Sports Monks

Mohamed Salah’s two goals at Crystal Palace Mohamed

Salah scored for the first time in seven Premier League games with a brilliant double at West Ham United to help Liverpool move up to third in the table.

A trademark quick shift and curling finish from the Egypt striker was reward for a bright start to the second half from the Reds after Jurgen Klopp’s side had failed to add a cutting edge to their first-half possession.

Salah capped a scintillating Liverpool counter-attack to double his side’s lead 11 minutes later, instantly controlling Xherdan Shaqiri’s looping pass over the top before prodding past Lukasz Fabianski.

Without the injured Sadio Mane and with Roberto Firmino among the substitutes, the onus was on Salah to end his mini drought and he delivered in style.

Firmino came off the bench to set up Georginio Wijnaldum for a slick Liverpool third before Craig Dawson steered home a corner to hand West Ham a consolation.

Liverpool’s second win in London in four days cut the gap to leaders Manchester City – who have a game in hand – to four points, and the two sides meet at Anfield on Sunday.

Klopp’s decisions pay off

Eyebrows were raised at the exclusion of Firmino from Liverpool’s starting line-up given Senegal forward Mane was missing with a minor muscle injury.

A toothless first-half display, in which Liverpool’s only effort on target was a 20-yard Salah strike straight at Fabianki, suggested the reigning champions were suffering from the absence of two of their famed front three – as well as the injured Diogo Jota.

But Klopp’s introduction of Curtis Jones from the bench early in the second half proved a game-changer as the young playmaker neatly played in Salah for the opener.

His surging run through the centre of the pitch put West Ham on the back foot and, after exchanging passes with Trent Alexander-Arnold, he found Salah, who made space for himself against Aaron Cresswell before curling the ball past Fabianski.

Liverpool’s second goal was even easier on the eye, Shaqiri receiving a cross-field diagonal ball from Alexander-Arnold before picking out Salah with a first-time pass as the visitors broke from a Hammers corner with devastating effect.

Their third was every bit as impressive, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s backheeled one-two with Firmino set the Brazilian free and the substitute squared for Wijnaldum to coolly fire home.

The goals, on the back of three at Tottenham on Thursday, suggest Liverpool have found their attacking verve again after going four games without scoring – just in time to breathe life into their faltering title defence.

The stylish Thiago Alcantara looks increasingly at home in midfield and was part of a Liverpool diamond that controlled the game throughout while the inexperienced Nathaniel Phillips and midfielder Jordan Henderson – excelling at centre-back every bit as much as Fabinho has done this season – were solid at the heart of the defence.

Liverpool’s weakened squad will face a significant examination against in-form City on Sunday, but the victories over Tottenham and West Ham mean Klopp’s side will begin that game – and Brighton on Wednesday before it – in notably better spirits.

They look set to be bolstered by the arrival of Preston North End’s Ben Davies, who is likely to sign on Monday for £2m and add depth to a defence missing Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Fabinho.

Title race thinning out?

Four weeks ago, only seven points separated the top 10 in what was building up to be one of the most congested title races ever but, after eight consecutive wins, leaders City now hold a nine-point advantage and a game in hand over fifth-placed West Ham.

With Manchester United and Leicester dropping points twice this week, Liverpool’s back-to-back victories in London suggest they could emerge as City’s likeliest challengers despite their injury problems.

West Ham briefly climbed into the Champions League places with Tuesday’s win over Crystal Palace but this emphatic defeat is likely to give pause to any Hammers fans dreaming of a top-four push.

David Moyes’ side came into the game on the back of six straight wins in all competitions but never looked like they truly believed they could extend that run against the reigning champions.

Michail Antonio pounced on a James Milner slip to curl their best opening just wide moments before Salah broke the deadlock – but in truth they were second best throughout.

This was an off-day for Moyes’ side compared to their recent performances but their form overall this season will give them hope they can have realistic hopes of qualifying for Europe for the first time this century.

Dawson’s consolation was a small reward for the hosts for not giving up but they are now winless in their past 10 games against Liverpool.

The Hammers will certainly be glad to see the back of Salah for a while, the forward having scored in seven of his last eight meetings against them, including Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Anfield in October.

‘Three unbelievable goals’ – what they said

West Ham boss David Moyes told BBC Sport: “It was tight. We found it hard against Liverpool. We were better in the first half but didn’t show enough composure at times against a really good side.

“We have been in good form. We came into the game with a lot of confidence. This is the difference, at this level it shows. We’re trying to catch a few teams up, not Liverpool, that’s for sure.

“The players have been excellent. Even today, it’s a lesson for them – the levels we have to get to. We didn’t do the things we usually do well today.”

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: “We didn’t create enough in the first half. We made little adjustments at half-time and it paid off. We scored three unbelievable goals.

“These boys are a really good group. They’re not happy at not being successful, not winning, but they always have the right attitude.

“We slept one night at home [after Tottenham] and then we came to London. That’s two great results.”

Capital gains for Reds – the stats

  • Liverpool have won more Premier League matches against West Ham than they have against any other side in the competition (31), while only against Arsenal (32) have the Hammers lost more Premier League games than they have against Liverpool (31).
  • Liverpool (W4 D1) became only the second team to go unbeaten in their five Premier League away games at London Stadium, following Manchester City (W4 D1).
  • Liverpool have lost just one of their past 16 Premier League games in London (W11 D4), winning their past three fixtures in the capital and scoring 13 goals across those wins.
  • West Ham manager David Moyes is winless in his last 14 Premier League matches against Liverpool (D4 L10), losing each of the last five in a row (all with West Ham).
  • Mohamed Salah became the first player to score 20+ goals in all competitions in four consecutive seasons for Liverpool since Ian Rush did so six times running from 1981-82 to 1986-87.
  • Salah has scored nine Premier League goals against West Ham, his best return against a side in the competition.

What’s next?

West Ham visit Aston Villa in the Premier League on Wednesday (20:15 GMT) before a London derby at Fulham on Saturday (17:30 GMT). Liverpool host Brighton on Wednesday (20:15 GMT) before welcoming league leaders Manchester City to Anfield on Sunday (16:30 GMT).

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