Mohamed Salah scores rocket goal as relentless Liverpool top table with cathartic win over Chelsea

Jason Burt
The Telegraph
Salah celebrates wondergoal - REUTERS
Salah celebrates wondergoal - REUTERS

It was magnificent from Mo. Simply and utterly magnificent from Mohamed Salah as for the second Premier League game in a row he scored another outstanding goal to help return Liverpool to the top of the table.

As the storm of celebration raged around him, after his thunderous shot hit the net, Salah struck a singular celebration. He stood on one leg, his left leg crooked in the air against his right knee and put his hands together in prayer in front of the Kop.

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It looked like a yoga pose, a Namaste, the Tree Pose, a moment of Zen-like, serene calm, almost, as Fabinho and Jordan Henderson rushed over and roared their approval behind him. Maybe it was also the perfect riposte to the discriminatory abuse directed at the Egyptian by a small number of Chelsea fans in midweek which the club had condemned and which Jurgen Klopp had called “disgusting”.

Salah’s 22nd goal of the season was a goal of the ages, a goal to cherish, one to remember, one to play again and again and shut up those bigots and racists and show what a player he is, someone they could never be.

In defeating Chelsea, for the first time here since 2012, there was also a collective sense of catharsis, exorcising the trauma of Steven Gerrard’s slip five years ago that cost Liverpool the last time they were this close to being champions. They even won by the same, 2-0, score-line.

<span>Salah left the pitch to a standing ovation</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Salah left the pitch to a standing ovation Credit: AP

Salah was in Chelsea blue that day, a peripheral player in Jose Mourinho’s second string, who lasted an hour before being substituted for Willian who then scored the late second goal to break Liverpool hearts. But no-one doubts Salah’s status now at Liverpool where he is one of the very best forwards in world football and struck what Klopp rightly labelled a “world-class” goal. “It blew me away,” he added. “A thunderbolt.” Worthy of winning any goal, for sure.

It doubled Liverpool’s advantage and came in two minutes of madness – followed by two more minutes of madness when Chelsea could, and should, amazingly have drawn level as maybe those old Liverpool nerves temporarily returned. But the stakes are so high. “They could have changed the game completely,” Klopp conceded in what was his 200th match as Liverpool manager. Chelsea could also have changed the title race, completely, but did not and Liverpool were worthy winners.

They needed to be. They kicked off within minutes of Manchester City beating Crystal Palace away to go back above them. When Palace had scored in that game the cheers of hope, rather than expectation, could be heard ringing around the Anfield concourses. But now Liverpool are back two points ahead having played a game more. It is not in their hands but they have negotiated arguably their most difficult remaining fixture while City have to face Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. No-one can call this.

Liverpool, therefore, are doing what they have to do, as Klopp also declared, and could end up with 97 points – and finish second. In fact, with four games to go Liverpool already have 85 points which is just one fewer than City gained to beat them to the title in 2014.

And so they go again. After a tense, tight first-half which remained goalless Liverpool simply tore into Chelsea and went ahead when the excellent Fabinho, who brings so much control to the midfield, played the ball into Salah with Jordan Henderson taking over possession inside the opposition penalty area before chipping a superb cross to the far post where it was met by Sadio Mane who planted his header past Kepa Arrizabalaga for his 21st goal of the campaign.

As Anfield erupted and continued to celebrate Liverpool scored again. After his wonderful solo effort away to Southampton nine days ago here was another by Salah as Virgil Van Dijk played the ball out to him on the right wing. Salah cut inside, away from Emerson, and towards the angle of the area before driving a powerful left foot shot from 25 yards out that swerved away from Arrizabalaga and tore into the net.

Astonishingly Chelsea twice quickly spurned clear chances to equalise with Eden Hazard – of all people – guilty on both occasions of a rare, stunning wastefulness.

The Belgian had started through the middle but after Salah’s goal Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri reacted by bringing on Gonzalo Higuain and restoring Hazard to the left, which he he prefers. It was from there that he ghosted in to meet David Luiz’s ball over the top, take control and then shoot low to beat Alisson only for his effort to cannon back off the post. Then, soon after, he met Willian’s cut back and clear on goal his shot was smartly saved by the Liverpool goalkeeper.

