Un­stop­pable!

Salah’s dou­ble strike brings Egyp­tian’s goal tally to 12 in 17 starts as Reds run riot

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - Sam Wal­lace CHIEF FOOT­BALL WRITER at Lon­don Sta­dium

When it comes to the ef­fect of Mo­hamad Salah on Liver­pool, it is enough to know that his two goals against West Ham took him to within two of the to­tal of 14 that Philippe Coutinho man­aged in the en­tire cam­paign last sea­son, when he fin­ished as the club’s lead­ing goalscorer.

Salah scored his 11th and 12th against an ad­mit­tedly sham­bolic West Ham de­fence, al­though the home team were cut apart by the Egyp­tian and his team­mate Sa­dio Mane, back from in­jury af­ter just two train­ing ses­sions. By the time the in­ter­na­tional break is over Jurgen Klopp hopes to have Adam Lal­lana and Coutinho fit again and a side that was taken apart at Wem­b­ley by Tot­ten­ham last weekend may be in a po­si­tion to re­new their chal­lenge.

Liver­pool won their third con­sec­u­tive game, a feat they have not man­aged since Au­gust and much of it was down to

Salah who now has 12 goals this sea­son and re­sumed his part­ner­ship with Mane in a fine break­away goal for Liver­pool’s first. Salah came to the club in the sum­mer, Klopp said, as the unan­i­mous pick of the scout­ing depart­ment and the coach­ing staff, a £34mil­lion ac­qui­si­tion from

Roma who al­ready looks value for money. “We watched him so of­ten,” Klopp said later, “and the scout­ing depart­ment wanted to do it even ear­lier so no one else can jump in but we had a lot of dif­fer­ent op­tions. He was the de­ci­sion of all of us. When you find a sit­u­a­tion when ev­ery­body do­ing the job agrees on one player, you can be sure it will work. It is re­ally nice to have him in the team. He is a real goal threat, he is an of­fen­sive mid­field player who is more a striker. He needed to adapt to the dif­fer­ent style.”

The Liver­pool man­ager lost Jor­dan Hen­der­son to in­jury on the morn­ing of the game hav­ing drilled his play­ers in a new 4-4-2 sys­tem, that al­lowed them to de­fend deeper, with his cap­tain to play in cen­tral mid­field. Ge­orgino Wi­j­nal­dum, who had not ex­pected to be ready af­ter a mid­week in­jury against Mari­bor, trav­elled with the team only in or­der to get treat­ment and ended up start­ing af­ter he made a quick re­cov­ery. The only prob­lem, Klopp said, was that he had not brought his boots with

him. It was Mane though, whose re­cov­ery as­tounded the Liver­pool man­ager, play­ing 87 min­utes af­ter pick­ing up that ham­string in­jury dur­ing the last in­ter­na­tional break with Sene­gal. “I de­cided af­ter one ses­sion [that Mane was ready],” Klopp said, “but he had an­other one af­ter that. He is a nat­u­rally fit player, a lit­tle ma­chine.”

There was also a first goal in a Liver­pool shirt for Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain, an­other from Joel Matip and by the end West Ham were a smok­ing wreck, booed off at half-time and then again at the end. Slaven Bilic’s job is on the line over this in­ter­na­tional break, and with the pos­si­bil­ity that the board may bring in David Moyes to try to save them from the threat of rel­e­ga­tion, de­spite Moyes tak­ing Sun­der­land down last sea­son.

“There are two sit­u­a­tions,” said Bilic af­ter­wards. “One is that, of course, I be- lieve in my­self, my staff, my team, I’m a big fighter.

“On the other hand the sit­u­a­tion for West Ham is not good and the club is above ev­ery in­di­vid­ual, and that in­cludes me. I know my val­ues and if I’m any­thing I’m a strong man and a big be­liever in my­self, and I’m the one tak­ing the bul­lets all the time.

