one side to the other from deep.

Plenty of teams would have had him in the penalty box at that stage as they threw the ball into the mixer.

They might have been right to do so. But that is not the way Albion will do things and rarely was their belief in their methods more clear than here.

In the end, defeat means a week – or maybe just five days – rather lower in the table than they would want.

The table has significance now with almost half the season played.

That said, by Friday morning, the Seagulls will have spent one-third of their campaign so far playing away to the ‘big six’ – if not the current top six or best six.

They believe the way they are rebuilding and trying to play their football is the right way.

What happened at Anfield will underline that. They just need to do it better.

And any team needs to get the basics right at set-pieces.

“It was something we spoke about in the week and awareness of the areas,” Potter replied when asked how much time Albion had spent preparing to defend set-pieces.

Specifically those delivered by Trent Alexander-Arnold and met by Van Dijk.

“On the first goal, our line didn’t drop well, I don’t think. I haven’t seen it back yet.

“If you make one mistake with his quality and his strength then you can be in trouble.

“They have got probably the best deliverer in the country and the best attacker of the ball in the world.

“It is part of the game. You can be good in 90% of the pitch but if you are not good in those areas...

“I think that is why Liverpool are as good as anybody in the world.

“They can do all sorts of things to score against you.”

Albion could have been back in the game by half-time given chances which fell to, most notably, Dunk, but also the impressive Davy Propper.

Equally, they would have been dead and buried without saves by Maty Ryan from Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Maybe 50,000 people thought they were dead and buried anyway, two goals down as Ryan took the sporting applause of the Kop when he re-appeared for the second half.

Not so. That famous home end would have need impressive lung power to suck the ball in this time.

Albion played with more conviction, Anfield went quiet, even moaned at their players, and it was game on when sub Leandro Trossard saw his lob handled outside the box by Alisson, who was sent off.

Well not quite at that point – but certainly when Dunk cleverly passed the resulting 25-yard free-kick into the bottom corner while sub keeper Adrian lined up his wall and just after Martin Atkinson blew the whistle.

Talking about belief, the sight of Liverpool hanging on with everyone behind the ball and hoofing clear was scarcely, well, believable.

Except perhaps to Potter and his colleagues.

So what does he take from what he saw?

“It’s more to understand how we were at the start of the game compared to how we were for the rest of it,” he told The Argus.

“It wasn’t that we were bad, I just got a sense that we weren’t as aggressive or as positive or had the belief we needed.

“We are playing against good players and all the rest of it but that was the bit I thought was missing – and the only bit I can be critical of from the performance.”

One more moment of real danger, one big chance to equalise, would have been ideal.

Adrian fumbled a Pascal Gross header and parried an Aaron Mooy shot. Mooy was just unable to get to a through ball ahead of the keeper.

Who knows what might have happened had Neal Maupay not been wrongly flagged offside when he latched on to a Dale Stephens pass in the box?

That was one of a few close decisions which appeared to go Liverpool’s way.

That – as well as scoring from all departments – is a hallmark of champions which Liverpool, 30 years on, will be in 2020.

For the third successive meeting, Albion will feel they might or should have taken a point off them.

But this performance can still be seen as a key afternoon of the season if they build on it.