<span>Mohamed Salah of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team's second goal</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Mohamed Salah of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team's second goal Credit: Getty Images

There were further opportunities with, in particular, Arrizabalaga doing well to push away a fierce rising drive from Mane as the game was fast and loose and ebbed from end to end and was a far cry from the tense first-half when Liverpool pressed but were always almost undone by Chelsea on the break. Hazard played cleverly, Willian joined him and Ruben Loftus-Cheek showed flashes of skill although the clearest chance fell to Salah early on only for him to volley weakly at the Chelsea goalkeeper.

The defeat was a blow to Chelsea’s top four hopes, and a seventh in the league away from home this season, and maybe for them the most significant moment of the opening period was the loss of their best defender, Antonio Rudiger, to injury with Andreas Christensen appearing nervously as his replacement.

Liverpool preyed on that also with Roberto Firmino, in particular, showing a shrewd awareness to attack Christensen as Klopp received the intense response he demanded.

At the end he approached The Kop, fist-pumping three times in celebration. It felt not just like a win, not just like three points, not just like a return to the top of the table. Liverpool may not end up as champions this season but, whatever happens, they have performed like them.

6:46PM

Jurgen Klopp

Can you win all the rest of your games?

We don't know. We have to try at least. We respect all the opponents so much. First Porto is difficult, then Cardiff and we know they fight against relegation. It'll be real tough. 

6:42PM

Ashley Cole and Souness laying into Jorginho

Cole, when asked why as a left-back you let Salah move inside the pitch:

Sometimes you can't stop it! Salah's taken a great touch, he stops it, maybe Jorginho could come to him a little quicker. I don't think any goalkeeper would save it.

Souness

When he takes his second touch, that's the signal to Jorginho to come in and get across.

6:36PM

Van Dijk and Henderson post-match

Van Dijk

Five years ago didn't matter today. Today was a totally different game, different circumstances, we knew it would be different and we showed great things through the game and overall are very happy with the three points.

I like to play against the best players int eh world and I think he's up there. A fantastic player. We put them under pressure, they didn't play their usual game at times so all credit to us. 

We just focus on our games. We have a massive game in the Champions League and then to Cardiff which is going to be tough.

I'm always excited, happy when my team wins. But it can change! For now we need to enjoyed it.

Henderson

Can't tell you that. It was keep going, a couple of things we needded to work on, keep creating spaces for each other. There was a period where we blew them away a little bit, we could have scored a couple more, they had a few chances and we need to be careful with that but Chelsea are a good side!

We've got to keep believing even at 0-0 we can create chances, keep clean sheets, stay positive. 

I've spoken about it the last couple of weeks, I've moved forward a little bit and enjoyed it. 

We've got to concentrate on ourselves, keep working hard and doing the business on the weekend and the Champions League. We're enjoying it.

6:32PM

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6:21PM

FULL TIME

What a win. Relentless, unstoppable... Liverpool are the real deal. Who's going to stop them?!

6:19PM

90 mins+1 - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

Salah leaves the stage to be replaced by Shaqiri. That goal into the top corner will be replayed over and over if Liverpool do eventually win this league, it was great.

 

6:17PM

89 mins - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

Kepa comes off his line to close down a ball punted 20 miles in the air by Van Dijk. He swings and misses it as Mane closes him down but luckily for the goalkeeper the ball is behind for a goal kick.

Xherdan Shaqiri, aka the Human Square, is getting ready to come on.

6:14PM

87 mins - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

Liverpool have Chelsea defending behind the ball and are moving it around superbly, switching play, finding the man in space, still refusing to give time and space when they eventually do lose possession. It's exhausting to watch! How do these guys still have energy to run!?

6:12PM

85 mins - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

<span>Credit: REUTERS </span>
Credit: REUTERS

A slip! Robertson slips and Chelsea are nearly in! Higuain doesn't have Demba Ba running ahead of him though and the move fizzles out. Klopp reacts by throwing an air punch at the crowd, demanding a roar of appreciation. He doesn't want nerves to creep in.

6:10PM

82 mins - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

Chelsea win a corner thanks to more smart work by Hazard but that turns into Chelsea players chasing Salah as he tries to sprint away towards the opposite box after the ball is cleared.

6:06PM

79 mins - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

Captain Hendo off, James Milner on. Anfield gives him a standing ovation and it is absolutely deserved.

