Even Salah ap­peared sur­prised by the out­come

Evening Times - - FOOTBALL -

CARL MARKHAM

EVEN on his bad days Mo­hamed Salah is ca­pa­ble of some­thing bril­liant and he duly de­liv­ered against Red Bull Salzburg to guide Liver­pool into the Cham­pi­ons League last 16.

The Egypt in­ter­na­tional missed a hat-trick of chances he would usu­ally put away but scored an out­ra­geously good goal from the nar­row­est of an­gles to se­cure a 2-0 win in Aus­tria as Jur­gen Klopp’s side topped Group E.

Af­ter a test­ing first half – not with­stand­ing two missed Salah sit­ters – Naby Keita put the Reds ahead against his former club, with an­other ex-Salzburg for­ward Sa­dio Mane pro­vid­ing the as­sist.

But Salah showed his qual­ity to keep keep mak­ing the runs af­ter a third sim­ple chance went beg­ging and was re­warded when goal­keeper Ci­can Stankovic came rush­ing out and he rounded him to roll in a curling shot from out wide that vir­tu­ally brushed the near post on its way to nestling just inside the far up­right.

From barely eight yards from the by­line and prob­a­bly 20 yards out, the ball seemed to be spin­ning away from goal from the mo­ment it left his weaker right foot.

Even Salah him­self ap­peared sur­prised by the out­come as he was mobbed by ju­bi­lant team­mates.

For the third suc­ces­sive sea­son the fate of the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, also fi­nal­ists in 2018, came down to their last group match but they needed only a draw to progress on this oc­ca­sion.

Keita’s un­ex­pected in­clu­sion meant Liver­pool did not have the tra­di­tion­ally more solid mid­field usu­ally re­served for such oc­ca­sions and it led to a chaotic game that played into the hosts’ hands.

Alis­son Becker made three saves in the open­ing 10 min­utes as Salzburg built all the pres­sure but bizarrely it was Liver­pool who should have scored the goals as Salah made a mess of two chances.

He shot straight at the goal­keeper with his weaker right foot when Max­i­m­il­ian Wober failed to deal with De­jan Lovren’s long ball and then dragged wide with his left when Keita teed him up.

When Salah turned provider for Keita on a late first-half counter-at­tack the mid­fielder had a shot blocked from close range.

Salah’s for­tunes got no bet­ter af­ter the break as within the the first five min­utes he lifted over Mane’s pass from eight yards and then was beaten to Roberto Firmino’s through-ball by the out­stretched hand of goal­keeper Ci­can Stankovic.

Lovren’s luck was worse as a knee in­jury saw him re­placed by Joe Gomez but Liver­pool’s for­tune was chang­ing and it was the two former Salzburg play­ers who made the break­through, Mane cross­ing for Keita to head into an open net af­ter Stankovic had rushed out wide in an at­tempt to stop the Sene­gal in­ter­na­tional.

Barely 60 sec­onds later the con­test was ef­fec­tively over as Salah pro­duced his mo­ment of magic af­ter Jerome On­gunene failed to deal with Jor­dan Hen­der­son’s ball over the top.

Still chances fell to Salah, again shoot­ing at Stankovic and wide but, cru­cially, Liver­pool also kept a clean sheet.

Haa­land – who had pre­dicted he would score a hat-trick in a 3-1 win – was sub­sti­tuted with 25 min­utes to go. De­spite 28 goals in his 21 pre­vi­ous ap­pear­ances, he had drawn his first Cham­pi­ons League blank.

The very best do it when it counts. Liver­pool and Salah did – and have done many times in the past – but the 19-year-old, linked with Manch­ester United among oth­ers, has plenty of time to ac­quire that ap­ti­tude.

GRAEME MACPHER­SON

DUNDEE UNITED stretched their lead at the top of the Cham­pi­onship to 10 points af­ter see­ing off Mor­ton at a sod­den Cap­pielow.

It was a sev­enth suc­ces­sive vic­tory for the Tan­nadice side, the win­ner arriving cour­tesy of Lawrence Shank­land’s 21st goal of the sea­son af­ter John Sut­ton had can­celled out Louis Ap­pere’s opener.

Mor­ton must have felt a sense of fore­bod­ing at the sight of Shank­land re­turn­ing to ac­tion for the first time in more than a month. They were right to do so.

His goal showed the lay-off had done lit­tle to blunt his ef­fec­tive­ness, al­though he did look in­creas­ingly weary as the game wore on.

Mor­ton will feel ag­grieved at not tak­ing any­thing from the match and re­main in rel­e­ga­tion dan­ger in eighth place, just a point clear of the play-off berth.

Shank­land was in­ad­ver­tently in­volved in United’s first goal within six min­utes, fail­ing to get a proper con­nec­tion on Nicky Clark’s de­liv­ery. Un­for­tu­nately for Mor­ton, the ball trav­elled through to Ap­pere who thumped a shot past Danny Rogers.

If that was harsh on Mor­ton, they were soon level. Sut­ton’s header from Ai­dan Nes­bitt’s cross looked to have been kept out by goal­keeper Ben­jamin Siegrist only for the ball to drib­ble goal­wards. United com­plained the ball hadn’t crossed the line but the as­sis­tant ref was not of a mind to amend his de­ci­sion.

The vis­i­tors’ sense of griev­ance was eased when they moved back in front af­ter 31 min­utes. Ap­pere’s cross from the left bob­bled past Ian Harkes only to land at the feet of Shank­land. The striker feinted to shoot to buy some space be­fore plant­ing a fin­ish past the goal­keeper.

Only a mon­u­men­tal col­lapse can surely deny the Tan­nadice side their long-awaited re­turn to the top di­vi­sion.

Liver­pool’s Mo Salah scores the de­ci­sive goal

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