Salah double sinks Seagulls to keep Reds on course for record tally
LIVERPOOL need three victories from their final four Premier League games to take Manchester City’s record of 100 points for a season and who is to say Jurgen Klopp’s ‘mentality monsters’ will not achieve it.
Such has been their dominance this campaign that a new highest-ever total would certainly be warranted as they defeated Brighton to become the first team to reach 30 league wins in just 34 matches.
In doing so, Mohamed Salah scored twice and now has 19 league goals as he chases down Jamie Vardy (with 22) for the golden boot, while the only concern was an injury to the other goalscorer, Jordan Henderson, who limped off shaking his head.
Not that this was a procession. After taking what appeared to be an early, unassailable two-goal lead Liverpool had to fight and scrap against a side free from the fear of relegation and wanting to take a big scalp and having the ambition to try and do just that. It was hugely enjoyable.
There was yet another ‘guard of honour’ for Liverpool as they took to the pitch and then Brighton parted within the opening 10 minutes as they gifted the champions two goals.
The first came when Davy Propper dallied in possession on the edge of his own area as Brighton played out from the back.
Mat Ryan picked out the midfielder only for Naby Keita to steal in before squaring the ball to Salah, who sidefooted it into the net.
It was also selfless from Roberto Firmino as he had let the ball run to Salah, who was better placed.
Liverpool struck again two minutes later as Adam Webster attempted to hold up Salah, only to turn the ball back to Jordan Henderson.
The midfielder took it in his stride with a superb first-time shot from 25 yards that swept across Ryan to double the advantage.
Once again it came after Brighton had lost the ball as Georginio Wijnaldum pressed and found Firmino, who picked out Salah.
To think Klopp’s side had come into this game with the anomaly of going five away games without scoring. Now, after a barren spell of 467 minutes, they had two in 127 seconds.
Brighton were rocked but responded well. They created their first opportunity when Pascal Gross’s low cross was cut out by Wijnaldum but still dropped to Leandro Trossard, who seemed set to score only for Neco Williams to intervene with an excellent block. The 19-year-old Wrexham-born defender – making his Premier League debut at left-back, when he normally plays on the other flank – started well but was soon up against it in a tough battle with Brighton’s own eye-catching young fullback, Tariq Lamptey, who tore past him on halfway with Williams desperately trying to haul him back.
On the other flank, Trossard also showed his pace to go around Joe Gomez and push the ball past Virgil van Dijk before eventually crossing for Neal Maupay, who appeared likely to score from close range only for it to be scrambled away for a corner by Keita.
It remained a remarkably open game, with Liverpool again going close as they worked the ball through to Firmino only for Webster to intervene before he could stab it home. So back came Brighton with shots from Maupay and the impressive Trossard blocked.
Finally Brighton, and Trossard, got their reward for their invention as the ball was played out wide to Lamptey, who played in a precise cross that was
met sweetly on the half-volley by the Belgian to powerfully beat Alisson.
Williams did not make it into the second half, replaced by Andrew Robertson, which showed how well Lamptey had done. In fairness, Williams had been played out of position and had also been booked.
Keita lasted an hour, and looked more assured in midfield, and it was his clever pass that picked out Salah, who outpaced Dan Burn and was through on goal, only for Ryan to parry his low shot. Brighton blocked again from another sharp Liverpool attack, with Lewis Dunk denying Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
But it was the home side who should have scored, and drawn level, when a cross was flicked through to Burn, unmarked, at the far post, but he badly skewed his shot across goal.
It continued to ebb and flow with
Salah again racing away, and Lamptey sprinting back, before Alisson flapped at a corner from substitute Aaron Mooey.
At the other end and Ryan was left rooted as a Henderson shot drifted narrowly wide following a heavy deflection.
From the corner Salah darted towards the near post to meet Robertson’s delivery and flash a header past Ryan for his second goal. It may not have been a preplanned routine but it was a ruthless piece of opportunism which has characterised this side.
That ended any doubt and while Liverpool could have added more then so could Brighton who did not give up and, to their credit, continued to threaten with substitute Aaron Connolly’s pace occasionally looking threatening.
It’s the pace-setters at the top, however, who, even with the euphoria of a league title, are still blazing a trail. (© Daily Telegraph, London)