Mohamed Salah is back – and despite Liverpool’s injuries that should scare rivals

Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring Liverpool's third goal against Brentford

There are very few players in the world of football who can silence a crowd without even touching the ball. Players who can send tremors of fear through a stadium not because of what they have just done, but because of what they are evidently just about to do. Players who bring with them a sense of inevitability, even when the ball is 40 yards from goal and not yet in their possession.

Mohamed Salah is one of those players and, when he strode onto Cody Gakpo’s flicked header after 68 minutes here, it felt like the air had been removed from the Gtech Community Stadium. Salah had not even reached the ball yet but everyone in the ground, including Brentford’s defenders, knew what would happen next.

A few seconds later, the ball was in the back of Brentford’s net, Liverpool were leading by three and Salah had reminded everyone why he is still the most important figure in Jurgen Klopp’s team. This was his first club appearance since New Year’s Day and he played like a man who was keen to make up for lost time. One goal, one assist, three points and a powerful statement: the main man is back.

Another victory for Klopp’s league leaders, then, but this was a win that came at a cost. Liverpool arrived in the capital with a worrying injury list and that situation only became worse here. Curtis Jones limped off in the first half, and then Diogo Jota followed him on a stretcher. Neither situation looked good, and there was to be one more problem: Darwin Nunez came off at half-time with an issue of his own, albeit a less serious one.

“We played an exceptional game,” said Klopp, who was already without a series of key players, including Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alisson Becker. “Strange circumstances. It is mixed emotions. We lost players and we don’t know how serious it is. It does not look great for either of them [Jota and Jones].”

For Brentford, who have a recent history of troubling the bigger teams in the league, this was a lesson in ruthlessness. Thomas Frank’s side had the better of the opening 30 minutes but they did not convert their chances. When they allowed Liverpool just one glimpse of goal, they were ripped apart. That is the difference between the best and the rest.

“We were brilliant for the first 35 minutes,” said Frank. “But we made an unlikely error, that we normally do not do.”

There was at least one moment to cheer for the home side, as Ivan Toney scored his fourth goal in five games since his return from suspension, but the game was over by then. Salah had made sure of that, with the help of the excellent Alexis Mac Allister.

There were also goals for Nunez and Gakpo, but it was Salah’s performance that – once again – proved to be the most eye-catching. Salah had missed the previous eight matches, due to international commitments and a hamstring injury, but it took him just a few minutes to get back into his stride.

It is not that Liverpool missed Salah particularly, given their strength in depth, but there is also no question that they are far, far better when he is in their side. His efforts here took him to 15 goals and nine assists in 21 league appearances this season. Ludicrous numbers.

His goal, Liverpool’s third, was a measure of his reputation as well as his quality. Nathan Collins and Ben Mee both hesitated to collect the loose ball, as neither wanted to be the man to deal with the situation, to be subjected to Salah. From that moment, there was no way back for Brentford’s defence. “Absolutely outstanding,” said Klopp.

It was Salah at his devastating best — speed, power, decisiveness — and there was also a moment of creative class. His curling pass into the feet of Mac Allister, who controlled brilliantly before stabbing in the second goal, was of the highest order.

Mac Allister was impressive throughout, absorbing Brentford’s pressure in midfield. Gakpo was lively off the bench, too, with a headed assist and a calm finish, from Luis Diaz’s pass, for Liverpool’s fourth.

If Liverpool are to go on to win the league, it will surely be because of this attacking firepower. Salah, Nunez, Jota, Gakpo and Diaz all contributed either goals or assists here, and no other side — not even Manchester City — boasts such a strong collection of elite forwards.

Nunez’s dinked finish in the first half, from Jota’s clever header, underlined the difference between good Premier League strikers (Toney and Neal Maupay) and those at the highest level. Salah then went one further, to show Brentford what it looks like when a world-class player takes complete control of a match.

