Two-goal Salah leads the way
Striker’s double keeps Liverpool on course to claim points record
Maybe Liverpool allowed themselves a drop-off in performance after winning their first title in 30 years, but Jurgen Klopp’s “mentality monsters” are back.
Victory over Brighton means they need three wins from their final four league games to beat Manchester City’s record of 100 points for a campaign and the determination is clearly there to achieve just that.
It was there in Mohamed Salah’s relentless desire to score a hattrick, having already claimed two goals, with a header over the bar in the last act of the game leading to a cry of frustrated anguish from the striker.
And it was there in Virgil van Dijk running back and bellowing: “Come on boys you’re getting f-----lazy”. That came deep in injury time with the game won, as well as the title.
This was Liverpool’s 30th league win of the campaign and no team in the history of English football has achieved that in just 34 games, but it fairly reflects their dominance. One more win will also be the highest number of victories Liverpool have ever achieved in a season.
There were more records, more statistics worthy of note and Salah’s goals mean he has now 100 goal involvements in the league for Liverpool – 73 goals, 27 assists – in just 104 appearances. It is 19 goals for this season and he will try to chase down Jamie Vardy, who has 22, to win the Golden Boot as top-scorer.
The only concern for Liverpool was captain Jordan Henderson, their other goal-scorer, limping off in the second-half and shaking his head, while it was a tricky full debut for the highly promising 19-year-old full-back Neco Williams who was substituted at half-time after being booked.
In fairness to Williams he was played out of position at left-back. He is more usually on the other flank and he came up against Brighton’s extraordinarily impressive own 19-year-old right-back, Tariq Lamptey, who looks a steal from Chelsea.
Lamptey, like the rest of the Brighton team, was brave throughout and tried to take the game to the champions. Despite quickly falling two goals behind and effectively having little to play for now they are virtually safe from relegation, they remained fully committed.
Manager Graham Potter will stand accused of asking his players to overplay in the two goals they conceded inside the opening minutes, but they had more to do with individual errors and Liverpool’s ferocious pressing which was led by Naby Keita, who had a fine hour in midfield before being replaced.
There had been yet another ‘guard of honour’ for Liverpool as they took to the pitch and then Brighton parted again, with goalkeeper Mat Ryan playing the ball to Davy Propper on the edge of his own box, only for Keita to steal in before squaring the ball to Salah, who side-footed it into the net.
Two minutes later they struck again with Adam Webster attempting to hold up Salah, only to turn the ball back to Henderson who took it in his stride with a superb first-time shot from 25 yards that swept across Ryan.
Game over? It felt like it already, And to think Liverpool had gone seven hours and 47 minutes without scoring a goal away from home and suddenly had two in just 127 seconds. Brighton were rocked. But they hit back with Lamptey and Leandro Trossard prominent. Both showed their pace with the latter tearing past Joe Gomez and Van Dijk to set up Neal Maupay, while he eventually got his reward just before half-time as Brighton scored. The ball was played out wide to Lamptey, who crossed precisely for Trossard to fire home.
From game over, then, to game on. It ebbed and flowed with chances at both ends and desperate blocks and interventions, although it was Brighton’s Dan Burn who spurned the clearest opportunity. A cross was flicked on to him, but he miscued his shot back across goal. What a chance.
There was the rare sight of Alisson flapping at a corner before, at the other end, Ryan was left rooted when a Henderson shot took a heavy deflection to spin narrowly wide. But from Andrew Robertson’s corner Salah darted towards the near post and flashed a header past Ryan. It ended any doubt, but neither side relented, with more chances before Salah looked set to complete his hat-trick – only to head just over.