Goal of the Season? Sensational Salah keeps Liverpool in title hunt

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The Egyptian fired home an incredible long-range strike as Liverpool defeated Chelsea 2-0 in a crucial clash at Anfield

The noise was as pure as the hit. Guttural, you could call it. An explosion of joy, of delight, of did-that-really-just-happen-I-think-it-happened.

It happened.

Anfield was ablaze, the smoke from a single red flare appearing in the corner of the Main Stand. Down at the Kop End, there was delirium, red-shirted mayhem wherever you looked. Limbs everywhere.

And there, amid the chaos and the noise and the colour and the madness, stood a single Egyptian, his smile wider than the gap between his current club and his former one.

He’s done some remarkable things in a Liverpool shirt, Mohamed Salah, and he can add this to his collection. He could play until he’s 50, but he will never strike a football more sweetly.

The goal of the season? It’s certainly one we’ll be seeing for many years to come. Ferocious long-range shooting is not Salah’s stock-in-trade, but he chose a good time to show off his new-found skill here. The King was back on his throne today.

Liverpool had just taken the lead through Sadio Mane’s back post header when Salah collected one of those trademark Virgil van Dijk diagonals out on the right flank. He had Emerson Palmieri for company, but Jordan Henderson’s overlap created the space to come inside.

What followed was sensational.

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From an unhelpful angle, and with Jorginho closing him down, Salah let fly with a 25-yard strike of unerring brilliance. Think Robbie Fowler against Aston Villa, or one of Steven Gerrard’s many, many piledrivers. It was that good.

Kepa Arrizabalaga barely smelt it. It flew past the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, straight into his top right-hand corner. Salah’s 22nd of the season, and unquestionably his finest. A goal worthy of the occasion, a goal worthy of this fantastic Premier League title race.

This, we were told, would be Liverpool’s biggest hurdle, the one to test their title credentials like no other. Chelsea, Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante, Maurizio Sarri, the club’s official Twitter feed, they were lining up to take a shot at the Reds, to spoil their party, to break their hearts.

They couldn’t do it. Not this time, not to this team. This isn’t 2014, it’s 2019, and this Liverpool are a different beast. They’re back on top of the table tonight after this, their seventh successive victory. As the tension grows, Jurgen Klopp’s side are keeping their heads. They’re comfortable where they are, comfortable with who they are. They look like they believe.

They deserved this win, one built on patience and composure in the first half, aggression and quality in the second. Mane’s header, six minutes after half-time, set them off, Salah put the seal on things in the most outrageous of manners soon after. They all feel big at this time of year, but this one certainly did. Klopp’s fist pumps at the end are familiar now, but they had even more feeling today. “What we did to win this game was amazing,” he beamed afterwards. “It was a fantastic performance, an even better atmosphere and a very important result.”

Manchester City’s win at Crystal Palace earlier in the day had ramped up the pressure, but Liverpool showed they can handle it. They survived a burst from the brilliant Eden Hazard, rode their luck a tad at 2-0, but got everything they’d dreamed of. The final minutes, for once, were played out in relative comfort. No stoppage-time nerves this time.

There were big performances everywhere, from Alisson Becker in goal to Trent Alexander-Arnold, the home-grown hero at right-back. Henderson, leading by example, set up a goal and ran himself into the ground, Andy Robertson too. Naby Keita and Fabinho looked like £90million worth of midfielders and more. Mane and Roberto Firmino bristled with menace, a threat from first whistle to last.

Salah, though, is the abiding memory of this afternoon. We’ve seen the ugly side of football this week, but here, on the big stage, for the world to see, was its beauty.

How Anfield loved it.

Four to go. They’re going nowhere.

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