Centurion Salah shows ruthless touch but Liverpool will need more against Atletico Madrid

By Sports Desk March 07, 2020

Just three more wins to go.

It was not a famous performance, but it was a record-breaking result, one that should end any of that title-collapse talk before it got out of hand - and one that reminded everyone how wonderfully ruthless Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah can be.

Liverpool were certainly not brilliant against Bournemouth, the standard of their display mostly in keeping with a recent run in which they had lost three of their past five games and scored only four times, but they are back to winning ways and have surpassed their own record for consecutive top-flight home victories in England thanks to this, their 22nd in succession.

Ultimately, talk of them throwing away the most one-sided title race the Premier League has ever seen was always nonsense. But losing to Atletico Madrid, seeing their quest for an invincible league season ended at Watford and exiting the FA Cup at Chelsea in the past few weeks had certainly shaken some of the confidence out of Jurgen Klopp's previously unstoppable force.

It showed again at Anfield on Saturday. Somehow, Bournemouth went ahead - a Bournemouth side with two league wins in 12 games and on a run of five consecutive losses to Liverpool by an aggregate score of 17-0. It looked like Callum Wilson could scarcely believe it when he tapped in Jefferson Lerma's cross, although he was perhaps expecting a VAR intervention for a shove on Joe Gomez.

When Nathan Ake's header was flapped onto the crossbar by Adrian, fans in the Kop were growing restless. They needed something to calm the nerves, someone to bring precision to a disjointed Reds display. They needed Salah and Mane.

In truth, neither forward exactly had a glowing first half. Salah was as guilty as anyone when it came to Liverpool's imprecision on the ball: he completed only half of his 18 attempted passes in the Bournemouth half and gave the ball away with more than a third of his overall efforts in the first 45 minutes. Mane, too, was labouring at the same 59 per cent success rate for first-half passes, as Klopp's side seemed short on ideas against a defence that has kept one clean sheet since November 2.

And yet, when the chances came, there was never any doubt.

Jack Simpson's loose touch was all it took. Mane pounced, found Salah, and the Egyptian spun and shot through the legs of Lerma, leaving Aaron Ramsdale grasping at air. One shot, one goal.

Next, Bournemouth made a mess of things in midfield, Virgil van Dijk played Mane through, and he curled a finish beyond the Cherries goalkeeper. One shot, one goal.

It was the 16th time Liverpool have come from behind to lead at half-time of a Premier League game at Anfield. It wasn't pretty, but it was enough. It usually is when Salah and Mane are involved.

Salah has scored 70 times in 100 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, at least seven more than any other Reds player has managed in their first century of matches. Mane has scored and assisted in the same league game for Liverpool on nine occasions. Each of them has scored 27 home goals in the league since the start of last season, which is more than anyone else.

Atletico are highly unlikely to commit the same errors when they visit on Wednesday, and a 2-1 win would not be enough to keep Liverpool's Champions League defence alive. But Salah and Mane, at Anfield, are usually enough to see off anything.

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    Manchester City will have to wait to get their hands on a third Premier League title in four years after they fell to a 2-1 home defeat against Chelsea on Saturday.

    Sergio Aguero in particular will want to forget the game in a hurry after a failed Panenka attempt, which he later apologised for on social media.

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    Elsewhere in Yorkshire, Crystal Palace inflicted yet more misery on Sheffield United, running out 2-0 winners at Bramall Lane.

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    It had started well for the hosts, however, with Raheem Sterling giving them the lead with his 10th Premier League goal of the campaign. The England international has now reached that total in four successive seasons, with only Aguero (nine) hitting double figures more regularly in the competition for City.

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    Hakim Ziyech made the most of that reprieve, levelling with his first Premier League goal in 18 appearances since scoring against Burnley in October.

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    At 91 minutes and 54 seconds, Marcos Alonso's scuffed finish was the latest winning goal scored by the visitors in a Premier League game at City since Paul Scholes for Manchester United in April 2010 (92:41).

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    Sadio Mane opened the scoring in the first half with his second goal in three Premier League games, having found the net just once in his previous 14 outings in the competition before that.

    He was teed up by Mohamed Salah, marking the first time the pair have combined for a top-flight goal this season.

    Thiago Alcantara added a second in the 90th minute to become the 140th player to score a Premier League goal for Liverpool, though the first to get off the mark for the Reds from outside the box since Divock Origi in December 2015.

    Southampton, meanwhile, have now earned just 11 points from their 18 Premier League games in 2021, fewer than any other side this calendar year.

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    Leeds' superb record against the Premier League's 'big six' continued.

    Marcelo Bielsa's side became the first to remain unbeaten at home in the top flight against each of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs in a season since West Ham in 2015-16, and only the third newly promoted team to do so, after Ipswich Town in 2000-01 and Birmingham City in 2009-10.

    Stuart Dallas broke the deadlock to become the first Northern Ireland player to score as many as eight Premier League goals in a season since Chris Brunt in 2008-09.

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    Christian Benteke opened the scoring after just 66 seconds, registering the club’s earliest Premier League goal since James McArthur's strike against Everton in November 2017 (51 seconds).

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    The result meant United have failed to score in 20 matches within a single league season for the first time in their history, while in terms of the Premier League, only Derby County in 2007-08 (22), Leeds United in 1996-97 (21) and Huddersfield Town in 2017-18 (21) have failed to score in more games in a single campaign.

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