Football Features

Mohamed Salah scores again as Liverpool’s “different vibe” sends them top of the Premier League

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:14, 21 October 2023

Mohamed Salah was once again the hero for Liverpool at Anfield as they edged past Everton in a controversial Merseyside Derby.

The 281st league meeting between these two sides, for a while it looked as though we would be heading for a 70th draw — with Everton vs Liverpool the most-drawn game in English Football League history. It would have been testament to Everton’s resolve too.

Just over five minutes before half time, Ashley Young was sent off for his second yellow card, the 23rd red card in Premier League Merseyside Derbies, again more than any other fixture. It really should have been 24, as Ibrahima Konate was let off for a second yellow card midway through the second half. Moments later he was taken off, with Jurgen Klopp not wanting to risk a red.

Speaking on BBC 5 Live’s coverage of the game, former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock called it a “stinker of a decision”.

Another decision went against Everton a few minutes later when Liverpool were awarded a penalty, but this one was much less controversial. Although it wasn’t initially given, Michael Keane’s hand was clearly away from his body and held out for a short time, which gave the VAR an easy decision to recommend an overturn.

Salah stepped up to take the spot-kick and beat Jordan Pickford with the sheer power of his strike. The Egyptian has now scored or assisted in each of his last 13 league games at Anfield, the third-best run in Premier League history.

Standing ahead of Salah are Thierry Henry, who was directly involved in a goal in 17 consecutive home Premier League games, and Alan Shearer who scored or assisted in 17 and 18 consecutive home league matches. The upcoming fixtures for Liverpool at Anfield are Nottingham Forest, Brentford, Fulham, Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle, so there’s every chance Salah could go close to equalling, or beating, the record.

Salah then made it 2-0 deep into injury time to cap off a swift counter attack, thanks to fine work from Darwin Nunez. It was Salah’s 15th goal in his past 13 games at Anfield to go with three assists. Salah has also scored seven goals against Everton in the Premier League, with only Steven Gerrard (nine) netting more in Merseyside Derbies for Liverpool.

“Great players do. This season, or towards end of last season, he missed a couple of penalties, but to step up and deliver is something we need. We hope we can build on this now,” Virgil van Dijk said of Salah after the game.

“Consistency is the most difficult thing in football, to do it each and every game is hard. [Vitaliy] Mykolenko did well but Salah stepped up. We’re very pleased and very pleased for him.”

The win temporarily puts Liverpool top of the Premier League table, above Tottenham and Arsenal on goal difference, continuing the Reds’ progression following a poor season in 2022/23 despite a fifth-placed finish. Speaking of the change from last season, Van Dijk admitted that Liverpool’s players felt drained towards the end of the campaign, but there is a different vibe and energy at the club now.

“There has been an transition of course, also in the way we play, different players with different qualities and trying to adapt. It’s working well,” he added.

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“Everyone is pushing each other and playing at a high level. That’s the key to success.

“Everyone last year, at the end of the season, was drained – I’ll be honest. It was such a disappointing season because we didn’t find consistency. We played one good game – against Manchester United here and then lost to Bournemouth in the next game. It was so frustrating.

“We had a short break in the summer and then we came back and everyone felt great. It went well and we sense a different vibe and energy in the club.

“Being top of the league means nothing yet. It is game by game by game. We have to enjoy the moment, playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world.”