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Mohamed Salah started the 2018-19 Premier League campaign as he intends to carry on, scoring the opener in Liverpool’s 4-0 win over West Ham United at Anfield on Sunday as the Reds moved level at the top of the Premier League.
Last season’s Golden Boot winner poked into an open net after 19 minutes, and Sadio Mane scored either side of half-time to drive the Merseysiders into a 3-0 lead. Daniel Sturridge came off the bech and scored with his first touch of the ball to add a fourth in the 88th minute.
Summer signings Alisson Becker and Naby Keita each made their Premier League debuts as part of Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI, while fellow newcomer Xherdan Shaqiri featured off the bench.
Salah and Mane Will Be Biggest Rivals in Golden Boot Race
One season back in the Premier League was enough for Salah to take the top scorer award last term, but Mane is already well on his way to giving his prolific team-mate a tighter run for his money in 2018-19.
Having previously flopped in a short stint with Chelsea, there were murmurs Salah was a one-season wonder and fluked his way to such success last term, but Sunday’s showing moved to allay any such suspicions:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Less than 20 minutes for Mo Salah to make his mark on the new Premier League season 👑 https://t.co/x0ZSMJybGl
Gary Lineker @GaryLineker
It’s taken @MoSalah nearly 20 minutes to score his first goal. Clearly a one season wonder.
And unfortunately for Manuel Pellegrini, the former Manchester City manager making his second arrival in the Premier League, Salah appears to have a particular penchant for harming West Ham, per Match of the Day:
Match of the Day @BBCMOTD
Mo Salah has been directly involved in five goals in his three Premier League meetings with West Ham for Liverpool (4 goals, 1 assist).
#LIVWHU live updates ⚽️👉 https://t.co/7UOBkFH8Uu
His positional skills were all too clear when left-back Andrew Robertson got a sight across goal and drilled low for the Egyptian to tap into an open net, with Hammers stopper Lukasz Fabianski drawn in by the delivery.
But Mane looks ready to take his efficacy in attack to new heights. Like Salah, he demonstrated a poacher’s awareness to evade the West Ham defence and convert James Milner’s cross for Liverpool’s second. Sportswriter Andrew Beasley highlighted the Senegalese star’s improving record in front of goal:
An impressive showing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup followed by a fast start in pre-season has Mane in flying form. However, fans may be wary of getting ahead of themselves at such an early juncture considering this is the third time Mane has scored on the opening day.
Mane finished last season with 20 goals to his name, divided equally between the Premier League and UEFA Champions League, although he’s already made up 20 percent of the former in 2018-19 and there’s still 37 games to play.
Salah’s mark of 32 was sufficient to beat Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane to the Golden Boot last term, but this season it may be that Klopp has two of his stars jostling for the individual accolade.
Naby Looks Like He’s Been at Liverpool for Years
As far as debut performances go, Klopp could hardly have hoped for Keita to sparkle as brightly as he did against the Hammers, whose midfield could not keep up with the pace set by the Guinea international.
Fanciful footwork and nuanced physicality were both prominent features of the box-to-box star’s play at RB Leipzig, and Liverpool writer Oliver Bond succinctly summarised Keita’s opening 45 minutes at Anfield:
He won’t be expected to make major contributions to the goal count at Liverpool—though he’ll certainly make his mark there, too—that’s what the likes of Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino are for. Instead, it’s the running of the show behind the scenes where Keita is at his most effective, per Leanne Prescott of Anfield Index:
Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are similarly industrious stars of the Liverpool midfield, but Keita slipped so seamlessly into the setup to provide a bridge between midfield and attack that he simply looks like he belongs.
Sky Sports commentator Jamie Redknapp made a similar analogy about the playmaker being seemingly so settled under Klopp already, though Bleacher Report’s Sam Pilger argued it was a tad exaggerated:
The Daily Mail‘s Dominic King agreed he already looks as though he belongs in Liverpool red, predicting just how essential he’ll become:
Keita boasts the qualities of a tough-tackling midfielder but has the malleability to push forward and help the attackers at Anfield, with West Ham the first Premier League victim of his obvious class.
Pellegrini Must Forget Anfield Anguish, Treat Bournemouth as New Debut
Any team opening their season away to this electric Liverpool team was bound to be in for a tough ride, and former Manchester City boss Pellegrini can consider this a dress rehearsal for the season to come.
Or at least he may as well considering he’s still getting to grips with the east London club. That’s not to say there weren’t lessons to learn on Merseyside on Sunday, however, as Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher highlighted:
Sportswriter David Preece provided proof of the high line that’s likely to bring unnecessary pressure to the West Ham defence moving forward unless Pellegrini corrects the obvious flaws swiftly:
West Ham finished Sunday’s match with only 35 percent of possession, per WhoScored.com, a disparity that’s likely to befall many foes travelling to Anfield this term. Bournemouth at home next Saturday is a much more realistic match in which to expect some points coming their way.
Getting this game out of their system is therefore paramount in the days to come, hopeful they can restore some much-needed confidence to a team that’s likely lacking it after Sunday’s result.
Pellegrini can also put some of the defeat down to poor luck, with the Chilean having not seen much fortune against the Merseysiders in particular:
The Cherries beat Cardiff City 2-0 in their opener on Saturday but will face a more star-studded side at the London Stadium, one that may look to give Andriy Yarmolenko his first Premier League start after joining from Borussia Dortmund.
The lessons are there to be learned, but in terms of the result itself, West Ham can afford to forget about their shambolic trip to Anfield in an attempt to ignite their campaign in earnest at home to Eddie Howe’s men.
Liverpool will look to add to their monstrous opening-day win when they travel to Crystal Palace next Monday, while West Ham are at home to Bournemouth on Saturday seeking their first goals and points of the new term.