Mohamed Salah has become known as “The King of Egypt” around Melwood since securing his country’s first World Cup appearance in 28 years. He has quickly established a regal presence at club level too. Liverpool’s £36.9m summer signing struck another two goals as Southampton were comprehensively outclassed.
Salah followed up a two-goal display at West Ham United before the international break with two more to take his place as the Premier League’s leading goalscorer. He was signed from Roma with speed and creativity in mind but he has exceeded expectations with 14 goals in 18 games in all competitions for his new, grateful club. Nine goals in his first 12 Premier League outings for Liverpool has also set a club record. And to think the former Chelsea winger’s finishing was subject to legitimate criticism earlier in the season.
“Mo is in a good moment,” said an understated Jürgen Klopp. “That is good for us. The first one was not a real chance from that position, I would say. It was a fantastic goal. The second goal was fantastic play.
“It was an all-round good performance and also very important. We have pushed the top of the table together and that is really good. [Manchester] City are flying and pretty much alone. We cannot change that but we can make pressure on the others and we will do that.”
Salah departed to a deserved standing ovation in the 80th minute and into an embrace from Klopp as he savoured his first league win over Southampton, at the fifth attempt, and a victory that moved Liverpool to within a point of Tottenham Hotspur in fourth. Philippe Coutinho provided the final flourish but Salah was the game-changer.
Southampton did not set out merely to absorb pressure and avoid a serious beating. They were just made to look that way as Liverpool controlled possession and gradually weakened a well-organised defence with the quality of their distribution and movement. That said, the manner of Liverpool’s breakthrough was galling for a manager of Mauricio Pellegrino’s defensive pedigree. One win in seven matches is a worry, he admitted, and that sequence was never in doubt from the moment Dusan Tadic committed a cardinal sin on the edge of his penalty area.
Liverpool had dominated but created few clear openings when Virgil van Dijk headed a Jordan Henderson corner out to the Serbian winger. Tadic had space and opportunity to stretch the hosts. Instead, he ran across his area where three Liverpool players were lurking, with predictable results. Roberto Firmino dispossessed Tadic, Georginio Wijnaldum picked out Salah free on the right and the forward swept a stunning, angled finish beyond Fraser Forster from 20 yards. A gift brilliantly accepted.
“You need these moments,” Klopp said. “We have not had them too often this season. We all know what it has been like after 50, 60 minutes here without a goal. It could be the same performance but you need these goals and thank God we scored them. That makes all the difference.”
Salah’s second arrived courtesy of a truly exquisite ball into the area from Coutinho. There appeared little on for the Brazilian when he received Henderson’s pass 30 yards from the Southampton goal. But he spotted Salah’s run behind Wesley Hoedt and slipped the ball perfectly into his stride. Salah turned a first time shot past Forster with Southampton defenders appealing for offside, more in hope than expectation.
The visitors threatened little and a brief second-half surge was quashed by a Liverpool defence featuring impressive performances from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dejan Lovren. Salah almost created a third for Alberto Moreno but his through ball got caught underneath the rampaging left-back, who missed the birth of his son, Alberto Junior, on Friday night to prepare for the game.
The pass that eventually delivered Liverpool’s third was, like Coutinho’s, an inspirational touch. Sadio Mané removed two defenders from the equation with a brilliant reverse ball into the unmarked Roberto Firmino. His shot cannoned off Forster and into the path of Coutinho who steered the ball home from 12 yards.