Brentford vs Liverpool: As it happened

03:04 PM GMT

Celebrations for the visitors

03:03 PM GMT

Famous Klopp fist-pumps

03:02 PM GMT

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk speaking to TNT Sports

02:58 PM GMT

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp speaking to TNT Sports

“It is mixed emotions, we lost players which we don’t know how serious it is. It doesn’t look great for either of them.

“But what the boys did after 15 minutes was exceptional against a team set up to annoy you. Eighteen times a set piece is flying into your box, you need bodies and luck in a moment and a goalie as well, who played an incredible game.

“We played a good game from a specific moment on. We controlled them as much as you can and we are happy about that.”

Bad luck with injuries?

“Definitely. I think there was a knock on Curtis [Jones]. It was a challenge with Diogo [Jota] as well and Darwin [Nunez] we are not sure if he has something or not, he felt something.

“We will see. It was never easy for us, at the moment it is fine. We have 57 points and in a few days play again.”

02:54 PM GMT

Impact from the bench

02:46 PM GMT

Sensational Salah

02:46 PM GMT

Milestone appearance for captain van Dijk

02:39 PM GMT

Alexis Mac Allister speaking to TNT Sports

02:32 PM GMT

Full time

Michael Oliver blows the full-time whistle and Liverpool win comfortably at the Gtech. Mo Salah marked his return from injury with an assist and a goal but there are more injury concerns for Jurgen Klopp with Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota going off injured in the first half. Liverpool extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to five points.

02:30 PM GMT

90+6 minutes: Brentford 1 Liverpool 4

Robertson whips in an outswinger and van Dijk powers a header towards goal, but it comes back off the bar. Nearly a fifth for Liverpool.

02:29 PM GMT

90+6 minutes: Brentford 1 Liverpool 4

Liverpool have a corner on the left right in front of their travelling fans as we tick into the final minute of added time.

02:27 PM GMT

90+4 minutes: Brentford 1 Liverpool 4

Salah is named man of the match by TNT Sports.

02:26 PM GMT

90+2 minutes: Brentford 1 Liverpool 4

Brilliant save from Kelleher. Brentford have a free-kick on the right and Toney meets it at the near post. He must think he is about to score his second but Kelleher gets a left hand to it to make a great save.

Brentford have another free-kick, this time in a central position. Toney’s effort deflects off the wall and behind for a corner, which Liverpool head away.

02:24 PM GMT

90 minutes: Brentford 1 Liverpool 4

Elliott takes it and tries to beat Flekken at the far post but the Brentford goalkeeper saves down to his right.

There will be seven minutes of added time.

02:23 PM GMT

89 minutes: Brentford 1 Liverpool 4

Liverpool have a free-kick right on the edge of the Brentford box as Ajer clatters into Diaz.

02:21 PM GMT

88 minutes: Brentford 1 Liverpool 4

Toney’s effort goes wide of Kelleher’s left post.

02:20 PM GMT

87 minutes: Brentford 1 Liverpool 4

Brentford have a free-kick centrally around 25 yards out which you would imagine Toney will take.

02:20 PM GMT

GOAL! Gakpo makes it 4-1

Liverpool punish Brentford for a mistake at the back. Gomez lifts a ball forward and Collins completely mis-hits his clearance. Diaz finds Gakpo on the left and he takes one touch and slots past Flekken to make it 4-1.

02:18 PM GMT

85 minutes: Brentford 1 Liverpool 3

Thomas Frank makes his final change as Reguilon is replaced by Ghoddos.

02:17 PM GMT

82 minutes: Brentford 1 Liverpool 3

Diaz goes down in the box wanting a penalty but referee Michael Oliver waves it away. VAR is checking but no penalty given. There was contact from Collins on Diaz and Collins is a little lucky there. Both sides might feel now they should have had a penalty in this second half.

Double change for Liverpool as Bradley and Mac Allister come off for Gomez and Elliott.

02:08 PM GMT

GOAL! Toney gets goal back

Brentford have a goal back. Reguilon has a shot which is brilliantly saved by Kelleher down to his right but Toney is there to slot home.

