It would be a bad omen for the rest of the Premier League if Mohamed Salah started to dictate these types of games again. West Ham United held out at the London Stadium until the final minute, albeit passively, before the Egyptian international pulled off two superb saves, 11 minutes apart, to secure the 3-1 victory for Liverpool and narrow the gap with leaders Manchester City to four points.
Salah had his hands full when he received a pass from Curtis Jones, who had replaced James Milner on the right for Liverpool a few minutes earlier. He penetrated the area with typical Hammers control and a mesmerising dribble, then hit Hammers defender Aaron Cresswell for a yard and a shot flew past goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
What followed 11 minutes later was even better.
– ESPN FC daily broadcast on ESPN+ (US only)
– ESPN+ Kijkwijzer: Bundesliga, Serie A, MLS, FA Cup and above
Jarrod Bowen took a West Ham corner and 15 seconds later the ball was in the net at the other end. Andy Robertson cleared the ball and Trent Alexander-Arnold fired a shot at Xherdan Shaqiri, who sent the ball first into the box for Salah. Controlling with his right foot was exciting, so finishing with his left was a glorious formality. The whole action resulted in seven touches and was the purest example of the devastating attacking football that Liverpool have dominated since Salah’s last Premier League goals, in the 7-0 win over Crystal Palace on December 19, were largely missing.
In the last seven days, there are signs of Salah’s restlessness. A week earlier he had scored twice in an FA Cup match at Manchester United and on Thursday he was denied in the 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
He breathed new life into Liverpool at the London Stadium, which was starting to look a little tired and toothless, with Sadio Mane absent due to a slight muscle problem and Roberto Firmino forced to stay on the bench. It is only the second time this season – and the first since the first win over Leeds United – that Salah has scored the winning goal in a match, turning a draw or defeat into a victory just because of his input. Salah is also the first Liverpool player to score more than 20 goals in all competitions in four consecutive seasons since Ian Rush did so six times between 1981 and 1987.
The 28-year-old, who scored nine goals in eight Premier League games against the Hammers, came on in the absence of Mane and Firmino. The late substitute scored Liverpool’s third goal for Georginio Wijnaldum, before Craig Dawson scored the home side’s consolation goal three minutes later.
Asked if he felt extra pressure due to the absence of Mane and Firmino in the starting line-up, Salah replied to Sky Sports : Frankly, yes. Before the game, I knew they wouldn’t be in the game. I know I have a lot of responsibility, but I try to help the team every game, not just now. Of course, neither of them played that responsibly today, but I’ve played without them before and we won, so that’s great.
Klopp has also been feeling responsible lately. After Liverpool maintained their unbeaten home record in 67. He stated that I need to make it clear which games are meaningful because they hurt the opposition, which is not the case with us, and that here a tactical change was needed to make Liverpool stronger with 67% ball possession.
A little change at half-time, the attacking positions are a little different and it paid off, Klopp continued. We scored big goals and all three of us were great. I’m very happy.
Mohamed Salah scored two spectacular goals in Liverpool’s win over West Ham on Sunday. JUSTIN SETTERFIELD/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
You can only play more directly if you are in the right positions. In the first half, the three midfielders were too often on the wrong side of the ball. That said, we found Shaq, but Shaq turned around and had no chance to get through, so we had to correct that. We wanted a bit more in the middle and a double ten with Thiago.
I thought he gave the ball away too early, but what Mo did with it was great. We’ve talked a lot in the last few weeks, as you can imagine, and maybe we said the right things last week. Maybe I will.
These guys are a really good group, and they’re not happy they didn’t make it. They always have the right attitude, but they need the right information. I said it after the Burnley game, it was my fault. And now we’ve found a way to make the other teams uncomfortable again.
However, it was pointed out that Klopp has been forced to use Nathaniel Phillips and Jordan Henderson in central defence, the twelfth different duo this season. News spread during the game that the club are trying to rectify the situation before Monday’s transfer deadline.
Klopp refused to confirm reports of the club’s interest in 25-year-old defender Ben Davies from Preston North End, but the addition of a centre-back – himself a surprising name at a league club – will only add to the sense of momentum, although the Reds boss admits he is constantly dealing with injuries given his busy schedule.
At the very least, concerns about Salah’s form are quickly being pushed into the background.
He scored against Tottenham, but before VAR, Klopp added. This goal was a good sign for him that it had stopped again. He played a great game tonight. He was really in the game, was really involved, was flexible, all those things, kept the ball, control of the game was really good. The first goal was just super smart, and the second, what a setback. Mo’s first touch, an excellent and beautiful finish.
I work with him every day. He will never stop wanting to score goals. He’s a world class player and the last few weeks, when you’re not scoring a lot of goals, you can only try again and make the right decision.