“But are we play­ing well? No, we are not. It’s my duty, it’s me that has to take re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

In pre­vi­ous weeks Bilic’s play­ers have done just enough to keep their man­ager in a job, with that stir­ring Carabao Cup vic­tory over Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur pa­per­ing over a few cracks. Yet this squad should be a good deal bet­ter off than one point above the rel­e­ga­tion zone. Bilic changed sys­tems at half­time with his team two be­hind and sent Andy Car­roll on to throw him­self at his for­mer club but it was al­ready too late. It had been 22 min­utes into the first half when Salah first struck and West Ham’s play­ers seemed still to be ru­mi­nat­ing on the first bad goal they had con­ceded when, barely two min­utes later they con­spired to con­cede a sec­ond.

Bilic’s play­ers had failed to lock the back door while they pushed up to take a cor­ner in the 22nd minute and within sec­onds, Salah had won the ball and flicked it to Mane who was free to run two-thirds of the length of the pitch with­out an op­po­nent to chal­lenge him. With only a fran­ti­cally back-ped­alling Aaron Cress­well be­tween them and Joe Hart’s goal, Mane picked his mo­ment per­fectly to play in his team-mate Salah to score.

Around two min­utes later Salah hit a cor­ner low to the near post where Wi­j­nal­dum ran to­wards the ball, missed it and things got worse for the home side from there on in. Mark Noble was un­able to stop the ball can­non­ing off his leg and as a con­se­quence Hart had to make a save that pushed the ball out to Matip who scored from close range.

Klopp said it had been a late call to

change to a 4-4-2 sys­tem that he ac­knowl­edged of­ten seemed more like 4-2-4.

“It looked from the be­gin­ning like a very of­fen­sive line up. We had a dif­fer­ent idea we wanted to be deeper, more com­pact and us­ing the space which we have for the counter at­tacks. We will never know how it could have been if we didn’t score the first one. It was an open game un­til then. We had to get used to it. The boys had to wait a lit­tle more than to jump in [to chal­lenge].”

There was some brief respite for West Ham when Manuel Lanzini scored a fine sec­ond half goal, ar­riv­ing be­hind Joe Gomez for an An­dre Ayew cross hit to the back post, where the Ar­gen­tinian took the ball on his chest and struck a sweet im­pro­vised vol­ley.

The third goal for Liver­pool that fol­lowed in less than 60 sec­onds. It was made by the star­tling first touch of Roberto Firmino who con­trolled and turned with the ball beau­ti­fully be­fore striking a through­ball to Oxlade-Cham- berlain. Hart saved the first time and the English­man buried the re­bound. Liver­pool’s fourth goal was a trav­esty of de­fen­sive dis­or­gan­i­sa­tion for West Ham, with Mane rid­ing a cou­ple of tack­les, fall­ing over and get­ting up again be­fore pick­ing out Salah on the left side of the box. There was no pres­sure on the ball, or ur­gency from West Ham, and Salah rat­tled in his sec­ond.

Bilic was again booed for re­plac­ing Her­nan­dez with Di­afra Sakho but then it seems that noth­ing the West Ham man­ager tries to do re­ally works. His team have no ur­gency and have not won their last four league games. When you watch them it comes as lit­tle sur­prise.

West Ham (3-4-3): Hart 6; Kouy­ate 4, Reid 4, Ogbonna 4; Fer­nan­des (Car­roll 45) 4, Noble (Ar­nau­tovic 61) 5, Obiang 5, Cress­well 5; Ayew 4, Lanzini 6, Her­nan­dez (Sakho 72) 5. Subs Adrian (g), Haksa­banovic, Ma­suaku, Rice. Booked Reid, Noble, Lanzini. Liver­pool (4-2-3-1): Mig­no­let 6; Gomez 5, Matip 6, Kla­van 6, Moreno 6; Wi­j­nal­dum 6, Can 7; Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain (Lovren 87) 7, Salah 8, Mane (Mil­ner 77) 7; Firmino (Solanke 87) 7. Subs Kar­ius (g), Stur­ridge, Gru­jic, Alexan­der-Arnold. Ref­eree N Swar­brick (Pre­ston).

Un­der threat: West Ham’s Slaven Bilic will fear for his job

Open­ing salvo: Mo­hamed Salah slots past Joe Hart for his and Liver­pool’s first goal

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