02:07 PM GMT

73 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 3

Brentford make another change as Damsgaard replaces Jensen.

02:06 PM GMT

72 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 3

Brentford want a penalty as Toney goes down under a challenge from Robertson. Liverpool then win a free-kick on the edge of their own box as Onyeka fouls Endo. Onyeka is booked for that challenge. Looking back at the replays it was clumsy from Robertson and he took a risk there. Some would say he gave the referee a decision to make.

02:02 PM GMT

GOAL! Salah adds Liverpool's third

It is his first Liverpool game since New Year’s Day and Salah is back on the scoresheet. He already has an assist and now he has a goal. A long ball from Kelleher is headed on by Gakpo and Salah is running at Collins. He goes to the left and slots home past Flekken into the far corner. Clinical finish from Salah to make it 3-0.

A moment of hesitation at the back and that’s all Salah needs. Game over.

02:01 PM GMT

67 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 2

Brilliant interplay between Gravenberch, Salah and Diaz results in a shot for the Colombian inside the Brentford box but his effort is blocked.

Endo then is booked by Michael Oliver.

01:56 PM GMT

63 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 2

Brentford are making a triple change as Onyeka, Wissa and Keane-Potter are coming on for Norgaard, Maupay and Roerslev.

Onyeka and Wissa are back from Afcon duty.

01:53 PM GMT

60 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 2

Bradley comes close to making it 3-0. He finds himself in a central midfield position and has acres of space. He drives forward and strikes from distance, but his effort goes just over Flekken’s bar.

01:52 PM GMT

58 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 2

Brentford launch a free-kick long and it is flicked on. Toney then gets a touch on it to Maupay, whose effort goes over the bar. The flag had gone up for offside against Maupay anyway.

01:49 PM GMT

GOAL! Mac Allister makes it 2-0

A second fantastic goal of the game from Liverpool. A beautiful pass from Salah finds an onrushing Mac Allister, who is driving into the box. He takes a great first touch past the defender and then slots home clinically to beat Flekken. Liverpool lead 2-0.

01:46 PM GMT

53 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 1

Liverpool break through Salah and he charges forward. He finds Gakpo to his right, who tries to return the ball to Salah but it is cleared away.

01:45 PM GMT

51 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 1

Big, big chance for Salah. Van Dijk’s headed clearance finds Salah and he is one-on-one. A couple of poor touches makes it a difficult angle and he tries to dink it over Flekken, but his effort goes wide.

Mo Salah misses a one-on-one
Mo Salah (right) missed a great chance to make it 2-0 - Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

01:43 PM GMT

50 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 1

Brilliant footwork from Diaz sets up a shot for the Colombian but his effort misses the target.

01:43 PM GMT

49 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 1

Really good interplay from Liverpool down the left sets Diaz free. He finds Gakpo inside the box but he loses possession and Brentford can clear.

01:41 PM GMT

48 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 1

Toney is now back on the pitch.

01:40 PM GMT

47 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 1

Toney is back on his feet and looks like he will be able to continue.

01:39 PM GMT

46 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 1

Within seconds of the second half starting Toney is down after a collision with Bradley.

01:38 PM GMT

Second half

Liverpool are making a change at the break as Gakpo is coming on for Nunez. We do not know if that is an injury or not. We are back under way.

01:37 PM GMT

Joe Cole live on TNT Sports

“From Brentford’s perspective, they gamble a lot on attacking set plays. It was a risk leaving Reguilon against Jota.

“They were stoic and strong and there wasn’t much space for Liverpool. Toney and Maupay caused them some problems and the gameplan was working but when you are playing a team like Liverpool it can come from anywhere.”

01:36 PM GMT

Jota blow

01:32 PM GMT

Brilliant finish from Nunez

01:23 PM GMT


Liverpool lead at the break through Nunez’s delightful lob finish but both Jones and Jota have gone off injured.

01:18 PM GMT

45+3 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 1

Liverpool break and Diaz has acres of space on the left. He drives into the box and crosses into the centre. It looks like it might have taken a slight nick off Nunez and Salah cannot find the finish as it bounces off his leg and the chance is gone. That could so easily have been 2-0 to Liverpool.

