Salah strike keeps up Klopp’s per­fect start

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Premier League - By Chris Bas­combe at An­field

Few will be sur­prised Liver­pool have emerged as this sea­son’s Premier League pace­set­ters. Less pre­dictable is how they have gone about their busi­ness to take an early lead at the top.

This was not the swash­buck­ling Liver­pool we have grown used to; Brighton de­feated with a soli­tary Mo­hamed Salah goal and emerg­ing with their rep­u­ta­tion en­hanced in de­feat as much as vic­tory over Manch­ester United last week.

When Salah ended a pe­riod of home dom­i­nance to score af­ter 23 min­utes an­other goal flurry looked likely. In­stead, the vis­i­tors com­pelled Liver­pool to show the qual­i­ties of re­silience needed at Sel­hurst Park last Mon­day. The Kop may have lamented not see­ing their front three as ram­pant as an­tic­i­pated, but there was as much en­thu­si­asm for the for­ti­tude of the back four and goal­keeper Alis­son.

The Brazil­ian’s 88th minute save to deny Pas­cal Gross a re­ward for Brighton’s ex­cel­lent sec­ond half was re­ceived like he was the in­car­na­tion of Ray Cle­mence that Liver­pool have been wait­ing two decades for.

Every­thing the new No 1 does prompts hearty en­thu­si­asm, even when he is flick­ing the ball over An­thony Knock­aert’s head or de­lay­ing a pass long enough to in­vite a cav­alry charge to Liver­pool’s six-yard box.

Loris Kar­ius, the man he re­placed, may have heard the cries of ap­pre­ci­a­tion from Mersey­side as he landed in Is­tan­bul to com­plete his two-year loan move to Be­sik­tas. It is a fine line be­tween ex­ud­ing con­fi­dence and be­ing too re­laxed, but the £65mil­lion man is the right side of it for now.

“Not too cool for a man­ager,” said Klopp on some of Alis­son’s riskier play­mak­ing. “But when it works it is cool. I had a few cen­tre-halves who did things a cen­tre-half should not do, like Mats Hum­mels. It is all OK. He did it to sort the sit­u­a­tion. He will get more con­fi­dent. I like the save more than his chip, but in that sit­u­a­tion it was the right thing to do. He had to make a big save. Good for him and for us – 1-0 is not a re­sult we have not had very of­ten.”

The fact Alis­son and a de­fen­sivemid­fielder, Gini Wi­j­nal­dum, were Liver­pool’s stand­out play­ers shows how much Brighton im­proved, Klopp sug­gest­ing his play­ers lost their “pa­tience and mind­set” in the sec­ond half.

Vic­tory was pre­served with Alis­son be­com­ing only the fourth Liver­pool keeper ever to keep a clean sheet in his first three games for the club. It is a wel­come change for the man­ager to hear about a keeper rewrit­ing his­tory rather than his goalscor­ers. Not that Salah could be con­tained. It was a Liver­pool home game. Of course, the Egyp­tian scored. As is so of­ten the case against Klopp’s side, op­po­nents can be most vul­ner­a­ble when in pos­ses­sion in their own half.

Yves Bis­souma, mak­ing his first start, was given a pass that ought to be ac­com­pa­nied by an emer­gency siren. It was a sig­nal for Liver­pool’s mid­field­ers to ad­vance. James Mil­ner led the charge and within 15 sec­onds Brighton were be­hind.

Mil­ner prod­ded to Sa­dio Mane, he touched on to Roberto Firmino, who picked out Salah for a per­fectly ex­e­cuted first-time shot be­yond Mathew Ryan. It had been com­ing. Ini­tially, Brighton were con­ser­va­tive, vic­tory over Manch­ester United a week ago not pre­vent­ing changes to Chris Hughton’s line-up.

In­dus­tri­ous striker Glenn Mur­ray was al­most the cat­a­lyst for an equaliser just af­ter the break, muscling his way past Joe Gomez and find­ing Knock­aert in the penalty area but the French­man lacked the com­po­sure to take ad­van­tage and struck wide.

Martin Mon­toya’s cross for Gross’s header was more threat­en­ing, Alis­son un­der­lin­ing his value. “I am proud how the team played es­pe­cially af­ter giv­ing away a poor goal,” said Hughton. “From that mo­ment you can ei­ther go in your shell or go on. We gave our­selves the best pos­si­ble op­por­tu­nity. Although they had a lot of pos­ses­sion and could have put a sec­ond or third away, in the end we could have scored.”

Klopp will not wel­come his side tem­po­rar­ily los­ing con­trol when Brighton re­leased the shack­les but he will em­brace his team’s evolv­ing char­ac­ter.

Too of­ten dur­ing Klopp’s reign, Liver­pool’s most dif­fi­cult pe­ri­ods led to a con­ces­sion, usu­ally at least one goal, oc­ca­sion­ally a point or even three.

Even this soon in a cam­paign – with Liver­pool’s man­ager sug­gest­ing it is “not a par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing time to be top” – it felt there was more than a win at stake. Psy­cho­log­i­cally, Liver­pool needed to jus­tify their billing with this kind of start.

No one is more re­luc­tant to pre­sume Liver­pool are en­gaged in a head-to­head with Manch­ester City than Klopp, but with the cham­pi­ons drop­ping points, there was the scent of op­por­tu­nity. It bodes well for Liver­pool they have kicked off the cam­paign win­ning the games they of­ten threw away. It will make them feel even bet­ter when they start win­ning in the style they are used to.

Liver­pool (4-3-3) Alis­son 8; Alexan­der-Arnold 7 (Matip 89), Gomez 6, Van Dijk 6, Robert­son 6; Mil­ner 7, Wi­j­nal­dum 8, Keita 7 (Hen­der­son 67); Salah 7, Firmino 7; Mane 5 (Stur­ridge 80). Subs Mig­no­let (g), Moreno, Lal­lana, Shaqiri. Booked Alexan­der-Arnold. Brighton (4-5-1) Ryan 7; Mon­toya 7, Duffy 7, Ba­lo­gun 7, Bong 7; Knock­aert 6 (Ja­han­bakhsh 76), Prop­per 6, Stephens 6, Bis­souma 6 (Gross 80), March 6 (Lo­ca­dia 75); Mur­ray 7. Subs But­ton (g), Kayal, Sut­tner, Bernardo. Booked Ba­lo­gun. Ref­eree Chris Ka­vanagh (Lan­cashire).

Salah salute: Liver­pool’s Egyp­tian star cel­e­brates scor­ing the goal that beat Brighton

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