SOUTHAMPTON — It was a familiar story. Liverpool won. Mohamed Salah scored a world class goal.
But that oh so familiar script had stopped playing out in recent weeks. But Salah turned on the magic to lift Liverpool back to the top of the Premier League with a hard-fought win at Southampton on Friday.
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If Liverpool are going to win the title, these are the kind of games they have to win. They were away at a fired up side who are scrapping against relegation, but much improved, and Liverpool fell behind early on but then battled their way back into the game.
Drawing 1-1 with 10 minutes to go, Salah broke and ran 50 yards before clipping a delicious shot off the post and in to send Liverpool’s fans wild and move them two points clear of Manchester City (who have played one less game) with five games to go.
Liverpool’s dreams of winning a first league title since the 1989-90 season remain intact, and Salah scored his first goal in nine games in stunning fashion. Speaking after the game about Salah’s recent slump, Jurgen Klopp hailed his Egyptian wizard.
“It was never in doubt about him being a great player, from my side. Goal number 50 for Liverpool, that is an incredible number,” Klopp said. “As a striker you have chances and because each striker is a human being as well, maybe you have better moments and less good moments. He is pretty consistent. The physical things are always there, but it is normal that he has to adapt to the situation, how he always stayed calm to deal with the situations. It is only around us that it is a big thing, we don’t really care but it is a nice moment, and a really good moment for him to score his first goal in a while.”
Salah’s celebration said it all. He whipped off his shirt and surged towards the Liverpool fans. It was one of relief more than delight, as the Egyptian had been struggling but his class shone through at a pivotal moment.
These are the kind of moments Liverpool’s fans will remember most if they do go on and win the title, and Salah forcing a late winner against Tottenham last Sunday and now delivering a moment of sheer class against Saints proves he is back to his pivotal best.
Klopp’s Liverpool struggled early on against Southampton, as they fell behind to a Shane Long goal and could have been 2-0 down had Long finished off a glorious chance. But the longer the game went on, the more Liverpool’s class showed and Naby Keita‘s first half equalizer gave them a foothold in the game.
James Milner and Jordan Henderson came on in the second half to add experience, and late on Salah delivered a moment of brilliance, while Roberto Firmino did superbly to set up Henderson for the third.
Klopp’s trademark smile got wider when he talked about their two late goals to down a spirited Saints.
“The two goals we scored were simply world-class,” Klopp said. “Super, super goal from Mo, Bobby so important to make the run but couldn’t play because the ankle wasn’t so good, fantastic finish. But then Bobby again chasing the whole world pretty much and winning that ball brings it to a one-on-one situation, super pass. 3-1. It was of course close, but that was clear from the first second. Everybody will come here in the future, will feel that. That makes it even more satisfying and brilliant that we could win it. It was really big for us.”
Liverpool have played a game more than Man City, but they have now put the pressure back on the reigning champions who play before them next Sunday.
Klopp’s men are getting the job done, just about, but the fact that Salah is back delivering sensational goals and standing tall when they needed him most will be a huge bonus heading into the final five games of the season.