Azpilicueta is lucky not to be shown a second yellow card for quite audibly telling the referee to f*** off. Liverpool players are still running at 400mph to chase every single forward pass... and Firmino wins a corner doing just that.

6:03PM

76 mins - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

Henderson has really stepped up this half too. He's been watching Steven Gerrard DVDs during the break, absolutely bursting himself to get around the pitch and win everything.

6:01PM

73 mins - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

Alexander-Arnold has absolutely pied Azpilicueta with a bit of skill to get into the box and take a shot at goal. It's far too central and the goalkeeper can save.

Hazard has been incredible today, darting around the pitch and gliding past players like he's had his attributes all put up to 99.

5:59PM

71 mins - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

Another Liverpool free-kick is curled into the area, Fabinho tries to get a head on it but Christensen follows him and heads behind. Corner. 

5:56PM

68 mins - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

Salah cuts inside from wide right to attack the box and forces a save at the near post from Kepa. 

<span>Liverpool vs Chelsea average positions</span>
Liverpool vs Chelsea average positions

Such a weird average positions chart. It looks like Kante is actually playing in a two with Jorginho, which he sort of is, but you can see how attacking Liverpool is. They're getting three players on and near the ball in the wide areas and absolutely battering Chelsea in the final third. 

5:52PM

65 mins - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

The game is so open, end to end. Klopp's going to want to drill into his players that they need to get tight and maybe slow this down a little bit. 

5:50PM

62 mins - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

HAZARD IS IN AGAIN! SAVED! What a half this is. This time the ball is crossed from the right, curls around the centre-backs and Hazard times his run brilliantly to steal ahead of them to connect with the pass. His volley is saved and he can't quite reach the rebound. Chelsea starting to have some fun in attack but Liverpool are terrifying when they get on the ball with space ahead.

5:47PM

60 mins - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

HAZARD IS IN! He ends up behind the Liverpool defence one v one to get onto a ball over the top but his low shot comes back off the post! So close.

5:46PM

58 mins - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

There were 142 seconds between the first two goals and the second means Salah is joint-top goalscorer in the Premier League this season alongside Aguero (19).

5:44PM

56 mins - Liverpool 2 Chelsea 0

Jeez. Liverpool really are legit. How do Chelsea deal with this? It's like they're stuck outside in a storm and can't find keys for villa. A corner is punched away, Kante tries to break but Liverpool swarm around them and win possession back, immediately attacking.

Sarri makes a switch, taking the anonymous Hudson-Odoi off for Higuain.

5:41PM

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!

OH WOW! WOWOWOWOWOWOOW! WHAT A GOAL!

Like a rocket! Salah has just launched a powerdrive from 25 yards that flew into the top corner! That is astonishing! The power just flies the ball past the goalie, smashing into the top corner. Kepa had absolutely no chance.

5:39PM

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL!

LIVERPOOL HAVE THE LEAD!

<span>Liverpool first goal vs Chelsea</span>
Liverpool first goal vs Chelsea

It's like a waterfall constantly battering a dam. Eventually it had to tell and this goal is the result of relentless attacking at the start of the half. Henderson ends up on the right wing and chips a beautiful cross to the back post for Mane to bury. He headers it past the goalkeeper and that will change the game.

5:37PM

48 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Apparently Rudiger's injury isn't too serious, according to Martin Tyler. He told me on the TV. Not me directly... although maybe all commentary on TV is aimed at me. Like the Truman Show. Yes, me is the best. 

Alexander-Arnold has a shot from a central position 25 yards out (what's he doing there?) but only wins a throw out of it. Chelsea do their best to clear, Keita absolutely launches a volley into outer space while trying to get a shot on goal.

5:34PM

KICK OFF 2

Graeme Souness thinks Klopp might have to make some drastic substitutions if this is still 0-0 after another 20 minutes. Anyway, the game has restarted.

5:32PM

Who's going to win?

Honestly... no idea. Chelsea have been really good. They're waiting to counter but Liverpool are such a dangerous side that you'd imagine they'll get at least one more big chance. There's surely no way both teams can keep up the pace and intensity of the first half, it was mental. 

