LEAGUES

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

8 months ago
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Liverpool were not brilliant against Bournemouth, but the ruthlessness of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane is keeping the title in their hands.

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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