Salah’s one to excel ... always MULLOCK
VERDICT FROM ANFIELD
AT least Jurgen Klopp didn’t have to come up with another wacky excuse about why Liverpool failed to win at Anfield.
But it was close.
‘‘ Until Trent Alexander-Arnold gave watching England manager Gareth Southgate a glimpse of what he does best as the game entered injury time, the Liverpool boss must have been wondering how he could explain this one away.
It was going to be a tough ask for Klopp to blame a ninth home game without a win on anything other than his players. When
City stormed Anfield in January, the German suggested his keeper Alisson might have had cold feet after he handed Pep Guardiola three points on a platter.
The Brazilian shaved off his handlebar moustache after the midweek Champions League defeat at Real Madrid.
So perhaps Klopp might have claimed that a lack of facial hair had left Alisson a little off balance when he allowed Ollie Watkins’ shot to slip through his fingers two minutes before the break.
Until Mo Salah equalised just before the hour, it seemed possible that Liverpool might even suffer a seventh successive defeat in the place they like to call their bastion of invincibility.
Salah (above) has been the one player who has continued to excel during a troubled title defence.
The Egyptian was guilty of one glaring first-half miss when he poked wide with only Emiliano Martinez to beat after a mistake by Tyrone Mings.
But the Reds haven’t lost a home game on Grand National day since 1953.
And when Andy Robertson’s angled blast flew up off Martinez’s fists, there was Salah to gobble up his 28th goal of the season.
Sadio Mane had plundered seven goals from eight previous appearances against Villa.
Klopp had hoped to keep the Senegal forward’s powder dry with the Spaniards in mind.
But with Villa not only holding the home side at arm’s length, but actually threatening to score again, the Liverpool manager summoned Mane from the bench.
Villa must have feared it wasn’t there day when Mahmoud Trezeguet’s shot hit the inside of Becker’s post and then bounced back out.
But then Alexander-Arnold demonstrated that when it comes to going forward, there are few better full-backs.
His omission from Southgate’s last squad raised questions from every quarter bar the House of Commons.
But Alexander-Arnold let his feet do his talking.
Or at least his right foot. Martinez thought he had spared Villa with a stunning close-range save to beat out Thiago Alcantara’s volley.
But when the ball broke Alexander-Arnold’s way, his aim with a curling shot into the far corner was unerring.
Klopp’s clenched fist salute said it all.
Liverpool are back in the top-four mix.
And the conspiracy theories can be saved for another day.
The Reds haven’t lost a home game on Grand National day since 1953... and there was Salah to gobble up his 28th goal