01:16 PM GMT

45 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 1

There are eight minutes of added time at the end of the first half. Salah is into the action quickly, latching onto a ball forward from Bradley. He lifts the ball into Nunez, who tries to find Diaz but Flekken can gather.

01:15 PM GMT

44 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 1

Reguilon is the first man into the book for a nasty foul on Bradley. Jurgen Klopp had his head in his hands, praying that it was not another injury.

01:14 PM GMT

43 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 1

Jota is being stretchered off and it will be Salah to come on.

Liverpool's Diogo Jota is placed on a stretcher after sustaining an injury
Diogo Jota (centre) had to go off injured during the first half - Andrew Boyers/Reuters
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah is embraced by manager Jurgen Klopp before being substituted on
Mohamed Salah (left) makes his return from an hamstring injury - Andrew Boyers/Reuters

01:12 PM GMT

42 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 1

Jota is going to have to come off. Yet another injury for Liverpool. Is Mo Salah going to come in his first game for Liverpool since New Year’s Day?

01:11 PM GMT

41 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 1

Jota is now down for Liverpool, receiving some treatment. He has been outstanding so far, Liverpool’s best player in this game. Jones has already gone off injured and this is concerning for Jurgen Klopp.

01:09 PM GMT

39 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 1

That goal sums up the difference between good Premier League players and elite Premier League players. Maupay and Toney have had plenty of chances in this first half but neither of them have yet been able to produce the single moment of quality that Jota and Nunez showed there. The flicked header, the dinked finish. Beautiful.

01:06 PM GMT

GOAL! Nunez scores Liverpool opener

Liverpool take the lead and that is a fantastic goal. They counter from a Brentford free-kick as van Dijk smashes the ball away from inside his own box. Jota wins the header and it is straight into the path of Nunez, who is one-on-one with Flekken. Nunez lifts it over Flekken and the ball ends up in the back of the Brentford net. Terrific finish and a terrific assist.

01:04 PM GMT

33 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 0

Bradley drills in a cross from the right and Diaz cannot quite on the end of it. Jones is not going to be able to continue and will be replaced by Gravenberch. Another injury concern for Jurgen Klopp to add to the likes of Alisson, Alexander-Arnold and Szoboszlai.

01:00 PM GMT

30 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 0

Norgaard has a shot from the edge of the Liverpool box but he drags his shot wide. Jones is still down in the centre of the pitch in some pain after a challenge from Norgaard.

12:58 PM GMT

28 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 0

Jota keeps running and running from the halfway line and Brentford just about get a challenge in as Jota entered into the penalty area.

Down at the other end Toney goes from distance but it is well wide.

12:56 PM GMT

26 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 0

Robertson lifts a ball into the penalty area on the left-hand side but Diaz’s header misses the target.

12:53 PM GMT

23 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 0

Liverpool have had a succession of corners. Robertson swings in Liverpool’s fifth of the match which Toney heads away.

12:51 PM GMT

21 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 0

Jota powers a shot from the edge of the box which Flekken tips over the bar. Good save from Flekken.

Liverpool's Diogo Jota shoots at goal
Diogo Jota (far right) has a stinging effort saved by Mark Flekken - John Walton/PA

12:51 PM GMT

20 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 0

Brentford counter on Liverpool and send Toney in through the right-hand channel. Konate is right with him and Toney’s shot is a weak one and it is an easy save for Kelleher.

Impressive start by Brentford, who have created the better openings so far. Very few teams play with two strikers these days but Brentford do, and the Maupay/Toney combination is causing a lot of problems for Liverpool’s defence.

12:48 PM GMT

18 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 0

Toney’s free-kick is straight at Kelleher and it is an easy save.

12:47 PM GMT

17 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 0

Mac Allister is penalised for successive fouls on Toney, the second being right on the edge of the Liverpool box. Brentford’s free-kick is in a dangerous area.

