Mohamed Salah says his new goal celebration which has become instantly iconic – arms wide, deadpan stare – was a spur-of-the-moment reaction to his crucial goal in the first leg of Liverpool‘s Champions League quarterfinal against Manchester City.
“It happened spontaneously against Manchester City. It wasn’t prepared,” the 25-year-old said in an exclusive interview with Egyptian network ON Ent.
“Maybe the goal was very good for me, that’s why I ran to the fans and I celebrated in that way.
“Afterwards, I found it a good way and everyone liked it. I said OK, it is better than sliding on my knees.
“Everyone criticises sliding on knees anyway.”
Needing a win to guarantee their top-four spot, Liverpool delivered in style, beating Brighton 4-0 on the final day of the season.
Mohamed Salah scored the goal he needed to break the record for most goals in a 38-game Premier League season, while Dominic Solanke, Dejan Lovren and Andrew Robertson also got onto the scoresheet to secure fourth place – and an unbeaten home league season for the Reds.
Here’s a look at the talking points from the game.
KLOPP SHOWS FLEXIBILITY WITH 4-4-2
With top-four qualification not guaranteed going into this game, Jurgen Klopp couldn’t afford to rest too many players, even with the Champions League final in mind. Yet by switching to 4-4-2 he was at least able to take one of his frontline midfielders out of the firing line.
His players adapted well – most notably Roberto Firmino, who played the support striker role with aplomb. Solanke’s performance as the lead striker was also encouraging. He linked up well with the rest of Liverpool’s attack, especially with Salah, with both assisting each other for a goal.
It gives Liverpool a new combination to throw at Real Madrid in the final. If they’re chasing a goal, Klopp can sacrifice one of his midfielders and know that his players will still be playing to a set plan.
The switch also debunked the myth that Klopp doesn’t have a Plan B. He may not be able to set up a side for a 0-0 draw, but his tactical flexibility is underrated – not too dissimilar to Zinedine Zidane.
FIRMINO SHINES IN NEW ROLE
Salah has taken the headlines but Roberto Firmino has often been cited as the player who makes Klopp’s system work, with the way he leads the Liverpool press. But he’s still underrated – for example, he’s not a lock to make Brazil’s World Cup squad, and even if he does he almost certainly won’t start.
And those who cite the numbers – 26 goals and 14 assists in 51 appearances for Liverpool across all competitions this season – see a player who’s good but not quite great. He doesn’t normally show up in a list of the top strikers in the world.
But he should. On Sunday, he showed that it’s not just harassing defenders and scoring no-look goals that he’s good at – Firmino played the role of support striker to perfection. He came deep to get possession, found the rest of his attacking teammates in dangerous positions, and essentially played as a bona fide No 10 and thrived in the role.
He won’t have to do it often, but Firmino showed there’s a lot more to his game.
SOLANKE GRABS HIS CHANCE
It took 26 appearances, but Solanke finally broke his Liverpool duck. The signing of the Chelsea academy product last summer was not one that sent pulses racing, but Klopp had always looked at the 20-year-old as a player to develop – and with an attacking trio that was thriving, he got to ease the Englishman into the first team.
Still, 25 appearances without a goal is never good for a striker’s confidence, no matter how many enthusiastic pep talks he gets from his manager. Yet the way he took his goal showed no lack of self-belief – it was a smashing finish in just about the only place he could have put the ball.
The goal was the icing on the cake in an excellent display from Solanke. His partnership with Salah was impressive, especially considering the two haven’t had too much game-time together before Sunday. And he was a thorn in the side of the Brighton defence throughout. This was a performance that should serve the youngster in good stead going into next season.
Jurgen Klopp‘s side needed only a point to retain their Champions League status for next season but with Chelsea losing at Newcastle, Dejan Lovren’s powerful header and first goals for the club by Dominic Solanke and Andy Robertson added more gloss to the result.
Brighton set up to frustrate but with their Premier League future safe there was little but pride to play for. They could easily have conceded five in the first half as they were fortunate not to have at least two penalties given against them.
It began to go wrong as early as the eighth minute when Shane Duffy, whose miserable afternoon was ended by injury in the second half, mis-hit a back-pass to present Solanke with a chance but although he nutmegged Mat Ryan he allowed the goalkeeper to recover.
When Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross hit Duffy’s arm referee Kevin Friend could easily have pointed to the spot – as he could after the defender’s 18th-minute lunge on Salah – but seemed in no mood to make things easier for the hosts.
Sadio Mane should have scored in a one-on-one with Ryan but shot straight at the goalkeeper with Roberto Firmino alongside him.
A great campaign at Anfield. 👊
Thank you as always for your exceptional support. 👏 pic.twitter.com/s8Z1RS27N8
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 13, 2018
Salah eventually took matters into his own hands for his history-making moment as Solanke, who did a good job in tight spaces all afternoon, squeezed the ball through to his team-mate with the outside of his boot and the Egyptian swept home left-footed.
Only Manchester United and Swansea have prevented Salah scoring this season.
Mane’s dodgy decision-making continued when next time he was clean through he opted to square to Salah, who led Tottenham’s Harry Kane by three goals in the race for the Golden Boot heading into the game, and his shot was smothered by Ryan with Duffy clearing the rebound off the line.
Firmino, twice, and Georginio Wijnaldum also had chances to score before the unmarked Lovren charged in at the far post just before half-time to power home Robertson’s cross, with his arms-outstretched celebration mimicking that of Salah.
Brighton looked incapable of fighting back and after Firmino’s low shot was saved by Ryan early in the second half the hosts scored a trademark counter-attack goal.
Jordan Henderson’s quick ball out to the touchline was kept in by Firmino, who slipped it inside to Salah and there was only ever likely to be one outcome.
The Egyptian moved through the gears, leaving Brighton players in his wake, before sliding a pass for Solanke to rifle a shot into the roof of the net and end a 617-minute wait for his goal since arriving from Chelsea in the summer.
In teeing him up Salah became the first Liverpool player since Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard to register both 10 Premier League goals and 10 assists in a single season.
He should have had another assist only for Firmino to shoot at Ryan but the day of firsts was not over as Robertson drilled home after substitute Danny Ings’ cross rebounded to him.
Next stop Kiev for the Champions League final against Real Madrid, who will provide a much tougher examination.