Sports

February 17, 2024

Salah scores on return as leaders Liverpool rout Brentford

Salah scores on return as leaders Liverpool rout Brentford

Liverpool’s Egyptian striker #11 Mohamed Salah passes the ball during the English Premier League football match between Brentford and Liverpool at the Gtech Community Stadium in London on February 17, 2024. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

Mohamed Salah returned in style with a goal in Liverpool’s 4-1 rout of Brentford as the Premier League leaders survived a rash of injuries to step up their title charge on Saturday.

Salah came off the bench to replace the injured Diogo Jota in his first Liverpool appearance since their win over Newcastle on New Year’s Day.

Having returned from the hamstring injury he sustained on Egypt duty at the Africa Cup of Nations, Salah made up for lost time with his first goal for the Reds since the Newcastle game.

The 31-year-old’s 19th goal in all competitions this term put Liverpool on course for a sixth win in their last seven league games.

The much-maligned Darwin Nunez had given Jurgen Klopp’s side the lead with a sublime chip late in the first half at the Gtech Community Stadium.

Alexis Mac Allister doubled Liverpool’s advantage after the interval with just his second goal this season.

Ivan Toney got one back for Brentford, but Cody Gakpo netted in the closing stages as Liverpool moved five points clear at the top.

Second placed Manchester City and third placed Arsenal, who play later on Saturday against Chelsea and Burnley respectively, can reduce the gap to Liverpool, who are chasing a first title since 2020.

While the victory was valuable for Klopp, it came with a downside as first half injuries to Jota and Curtis Jones added to Liverpool’s increasingly packed treatment room.

Nunez didn’t come back out for the second half either, although whether that was tactical or due to injury was unclear.

With the League Cup final against Chelsea looming on February 25 and Liverpool also competing in the FA Cup and Europa League, the injuries could derail Klopp’s hopes of a trophy-filled farewell season.

Conor Bradley, back from compassionate leave after his father’s death, started at right-back for Liverpool in place of the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold.

– Back in the groove –

Bradley had impressed prior to his absence and the youngster nearly gave Liverpool an early lead when he burst into the area for a shot that Mark Flekken pushed away for a corner.

Brentford boss Thomas Frank this week labelled Liverpool “the best offensive team in the league”.

Klopp would have appreciated the compliment and Liverpool underlined why Frank rates them so highly in the 35th minute.

Virgil van Dijk’s high clearance from deep inside his own half looped towards Jota, who rose tenaciously above Sergio Reguilon to nod a header into the path of the unmarked Nunez.

The Uruguay striker accelerated into the area and deftly chipped a fine finish over Flekken for his 13th goal this season.

Nunez’s goal was marred by the injury to Jota that led the Portugal forward to be stretchered off after he collided with Mac Allister and landed awkwardly.

That brought Salah into the fray and missed a chance immediately, letting Luis Diaz’s cross bounce off his leg with the goal at his mercy.

Salah misfired again with a woeful finish after he took Van Dijk’s header and sprinted clean through on goal.

The Egyptian made amends for his miscues with a superb pass that picked out Mac Allister’s run into the area.

Taking a clever touch to elude Brentford defender Ben Mee, Mac Allister snapped up the chance with a clinical finish to double Liverpool’s lead after 55 minutes.

Salah was back in the groove and he killed off Brentford in the 68th minute.

Gakpo flicked on Caoimhin Kelleher’s long clearance and Salah showed poise and power as he worked just enough space to guide a composed strike into the far corner.

Toney fired home from close-range after Reguilon’s shot was saved by Kelleher in the 75th minute.

But Liverpool landed one last blow in the 86th minute when Nathan Collins’ comical miscued clearance allowed Gakpo to score with a precise low finish.