5:26PM

Ominous statistic

  • Liverpool only won one of their last five Premier League games when level at HT (W1 D4) - 3-1 v Southampton

5:18PM

HALF TIME

A decent game contested by two teams of athletic football robots programmed to run 20km over a rapid series of short sprints. Could do with slowing down a bit to allow more football. At the moment it's like watching a normal game on fast forward.

5:16PM

45 mins +2 - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Alexander-Arnold whips the free-kick in, Kepa makes a great reaction save to block the shot and the referee gives a free-kick for offside. 

5:15PM

45 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Azpilicueta knows he's beaten for pace by Mane and blocks him off while running down the wing. It's a yellow card, which seems fair.

The referee is having words with Sarri and Zola for stepping out of the technical area.

5:13PM

43 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

<span>Liverpool (left) vs Chelsea (right) shots on goal</span>
Liverpool (left) vs Chelsea (right) shots on goal

 Not a lot of action at either end but it's not been a dull game. There's just loads of running everywhere. 

5:10PM

40 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Rudiger is down clutching his knee again and it looks like he's goosed. Hopefully it's not anything serious like a ligament injury. 

Rudiger is carried off on the shoulders of Chelsea's medical team. Andreas Christensen comes on to replace him.

5:08PM

38 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Loftus-Cheek loses control of the ball and now Liverpool can pounce on the counter! Salah is played in quickly, he pulls the ball across the box and Mane shoots high and wide when he ought to hit the target and make it 1-0. 

5:06PM

37 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Chelsea are heavily focusing down the left wing when they do have the ball. Hudson-Odoi hasn't quite gotten involved as Sarri might hope he would - is he hiding? Or being instructed to stay in space rather than on the ball? 

Willian, Loftus-Cheek, Emerson and Hazard are all staying close together.

5:04PM

34 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

chelsea vs liverpool possession stats
chelsea vs liverpool possession stats

The Chelsea gameplan is pretty clear then... counter-attack! The way Liverpool are playing is naturally forcing Chelsea back anyway but Sarri hasn't set his team up to keep the ball for too long. 

Chelsea break again through the middle, Hazard finds Loftus-Cheek, who holds the ball and turns Fabinho with a clever little touch but can't get a shot away. Liverpool end up with about nine men behind the ball by the time he's tried to pull the trigger - they will be knackered by the end of this one.

5:01PM

31 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

David Luiz has put Willian away! He's racing through on goal in behidn the defence! It's two v three, Hazard joins in, Henderson drops between the centre-backs and forces Willian across the area, still going, still... he shooooooots!

Wide. Way wide. That was a big (half) chance.

4:58PM

28 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Kepa has to be alert to push away a shot from distance. Liverpool are so direct, firing the ball through the middle, running at Chelsea like a cavalry charge. It must be so hard to defend against.

My Telegraph colleague has a theory:

4:54PM

25 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Keita carries the ball into the opposition half, Robertson overlaps with a determined run then gets the cross in early. Firmino's control lets him down and it's out for a goal kick.

Chelsea are moving the ball around so well, really nice one touch passes being pinged around everywhere.

4:52PM

22 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Hazard twists and turns so well in the area that Matip almost falls over like a tree in a tornado. Hazard's low shot is saved by Hazard.

Rudiger has gone down holding his knee as though he's in real pain after sprinting alongside Mane to chase a ball. He goes down, there's no real contact but he needs two medical staff to come and look after him.

Sarri gives Hudson-Odoi some tactical instructions during the break. Rudiger is up and hobbling.

4:50PM

20 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

<span>Credit: REUTERS </span>
Credit: REUTERS

[Record scratch] Yep, that's me. You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation

4:48PM

18 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

This game is so fast. Willian sprints from defence, linking passes along the way to get to the final third. Hazard joins in, Kante too, the ball is in to Hazard and he's chopped down from behind but was offside anyway. 

4:44PM

15 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Mo Salah takes on Luiz in the box, shimmies with quick feet and throws himself to ground. Booooooo. He's so bad for that. The referee doesn't buy it, thankfully, and decides it's not a dive either. I think he's got it right. 

4:43PM

14 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Kante runs through the middle, Hudson-Odoi is wide right, takes the pass and steps up towards the box before crossing into the area. Alisson pushes it away and luckily doesn't throw the ball straight to Willian inside the area! Liverpool get it forward quickly, going from defence to attack in an instant. 