12:45 PM GMT

15 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 0

Toney has an effort inside the Liverpool penalty area on the left-hand side but he drags his effort just wide of the far post.

12:45 PM GMT

13 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 0

Liverpool have a corner on the left after Brentford lost possession deep in their own half. Robertson takes an outswinger which is headed away. Liverpool go again and Robertson whips it to the far post. Brentford do really well to win the header behind for another corner.

There is a VAR check for a penalty but nothing given. Jensen had his arms completely around Jota and brought him down but it is deemed ‘mutual holding’. Interesting interpretation of that incident. That looked like a penalty.

12:41 PM GMT

10 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 0

Nearly a terrific goal from Bradley. Diaz finds him on the edge of the box and Bradley dribbles across the box. He keeps good, close control and shoots with the outside of his right boot. Flekken gets down well to his left to make the save. Jota is on the follow-up and Flekken makes another good save.

Liverpool's Conor Bradley shoots at goal
Conor Bradley's (centre) shot was well-saved by Mark Flekken - Peter Nicholls/Reuters

12:37 PM GMT

7 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 0

Bradley plays a great ball into the channel into the path of Nunez on the right, who drives into the box. He feeds the ball across but Diaz cannot quite on the end of it. Diaz should be doing better there and getting on the end of that cross.

12:35 PM GMT

4 minutes: Brentford 0 Liverpool 0

Brentford work it into the left-hand side of the penalty area after a quick throw-in with Janelt and he drags his effort wide of the far post. Whether he was shooting or attempting a cross it went well wide.

12:30 PM GMT


We are under way.

12:26 PM GMT

Kick-off fast approaching

Both sides have emerged from the tunnel and we are just moments away from kick-off.

12:25 PM GMT

Reminder of the team news

Brentford: Flekken, Collins, Ajer, Mee, Roerslev, Jensen, Norgaard, Janelt, Reguilon, Toney, Maupay

Subs: Strakosha, Wissa, Zanka, Ghoddos, Onyeka, Lewis-Potter, Damsgaard, Baptiste, Yarmoliuk.

Liverpool: Kelleher, Bradley, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson, Mac Allister, Endo, Jones, Jota, Nunez, Diaz

Subs: Adrian, Gomez, Salah, Gakpo, Elliott, Tsimikas, Gravenberch, McConnell, Quansah.

12:22 PM GMT

Live from the Gtech

Lovely conditions here. Relatively mild, not much wind. Atmosphere: building: Dance music: loud. Vibes: good.

Pick of the pre-match stats: Liverpool have earned 19 points from losing positions in this season’s Premier League, more than any other club... and Brentford have dropped a league-high 26 points from winning positions this season.

12:20 PM GMT

Should Frank be in the running for the Liverpool job?

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp announced last month that he will be stepping down at the end of the season. Bayer Leverkusen manager Xabi Alonso is the current frontrunner to succeed Klopp. Our very own Sam Dean believes that Brentford manager Thomas Frank should be in the running for the big jobs like Liverpool.

Brentford manager Thomas Frank ahead of the Premier League match against Liverpool at the Gtech Community Stadium
Should Thomas Frank be in the running for the Liverpool job? - John Walton/PA

12:16 PM GMT

Brentford striker Ivan Toney talking to TNT Sports

12:14 PM GMT

Full team news

Brentford make one change from the side which won 2-0 at Wolves. Kristoffer Ajer comes into defence in place of Ethan Pinnock. Frank Onyeka and Yoane Wissa are both named on the bench having returned from Afcon.

Brentford: Flekken, Collins, Ajer, Mee, Roerslev, Jensen, Norgaard, Janelt, Reguilon, Toney, Maupay

Subs: Strakosha, Wissa, Zanka, Ghoddos, Onyeka, Lewis-Potter, Damsgaard, Baptiste, Yarmoliuk.

Liverpool make two changes from the side which beat Burnley 3-1 at Anfield last time out. Mohamed Salah is back from an hamstring injury and is on the bench. He has not played for Liverpool since New Year’s Day, having gone to Afcon and picked up the injury whilst on duty with Egypt.

