Mohamed Salah makes mockery of 'experts' as Fortress Anfield claims another victim
By James Pearce
18:52, 27 OCT 2018
So much for that one-season wonder tag. The Kop's Egyptian king is ruling the Premier League once again.
After a month-long drought and growing concerns about his lack of sparkle, Mohamed Salah has enjoyed a week to cherish. Three games, four goals - belief well and truly restored.
The self-appointed body language experts can take the day off. The beaming smile as he accepted the adulation of Anfield told you everything you needed to know.
This is home for Salah and it's the place where he has taken the fast-track to global stardom.
Until he starts celebrating goals with twisting double somersaults some will continue to question his contentment with life at Liverpool but the evidence suggests otherwise.
What is there not to love? He's the elite driving force in a supremely gifted team which is looking down on the rest of the Premier League.
After completing a clean sweep of the individual awards during his record-breaking first campaign at Anfield, Salah wants silverware this time around and Jurgen Klopp's side look increasingly capable of delivering it.
Fresh from reaching a half century of goals for the Reds quicker than anyone in the club's history with a double against Red Star Belgrade in midweek, Salah provided the inspiration for an ultimately emphatic victory over Cardiff City.
Having opened the scoring with his seventh goal of the season, the jet-heeled winger then helped turn a nervy last 10 minutes into a procession.
Liverpool should have been out of sight having dominated a ridiculously one-sided contest. But after Sadio Mane had made it 2-0, Callum Paterson gave Neil Warnock's side a glimmer of hope.
There was no club record of 10 successive top-flight home clean sheets as the Reds conceded in the Premier League at Anfield for the first time since February.
However, seeing their advantage halved sparked Liverpool back into life and Salah provided the assist for Xherdan Shaqiri to open his account before creating the fourth for Mane.
What a week it's been for Klopp - three cherished victories maintaining momentum and the Reds clicking once again as an attacking force.
If Salah's contribution has been the undoubted highlight, the manner in which Mane and Shaqiri have stepped up and delivered also bodes well for the challenges ahead.
From going seven games without finding the net, Mane now has three goals in two with this classy double putting him just one behind Eden Hazard in the race for the Golden Boot.
Shaqiri simply goes from strength to strength. He's been a revelation since arriving from Stoke.
The little Swiss magician was unfortunate to lose his place in the starting line up given his impact against Huddersfield and Red Star. But after coming off the bench he simply showed Anfield what they had been missing.
Klopp had opted to freshen up his line up by handing Alberto Moreno a first Premier League start since April. Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana were also recalled as Andy Robertson, Joe Gomez and Shaqiri were given a breather.
Liverpool flew out of the traps and broke the deadlock inside 10 minutes.
Mane and Gini Wijnaldum each had shots blocked before Salah pounced at the back post. The angle was tight but he made it look easy as he hammered home before being mobbed by his team-mates.
Cardiff's game plan to keep it tight and frustrate the Reds had gone out of the window. But they didn't change their approach as they continued to sit deep.
Liverpool were like a pack of hungry wolves devouring their prey. The first half wasn't a contest, it was a mismatch as Klopp's side enjoyed 86% possession.
The Reds should have quickly extended their advantage. Virgil van Dijk's header from Salah's cross slammed against the post.
Mane played in Salah but Neil Etheridge raced off his line to make the save. Alexander-Arnold fizzed it back into Salah, who was wrestled to the ground by Sean Morrison. It was a nailed on spot-kick but referee Stuart Attwell waved away protests.
Liverpool remained camped inside Cardiff's half with Alexander-Arnold dragging wide from Lallana's nod down.
On one of the rare occasions that the Bluebirds countered in numbers, Fabinho, who enjoyed a solid full Premier League debut, got back to make a crucial tackle on Victor Camarasa.
On the cusp of half-time Lallana saw his header from Moreno's cross nodded off the line by Morrison.
The danger in such a one-sided affair was that Liverpool would take their foot off the gas and so it proved.
Early in the second half Liverpool got sloppy and mistakes started creeping in. It was all very flat.
Klopp took action with Shaqiri introduced for Lallana, who endured a disappointing afternoon. After so long on the sidelines he clearly needs more time to get up to speed.
The improvement with Shaqiri out there was instant. Mane soon ended his eight-week wait for a Premier League goal.
Firmino and Moreno were both involved before the Senegal international darted away from Bruno Manga and arrowed a clinical left-footer beyond Etheridge.
Liverpool were cruising but with 13 minutes to go Alisson Becker conceded his first Premier League goal at Anfield. The No 1 had no chance as Junior Hoilett's cross deflected off Van Dijk and Paterson stuck out a boot to convert.
It was the first time the Reds had conceded in the league on home turf in 918 minutes – just 16 minutes short of the club record.
Suddenly, things got tense. Cardiff came out of their shell and Klopp's side had to repel an aerial bombardment.
Anxiety spread around Anfield but ice-cool Shaqiri took control. Latching on to Salah's pass, he out-foxed two defende
rs with his quick feet before slotting into the bottom corner.
Mane had the final word on the counter as a slick one-two with Salah ended with him dinking it past Etheridge coolly.
Fortress Anfield had claimed another victim.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Moreno, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Lallana (Shaqiri 61), Salah, Firmino (Milner 71), Mane.
Not used: Mignolet, Gomez, Sturridge, Robertson, Matip.
Cardiff City: Etheridge, Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett, Hoilett, Camarasa, Gunnarsson (Damour 73), Reid (Zohore 83), Murphy (Harris 74), Paterson.
Not used: Smithies, Connolly, Cunningham, Madine.
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Goals: Salah 10, Mane 66, Paterson 77, Shaqiri 84, Mane 87
Man of the match: Mohamed Salah. A goal and two assists for the Egyptian winger.
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