Sen­sa­tional Salah

Liverpool hit­man scores four to take sea­son’s tally to 36

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Jim White at An­field

Never mind draw­ing Manch­ester City in the quar­ter-final, driven by a mas­ter­class in fin­ish­ing from Mo­hamed Salah, Liverpool took a huge step to­wards en­sur­ing they play in the Cham­pi­ons League next sea­son, mov­ing seven points clear of Chelsea in fifth place.

And in the process, scor­ing four mag­nif­i­cent goals (as well as set­ting up the fifth), Salah took him­self ahead of Harry Kane at the top of the Pre­mier League goal charts with a tally of 28.

“That was quite ex­cep­tional,” said the Liverpool man­ager Jur­gen Klopp of his free-scor­ing for­ward’s per­for­mance. “A very im­pres­sive man, cop­ing with the dif­fi­cult con­di­tions. Every­body suf­fered in that sit­u­a­tion, but not Mo.”

It is hard to imagine, af­ter this bru­tal dis­man­tling, that the two sides had shared the spoils in a 3-3 draw at Vicarage Road back in Au­gust.

“I love how we have de­vel­oped since then,” Klopp wrote in his programme notes. And no one has de­vel­oped like Salah. From the man Jose Mour­inho ca­su­ally dis­carded at Chelsea into a Pre­mier League goal ma­chine, his progress in eight months on Mersey­side has been ex­tra­or­di­nary. He now has 36 goals in all com­pe­ti­tions.

Within barely three min­utes here he had net­ted. Ge­orginio Wi­j­nal­dum, re­turn­ing to the side af­ter the de­feat at Old Traf­ford, sent him for­ward with a fine through ball. Salah took it in his stride, dum­mied, left Miguel Bri­tos on his back­side, then pushed his shot be­yond Orestis Karnezis.

A cou­ple of min­utes later, Jor­dan Hen­der­son, glove­less in short sleeves to show his dis­dain for the with­er­ing chill swirling around An­field, de­liv­ered a slide-rule pass that al­most put Salah away again. By now, ev­ery time the ball found the Egyp­tian, a noise very like a purr would rise from the frozen stands. And no won­der. Ev­ery­thing he did was freighted with threat.

Mid­way through the first half he found Roberto Firmino with a cross­field pass. The Brazil­ian’s beau­ti­ful drag-back foxed poor old Bri­tos again. Tak­ing a step in­side, Firmino fired a fizzing shot. How­ever, Karnezis palmed it over. Then, with the half-time whis­tle loom­ing, Andy Robert­son swept over the most de­light­ful of crosses to the far post. Salah, never one to turn down an in­vi­ta­tion, ac­cel­er­ated ahead of ev­ery­one else to side-foot home.

The sec­ond half had barely started be­fore the Egyp­tian was at it again. Har­ing down the right wing, he again em­bar­rassed Bri­tos, be­fore swish­ing over a left-foot cross which Firmino con­verted with the most flam­boy­ant of back heels. Joe Gomez then found Firmino with an­other bel­ter of a cross, but

this one he could not con­vert. The be­lea­guered Wat­ford man­ager Javi Gra­cia at­tempted to stem the flow by bring­ing on Will Hughes to re­place the in­ef­fec­tive Richarli­son and swap­ping Troy Deeney, whose co­jones ap­peared to have dropped off in the freeze, with Ste­fano Okaka. But, apart from the busy Roberto Pereyra hit­ting the bar with a fine free-kick, his team had noth­ing to of­fer.

Be­sides, it mat­tered lit­tle what Gra­cia did: Liverpool were by now ram­pant.

Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain, given the chance when he came on to re­place Wi­j­nal­dum mid­way through the sec­ond half to re­deem him­self af­ter his sub-stan­dard show­ing at Old Traf­ford, warmed Karnezis’s gloves with a lon­grange shot. Even fel­low sub­sti­tute Danny Ings had a crisp ef­fort which the keeper beat away.

The game, though, be­longed to Salah. And, af­ter 77 min­utes, he showed his col­leagues how to fin­ish.

Pick­ing up the ball on the edge of the area, jink­ing and feint­ing and dip­ping his shoul­der, switch­ing the ball from right foot to left as he drifted through the Wat­ford ranks, he some­how slipped a shot past five yel­low-shirted de­fend­ers into the far cor­ner of the goal. It marked the most de­light­ful of hat-tricks.

And even when he tried to set up Ings for a goal, Salah was obliged to smash home the re­bound when Karze­nis par­ried the striker’s shot.

The first Liverpool player to score four in a match since Luis Suarez, the Egyp­tian is fast clos­ing in on Ian Rush’s long-stand­ing record as the last An­field man to net 40 goals in a sea­son. That is what you call de­vel­op­ment.

Liverpool (4-3-3) Kar­ius 6; Gomez 6, Van Dijk 6, Matip 6, Robert­son 7; Hen­der­son 7, Can 5 (Mil­ner 27), Wi­j­nal­dum 6 (Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain 70); Salah 9, Firminho 8 (Ings 78), Mane 8. Subs Mig­no­let (g), Kla­van, Moreno, Alexan­der-Arnold. Booked Gomez. Wat­ford (4-2-3-1) Karen­zis 7; Hole­bas 5, Prodl 5, Mari­appa 5, Bri­tos 4; Capoue 6, Doucoure 5; Fe­me­nia 5, Richarli­son 4 (Hughes 64), Pereyra 6; Deeney 5 (Okaka 70). Subs Gomes (g), Cath­cart, Car­rillo, Gray. Ref­eree An­thony Tay­lor (Manch­ester).

Mag­nif­i­cent: Mo­hamed Salah

cel­e­brates the first of his four goals against Wat­ford at An­field

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