Salah scores twice as Liverpool move three points clear atop EPL

Published January 3, 2024
MOHAMED Salah of Liverpool scores from the penalty spot during the Premier League match against Newcastle United 
at Anfield.—Reuters
MOHAMED Salah of Liverpool scores from the penalty spot during the Premier League match against Newcastle United at Anfield.—Reuters

LIVERPOOL: Mohamed Salah’s second-half brace made up for a missed penalty as Liverpool kicked off the new year three points clear atop the Premier League standings with a 4-2 victory over Newcastle United at a rain-drenched Anfield on Monday.

Juergen Klopp’s team, who began the day level with Aston Villa on points, now have 45 from 20 games. Villa have 42 points while Manchester City, who have played one fewer game, are third on 40.

“It was a sensational game from my team,” Klopp told BBC. “We started extremely lively. Super game. I loved so many aspects of the game bar the goals we conceded. “Unbelievable atmosphere. Counter-pressing wise it was for football schools. They have to watch that, take it and keep it. It was everything good.”

Newcastle, by contrast, remain down in ninth and 11 points off the top four as the spotlight grows on Eddie Howe.

The Magpies have the second worst away record in the Premier League this season with just five points from 10 games.

Howe’s men were fortunate not to be blown away by an embarrassing scoreline in stormy conditions at Anfield as Liverpool registered the highest expected goals ever in a Premier League game of 7.53.

“We’re battling to get our best levels back. The effort and determination was there. As long as we continue to see that we’ll be fine,” said Howe. “We’re missing a lot of players and we’ve had a lot of tough fixtures in a congested December.”

The 31-year-old Salah, who has 151 Premier League goals for Liverpool, changed his boots at halftime and the switch paid off handsomely. His two goals moved him even with City’s Erling Haaland as joint top scorers with 14 goals. He is the joint top on assists, level with Villa’s Ollie Watkins on eight.

Liverpool dominated the game, and Salah, who had fired a first-half penalty straight at goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, finally broke the deadlock in the 49th minute when Darwin Nunez cut the ball across to the Egyptian for a close-range finish.

Alexander Isak scored against the run of play with Newcastle’s second shot of the game in the 54th minute when he ran onto a through ball from Anthony Gordon and knocked it past keeper Alisson into the far corner.

However, Curtis Jones put the home side back in front in the 74th minute with a tap-in after a pass across goal from Diogo Jota, and Cody Gakpo’s scuffed finish from Salah’s cross wrong-footed Dubravka four minutes later.

Sven Botman’s header pulled one back for Newcastle in the 81st before Salah, who was playing his last game before departing for the African Cup of Nations, struck from the penalty spot after Jota had been fouled by Dubravka to seal the win in the 86th.

“It’s a great result for us. The game was very intense and we managed to pick up three points and now we are top of the table. We need to stay calm and win every game,” Salah told Sky Sports. “The players spoke in the dressing room [at halftime]. ‘We have to stay calm’. I missed the pen. I didn’t want to leave for the national team with that performance.”

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2024

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