Saturday 19 October 2019

Salah settles late nerves as Liverpool stumble over line

Liverpool 4 Salzburg 3

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino wins the ball ahead of Enock Mwepu of Salzburg. Photo: Getty Images
Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino wins the ball ahead of Enock Mwepu of Salzburg. Photo: Getty Images

Chris Bascombe

Of all the teams in Europe, you would expect Liverpool to know a game is never won at three-nil.

Jurgen Klopp's side demonstrated they are as adept at squandering such an advantage as overturn it, as Anfield delivered another Champions League feast for the senses.

Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Getty Images
Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Getty Images

This was almost at Liverpool's expense, Salzburg imitating the script from Klopp's recovery in last year's semi-final against Barcelona.

Fortunately, Mohamed Salah was in the kind of mood to stop the Austrians believing in miracles, striking the winner as Liverpool regained their earlier poise.

The Austrians were 3-0 down after 38 minutes, seemingly en route to embarrassment on Merseyside.

Twenty-two minutes later they were level, admirably benefiting from what can only be described as unusual arrogance from the European champions.

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool controls the ball. Photo: Getty Images
Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool controls the ball. Photo: Getty Images

Scattering

The proceedings would start with a scattering of Roberto Firmino backheels, an assortment of Sadio Mane give-and-goes and enough Andy Robertson sprints to make Dina Asher-Smith look on in envy.

Liverpool led after nine minutes, the Mane and Firmino combination a predictable source as the former Salzburg striker took advantage of the first of many perfectly-weighted passes from the Brazilian.

Goal two might have had Klopp weeping in contentment as the epitome of all his football represents, full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Robertson the furthest up the pitch to finish another exceptional move. That the Scottish left-back finished on the edge of the six-yard box - receiving the right back's cross - summed up the adventure.

When Salah added the third with an assist from goalkeeper Cican Stankovic, the Austrians must have sensed humiliation.

As Liverpool's dominance invited unnecessary sloppiness, Salzburg took advantage to reduce the deficit before half-time, Hee-Chan Hwang cleverly evading Virgil van Dijk's desperate last-gasp attempt to block.

The improbable looked likely when Dominik Szobosziai crossed for Takumi Minamino to volley Salzburg's second.

That was the cue for Erling Braut Haaland's introduction, the hat-trick hero of the last round and son of former Leeds star Alf-Inge.

And the comeback was complete when Haaland tapped in after an hour, Minamino the provider.

Salah restored the lead on 68 minutes. It was not going to stop the Austrians coming but Liverpool held on for a crucial win, more riveting than anyone could have imagined.

Who said the group stages are boring?

© Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph.co.uk

The Left Wing - RWC Daily: End of an era as Ireland say sayonara to World Cup

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport