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Mohamed Salah like a cartoon kangaroo

The national media have their say on another superb night for Liverpool

Collected by Kristian Walsh for the Liverpool Echo.

07:48, 12 DEC 2018 

Mohamed Salah's first half goal proved the difference between the two sides, with the Reds indebted to goalkeeper Alisson Becker in the final moments for his stoppage time save from Arkadiusz Milik.

It was another famous Anfield night as Jurgen Klopp's side confirmed qualification into the knockout stages for the second successive season - and leaving Napoli facing the Europa League.

Here is what the national media made of the victory.

In the Guardian, Barney Ronay has a brilliant assessment of Salah - and details the one thing he has been missing.

He writes: Just past the half hour at a chilly, angsty Anfield Mo Salah was suddenly free in space on the edge of the Napoli box, scampering in on goal in that bouncy style, hair flapping, legs whirring like a cartoon kangaroo.

Salah clipped the ball hard and low past David Ospina without breaking stride. From a mix-and-match opening half hour fraught with dead ends Liverpool were 1-0 up: the game, the night, the group just about sliding their way.

It was a significant moment in Salah’s own drama too. His focus has narrowed in recent weeks, his edge returned; although it turns out even a jaded second-season Salah is good enough to be the Premier League’s top scorer in mid-December.There was one small thing missing, though. Despite his impressive numbers Salah had yet to score against genuinely strong opponents since the Champions League semi-final against Roma, his goals coming against West Ham, Brighton (twice), Southampton, Huddersfield, Red Star Belgrade, Cardiff, Fulham, Watford and Bournemouth. In the same period he had failed to score against Real Madrid, Tottenham, PSG (twice), Chelsea (twice), Napoli, Manchester City and Arsenal.

Not that he ever looked worried at any stage, playing always with his head up, feet still possessed with that weird creative magic. And here it always felt like Salah might make the difference on a breezy, finger-numbing night at Anfield. Ah, yes. Those Magical European Nights we hear so much about: sometimes a cliché is no less true for being a cliché. As ever the Kop was a shared pageantry of flags and banners, that single tier stretching right up into the eaves to create a noise-funnel effect the length of the pitch.

Daniel Taylor, also in the Guardian, believes the Reds show a potent mixture.

He writes: For both sides, the risk factor was high and the bulletins from the Rajko Mitic stadium, where Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-1 victory against Red Star Belgrade meant the French champions topped the group, added to the drama.

Yet there is a reasonable theory that is how Anfield likes it best: under the floodlights, with the volume turned up and a kaleidoscope of banners on the Kop recalling the club’s pedigree in Europe. For Liverpool, it was an examination of their temperament, as much as their skill, and they passed with distinction.

In the Telegraph, Jason Burt says Liverpool are definitely on the march.

He writes: As anaemic as Liverpool had been in Naples, where they lost by the same scoreline, they were as full-blooded here. They harried, they pressed, they prevented the visitors from playing and forced them to cede a host of clear opportunities in the second half. It was another of those European nights and felt wildly raw at times.

Liverpool are most definitely on the march. Momentum is being gathered, they are at the summit of the Premier League and into the knockout stages of this competition which is so precious to them and their rich history.

Salah also has his swagger back with a 10th goal in European action for Liverpool at Anfield and while he, again, did not smile when he scored there were plenty of smiles around him.

That attacking triumvirate of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane were restored to the positions they occupied last season and were resurgent – even if chances, by Mane in particular, were not taken. In fact the only summer signing in the starting line-up was Alisson. But what a difference he makes. The Brazilian is a world-class goalkeeper and that one save alone underlined his importance and will draw harsh comparisons with the man he replaced, Loris Karius. The German simply does not have the same aura.

A word or two for Alisson Becker from Ian Ladyman in the Daily Mail.

He writes: The great European nights of Anfield folklore have usually had a goal scorer’s name written in lights next to them.

David Fairclough against St Etienne in 1977. Steven Gerrard against Olympiakos in 2004 and Luis Garcia against Chelsea four months later. And there are others. Now, after another breathtaking night of Champions League football on Merseyside, there is a goalkeeper to talk about too.

If Liverpool’s last Champions League campaign ended in goalkeeping calamity for Loris Karius in Kiev, this one was given the kiss of life by his replacement, the Brazilian Alisson at the Anfield Road End in the third minute of added time.

The Times, and Paul Joyce, have a kind word for the midfield Klopp selected on Tuesday.

He writes: The possibility of being unpicked at any moment stalked Liverpool — one misplaced pass, or unchecked run, one step towards their undoing. So, Milner and Wijnaldum chased, tackled and attacked, while Henderson sought to dictate from deep.

Carlo Ancelotti had been the most recent manager to lead a team to victory at this venue in the Champions League, with Real Madrid winning 3-0 in October 2014. However, this time he departed dejected and disappointed, his team unable to find a goal. Liverpool are unbeaten in their past 19 European matches at home. Klopp has got little wrong this season — the line-up in Belgrade apart, when a touch of complacency could be detected — and this was another occasion when his wisdom prevailed.

Do not be surprised if Naby Keïta or Fabinho, perhaps both, face Manchester United on Sunday when the focus returns to domestic chores, although in the manager’s mind, new does not necessarily mean better. That mentality irritates him and he would doubtless concur with Gerard Houllier’s adage that it is wrong to “burn today, the players you worshipped yesterday.”

And the ECHO's very own James Pearce had his say on a dramatic night at Anfield in his big match verdict, with Alisson the star.

He writes: Liverpool were home and dry. The Premier League leaders remain on the road to Madrid. They will still be rubbing shoulders with Europe's elite comes February.

The absence of a world class keeper cost the Reds dear in Kiev back in May as Loris Karius' meltdown gift-wrapped the trophy for Real Madrid.

But Klopp addressed Liverpool's biggest weakness with his summer swoop for Alisson and his impact has been such that he's already made that £65million fee look like small change.

His hulking frame makes the goal look smaller. He has lightning quick reactions, he commands his box expertly and instils confidence rather than uncertainty in those around him.

Liverpool sit top of the Premier League thanks to his huge contributions in the recent wins over Everton and Burnley. Now he has helped write another memorable chapter in the Reds' rich European history.

Talk about taking the fast-track to Kop icon status. Liverpool haven't had a keeper of this calibre since Bruce Grobbelaar was in his prime.

RATINGS BY KRISTIAN WALSH

Alisson Becker 9
Made one of the most remarkable saves you will ever see. That's all that needs to be said, really.

Trent Alexander-Arnold 6
Given a tough test from Insigne, who looked to exploit the space behind. Isolated a couple of times but dealt with most of it admirably. Always offered a ball out wide, although delivery was not to his highest standard. Went off injured.

Joel Matip 8
He and Van Dijk lost their men in a frantic opening but then gained composure as the game began to calm. Some vital touches on the back foot, sticking his big toe on Napoli through balls which had the Kop wincing, and provided good work on the front foot.

Virgil van Dijk 8
Took man and ball and subsequently booked for his challenge on Dries Mertens early on. Imperious striding across that tightrope and often acted as last line of defence with superb interceptions. Should have tested Ospina at the Kop end.

Andy Robertson 7
Gallivanted up and down the left hand side, although the usual quality of his deliveries lacked. A couple of scary moments in defence, but coped admirably, with one interception in particular crucial. Booked.

Jordan Henderson 7
Gave away early ball to crank up the nerves around Anfield and struggled to involve himself – both on and off the ball. Grew into the game and served as a solid shield in the second half, and helped spring some counter attacks which Liverpool should have done more with.

James Milner 7
The midfielder who looked likeliest to make something happen with those prodding – if sometimes plodding – balls to the front three. Received his reward for Salah's strike, although the Egyptian should take much of the credit. Flashed one wide, then subbed with injury.

Gini Wijnaldum 8
Another to grow into game, perhaps more than most. The Dutchman was bypassed too much in the first half, but brilliant in the second, linking midfield and attack. Influential towards the end.

Mohamed Salah 9
Looked a threat throughout the first half, and the likeliest to make something happen. He did, and how. A remarkable goal from a remarkable talent. Received a rough one from Kalidou Kouliably as retribution. Then tormented throughout.

Sadio Mane 6
Showed flashes and always trying to force the issue, growing into the game as it wore on. Was left frustrated a couple of times when free on the left and not picked out by a team-mate; when he was, he was denied by Ospina, then missed two sitters.

Roberto Firmino 7
Back in his traditional central role and battled against a steadfast Napoli back-line. Showed strength and endeavour, which helped create space for Salah, and set him up for a big chance at 1-0 which could have led to more. Subbed.

Substitutes
Naby Keita 6 Gave the midfield the energy it needed.
Fabinho 7

Copyright - The Liverpool Echo

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