LONDON (AP) — The goal drought that symbolized Liverpool’s ailing title defense is over for Mohamed Salah.
After six games without a Premier League goal, Salah showed his vision and touch in netting twice in a 3-1 victory over West Ham on Sunday.
It’s now 21 goals for the Egyptian — the fourth consecutive season he’s surpassed 20 goals.
After a demoralizing slump for the team and the star striker, back-to-back 3-1 wins have been reeled off inside 70 hours after Thursday’s triumph at Tottenham.
Now Jürgen Klopp’s side is up to third, four points behind Manchester City, ahead of hosting the leaders next Sunday after midweek games.
“This year, City were struggling in the beginning and now we were struggling three or four games ago,” Salah said. “You just need to keep winning if you want to really win the Premier League.”
This wasn’t the type of swaggering performance that produced a 7-2 thrashing of Crystal Palace when Salah last found the net in the league. But the strength of the second-half performance when grappling with a shortage of center backs — and without forward Sadio Mane — shows why it was misguided to prematurely rule Liverpool out of the title race.
It was the arrival of Curtis Jones from the bench in the 57th minute — a substitution that visually perplexed James Milner — that provided the impetus to break the deadlock.
After only 34 seconds in the game, the 20-year-old midfielder’s pass set up Salah to curl past goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
“In the last few weeks he probably would have tried to shoot through the legs or whatever,” Klopp said. “But this was really keeping the overview and chipping the ball into the far corner. Top class.”
Milner, who had seemed to question Klopp’s substitution, seemingly apologized to his manager.
The burden was lifted and Liverpool was liberated. That was clear in the breathless counterattack leading to the second in the 68th minute.
From a West Ham corner, Trent Alexander-Arnold cleared with a long ball switching flanks to Xherdan Shaqiri, who crossed high over the top of the defense into the penalty area. There, the unmarked Salah brought the ball down with one touch before slicking clipping a shot into the net.
It took just seven touches from the breakaway to scoring.
“I just keep practicing in training for my right foot and left foot,” Salah said. “But it was a good ball from Shaq. I have to give him credit as well for the lovely ball from him. I just kept the first touch and the second was the finish.”
Liverpool could relax, especially after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Roberto Firmino combined to set up Gini Wijnaldum for the third in the 84th.
On a day when West Ham provided little attacking threat and slipped out of the top four, only Craig Dawson’s late header from a corner breached Liverpool’s goal.
“They were not happy not winning football games but they kept the right attitude,” Klopp said. “We have found a way to be uncomfortable again for other teams.”
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.