Mane runs across the box and can't quite reach a chipped diagonal pass sent his way. It's a frantic opening to this game, so much energy being used up.

4:41PM

11 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Great tackle by Fabinho! Hazard sprints away on the ball through the midfield, Fabinho chases him and slides in with a well timed tackle to take him down. 

Azpilicueta has a conversation with Van Dijk, like watching two rock 'em sock 'em robots square up. It's a friendly competitive word battle.

4:38PM

9 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

The Liverpool high press is keeping Chelsea deep in their own half but Jamie Redknapp's not impressed, saying Chelsea are causing their own problems by trying to play out from the back. Stick it long lads, find the big man. None of this passing nonsense.

4:36PM

7 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Robertson gets up the left wing, crosses to the box and SALAH IS THERE! He connects with a volley from 12 yards and Kepa saves! So close for Liverpool.

<span>Liverpool shot on goal</span>
Liverpool shot on goal

 

4:35PM

5 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Chelsea play some really nice passes from back to front, taking risks with the forward balls in defence especially but Hazard is juuuust offside as they try to break in behind the Liverpool defence.

4:33PM

3 mins - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 0

Liverpool on the attack from the start, Kepa gets a chance to catch the ball and become acquainted with it early on. Liverpool pressing high from the start in a 4-4-2, the ballsided midfielder joining in and it's working! Mane shifts over to block a pass and put the home side back on the front foot.

4:30PM

KICK OFF

And now it's football time. Liverpool get the game started! 

4:30PM

A minute's silence 

It's the 30th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. 

4:22PM

Hazard as striker

Chelsea vs Liverpool
Chelsea vs Liverpool

Hazard won't stay as a central striker. It means Van Dijk and Matip are marking space rather than a man, which could lead to them being drawn towards the full-back or a midfielder to get tight to attackers, which leaves space behind for H-O or Willian to run in behind. If the ball is on the right, Hazard will go right to support and link passes. If left, he goes left. He'll also drop into midfield to give Chelsea four vs three. 

4:12PM

The managers pre-match

Jurgen Klopp

It's different, we expected it can be like this, complete freedom it's clear and we have to defend that. We can't defend one v one situations. It will be a challenge.

It's a really good team. We are here at home, yes in the league we lost in the cup but that's long ago. We don't feel it. It's a very strong opponent but results from the past who cares about them.

Maurizio Sarri

I think Hazard can do everything. Hazard is able to do everything with the ball at his feet so I expect that Hazard will put in trouble Van Dijk. 

4:09PM

Some (badly drawn) tactical notes

 If you haven't read my tactical preview of this game yet, there is still time! CLICK HERE. If you don't want to leave this very lovely page, I'll do a bit here.

Chelsea vs Liverpool
Chelsea vs Liverpool

Replace Milner with Henderson and Emerson with Alonso and the first graphic applies. Alonso is a real attacking weapon for Chelsea but Emerson is probably the better defender - Henderson will have more license to get forward than if Alonso were playing. 

The other thing that's interesting about Chelsea's line up is Hazard as a central striker. Van Dijk and Matip are going to win aerial battles so the plan appears to be to bamboozle them with dribbling. Willian and Hudson-Odoi tie up the full-backs, Hazard floats around to add numbers wherever Chelsea need them.

The second drawing is how Luiz likes to ping 70 yard passes into the space left by the full-backs. Chelsea will use these passes a lot.

3:54PM

Inside the dressing room

<span>Credit: GETTY IMAGES </span>
Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Please forgive me if this is common knowledge but I've just noticed that Van Dijk has 'Virgil' on the back of his shift. Is that new? I'm sure that's new.

Edit: a quick Google proves that I am wrong. Having watched him play about 20something times this season that is mental I've not noticed it before.

3:48PM

Hello!

It's the big one! The slippy slope of Liverpool vs Chelsea... ohhhhh it's already started. The ghost of Demba Ba and that fateful day will still haunt the Liverpool fans turning up for this afternoon's game but when there's something strange in your neighbourhood, there's only one number you can call... Jurgen Klopp! That guy knows how to win things. 

The team he's set out to do just that today has been named... and here it is!

The Chelsea team is there too. Kick off is at 4:30pm and Liverpool will be doing their best to ignore what's currently happening in the Man City game as I type this. Crystal Palace are looking capable of a late fightback. 

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