Mané and Salah doubles help Liverpool see off Huddersfield to reclaim top spot
Andy Hunter at Anfield
Fri 26 Apr 2019 22.00 BST
All Liverpool can do now is win and hope. The first part of their title duty was fulfilled in rampant and historic fashion as Huddersfield were routed at Anfield. Top of the Premier League with two to play, their longing for a favour turns to Burnley on Sunday. Manchester City are acutely aware that Jürgen Klopp’s team will not go quietly.
Liverpool returned to the summit with a comprehensive victory over Jan Siewert’s relegated team, who looked every inch a Championship side from the first minute. Klopp’s leaders rarely had to exert themselves to break new ground. They have earned 91 points, eclipsing the total won by 105 of the 119 champions of English football if applying three points for a win to every season. Mohamed Salah overtook Roger Hunt and Sam Raybould for the most number of goals in his first 100 games for Liverpool. Numbers 68 and 69 arrived here, the latter courtesy of Andy Robertson’s 11th Premier League assist of the season. That equals the record for a defender set by Leighton Baines and Andy Hinchcliffe.
Sadio Mané also scored twice and would have celebrated a hat-trick of headers but for the woodwork. Mané and Salah have 20 and 21 league goals respectively while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain generated the loudest ovation of the night with his first appearance in over a year. Klopp had a multitude of reasons to insist his thoughts were on Liverpool’s accomplishments, not what City may do, after watching his team equal their biggest win of the campaign.
An opponent that had been relegated in March and taken a pitiful four points since November were always welcome for a team in title mode, yet it was still a surprise how obliging Huddersfield proved to be. They gift-wrapped Liverpool their quickest goal in the Premier League era – timed at 15 seconds – with an opening that defined naivety and ineptitude.
The visitors opted to play out from the back with their central defenders out wide against a Liverpool side rather well known for its prowess in the press. Goalkeeper Jonas Lössl passed to recalled central midfielder Jon Gorenc Stankovic who took far too long in possession and invited Naby Keïta to close him down. Stankovic’s attempted pass found Salah who released Keïta through the gaping hole in the Huddersfield defence to score with a low finish off the inside of Lössl’s far post. Liverpool’s 100th goal of the campaign in all competitions would have settled a few nerves inside Anfield had there been any. It was the start of a creative, energetic and dominant display in central midfield from Keïta.
In fairness to Huddersfield they responded well to their calamitous start and briefly took the game to Liverpool. Two dreadful corner routines and weak shots from Stankovic and Steve Mounié provided a further reminder of why they are rooted to the foot of the table.
Liverpool doubled their lead from a familiar source when Robertson collected Virgil van Dijk’s pass out on the left and, under no pressure, delivered a pinpoint cross into the heart of the opposition penalty area. Mané, under no pressure from Terence Kongolo, headed his 10th goal in the last nine games beyond the exposed Lössl.
Robertson has an internal competition with Trent Alexander-Arnold over which full-back will provide the most assists this campaign and the 20-year-old responded in kind on the stroke of half-time. The right-back floated a delightful ball in the channel between Kongolo and Erik Durm for Salah to sprint through on goal. Huddersfield’s goalkeeper charged out and the Eygpt international accepted the invitation to lob Lössl to score. Records have tumbled throughout Salah’s time at Anfield but a 68th goal in a century of Liverpool appearances is a staggering achievement. And he was not finished yet.
Another glowing statistic that reflects the foundation of Liverpool’s title challenge was the 20th clean sheet kept by Alisson, the goalkeeper equalling the club record set by Pepe Reina in 2005-06 and 2008-09. The Brazilian would have been kept waiting for a share of the record had Karlan Grant connected in front of an open goal when Juninho Bacuna’s shot deflected his way or if Mounié had moved with any degree of urgency when played clean through. Both opportunities were squandered before Bacuna drew a fine save from Alisson with a fierce long-range drive.
Huddersfield had conceded four goals in three of their previous five games and it was always only a matter of time before the outclassed visitors made it four in six. Salah had gone close to another memorable goal at the Kop end when he sent a half-volley just wide from distance after flicking the ball over Kongolo. From their next attack Jordan Henderson whipped a first-time cross in from the right and Mané, despite being in a penalty area containing five Huddersfield players, was unmarked to steer his second header of the game beyond Lössl. Mané’s 20th league goal of the season was also a career first for the Senegal international and underlined his merited place in the PFA Team of the Year.
Salah sealed the rout from Robertson’s low centre late on, the full-back released behind the visiting defence by substitute Xherdan Shaqiri. The only worries for Liverpool concerned injuries ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg at Barcelona. Van Dijk declared himself fit after Mounié landed painfully on his foot while Klopp’s post-match update on Roberto Firmino left an element of doubt over the striker’s involvement. There are no question marks over their desire to take City to the wire.
Copyright - The Guardian