Liverpool vs Chelsea: How Mohamed Salah silenced his doubters as Gonzalo Higuain hangs out to dry

The Egyptian has blown away any remaining concerns about his performance level this season

Miguel Delaney@MiguelDelaney
Monday 15 April 2019 07:48
Liverpool 2018/19 Premier League profile

After a self-referential mention of how the wind had this time actually helped Liverpool in the second half, and the manner in which Mohamed Salah’s supreme strike soared into the top corner of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s goal, Jurgen Klopp had only one description of the goal.

“It blew me away!”

In doing so, Salah has also blown away any remaining concerns about the season’s performance level, or his goalscoring. He actually appears to have come to form at exactly the right time, as he so brilliantly followed his match-winning strike against Southampton with this. Two goals that were of such high quality in different ways, and of equal importance. They sustained Liverpool’s brilliant surge.

Given how Salah has been conscious of some of the criticism, and directly mentioned it, there was a congruity that it meant Sadio Mane was only Liverpool’s joint top scorer for a matter of moments. The Egyptian hadn’t actually scored for eight games before Southampton, but criticisms that he was doing little else were misplaced. The fact he set up attacks so much - particularly for Mane in Munich - was evidence of this. His running alone, before even getting to any of his other qualities, is so crucial to the way Klopp sets up.

It was something all the more pointed here, because of the many recalls to Chelsea past in the build-up to this match, and the state of Chelsea present in attack.

The week leading to this match at Anfield naturally involved a lot of look-backs to the last time they met in a tense title-race game, in 2014. That game offered so many memories, but it’s easy to forget that Salah actually started in attack for Chelsea. His only real contribution was a foul on Raheem Sterling that brought a booking.

Salah was a meeker attacker back then, but it feels obvious now that part of the reason he was ultimately sold by Chelsea was because he was another forward who just didn’t fit with what Jose Mourinho wanted.

Salah celebrates his stunning goal

How they could do with him now. His show of force felt all the more emphatic because of the lack of it at the other end of the pitch, when Gonzalo Higuain came on. So much for the Argentine being brought in because he was a player who already understood Maurizio Sarri’s system. He looks to have lost a yard of pace and thereby doesn’t seem to be able to apply it, so is thereby neither providing goals nor the other work that Salah is.

It does ultimately feel another case of Chelsea just too belatedly signing a big striker they were linked with for so long. It is another twist of fate that they initially beat Liverpool to the signing of Salah when he was young, and they were trying to get ahead of the market. They were just maybe too ahead of the market, in expecting a little too much from Salah too early.

It's been a case of hit and miss for Higuain (Getty)

Such initial struggles were one reason why Liverpool were able to get him for so relatively cheap in 2017.

That valuation has been more than blown away.

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