Trent Alexander-Arnold misses out due to a knee injury and is replaced at right-back by Conor Bradley, who is back from compassionate leave after the death of his father. Centre-back Ibrahima Konate is back after a one-match suspension. Caoimhin Kelleher starts in goal with Alisson ruled out with a suspected hamstring injury.

Liverpool: Kelleher, Bradley, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson, Mac Allister, Endo, Jones, Jota, Nunez, Diaz

Subs: Adrian, Gomez, Salah, Gakpo, Elliott, Tsimikas, Gravenberch, McConnell, Quansah.

12:02 PM GMT

Brentford manager Thomas Frank speaking to TNT Sports

11:59 AM GMT

Liverpool defender Andy Robertson speaking to TNT Sports

11:54 AM GMT

Visitors arrive

11:33 AM GMT

Team news: Salah on the Liverpool bench

Brentford: Flekken, Collins, Ajer, Mee, Roerslev, Jensen, Norgaard, Janelt, Reguilon, Toney, Maupay. 
Subs: Wissa, Jorgensen, Ghoddos, Onyeka, Strakosha, Lewis-Potter, Damsgaard, Baptiste, Yarmolyuk.

Liverpool: Kelleher, Bradley, Konate, van Dijk, Robertson, Mac Allister, Endo, Jones, Jota, Nunez, Diaz. 
Subs: Gomez, Salah, Adrian, Gakpo, Elliott, Tsimikas, Gravenberch, McConnell, Quansah.

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)

11:29 AM GMT

Match preview: Liverpool's injury woes

Good morning and welcome to what promises to be an enthralling afternoon of Premier League action, starting with Brentford vs Liverpool.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been forced to reject suggestions he rushed back players in recent weeks after Trent Alexander-Arnold, Thiago Alcantara and Dominik Szoboszlai all aggravated injuries early in their returns.

Alexander-Arnold will miss the Carabao Cup final later this month because a knee problem recurred in last week’s win over Burnley, Thiago’s comeback after nine months lasted just 10 minutes, while Szoboszlai played just over an hour over two matches before succumbing to the hamstring problem which forced him to miss most of January.

Mohamed Salah returned to training this week after a month out with a hamstring problem sustained on Africa Cup of Nations duty with Egypt but Klopp was also dealt a late blow as goalkeeper Alisson Becker – who missed last weekend with flu – sustained a hamstring injury in training and did not travel to London with the squad.

“Mo is back in full training, that brings him automatically in contention of course,” said Klopp, who has just won his 10th manager of the month award, ahead of today’s lunchtime kick-off at Brentford.

“I have to clarify a bit: I was not really aware of it but I got the news that there was a discussion we might have forced Trent back. He had two setbacks and it is really unfortunate, no one wants that.

“I am here we never forced anyone back and never will do. But we work in a high-performance area and if you have the same injury you are fit after three days and another guy after four weeks.

“We always try to catch the earliest moment but when we catch that moment no one speaks about it, like with Macca (Alexis Mac Allister) recently and with Diogo (Jota). That’s a job we have to do.

“The last decision is always by the player but if you only listen to the player the player would play after two weeks and then it is a real problem.

“The boys were, in the moment when they played, fit but the (match) situation told us then differently because it happened again.

“We can never know if it would have happened anyway or whether it was something before. Very unlucky and unfortunate.

“It is not great but it says nothing about the quality of anyone. The world we are living in it is always immediately ‘Medical department? I’m not sure about that’ but it is nothing to do with that.

“We have to bring the boys as back as soon as possible but never sooner than they are ready from our point of view.”

Klopp said the injuries to Alexander-Arnold and Szoboszlai were “serious”, with only the latter having a chance of making the cup final a week on Sunday.

In addition to Salah’s return, Klopp has Ibrahima Konate back from suspension, Joe Gomez is fit again and Conor Bradley has returned from compassionate leave following the death of his father.

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