Salah scores landmark goal as Liverpool beat Brentford after boos for anthem
Mohamed Salah’s goal in a 1-0 win over Brentford propelled Liverpool closer to the Premier League top four and deflected attention away from the booing of the national anthem at Anfield on coronation day.
The pre-match playing of ‘God Save the King’ was roundly jeered by the majority of fans, who have not forgiven the establishment for its attitude to the city in the 1980s and, more recently, the handling of the Hillsborough disaster and the fight for justice.
But with the airing of the first bars of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ the atmosphere flipped and Salah kicked off the celebrations with yet another milestone goal in a career of Liverpool landmarks.
While his 13th-minute finish was far from his classiest, requiring two touches from four yards to bundle home Virgil van Dijk’s header, it was significant for being his 100th at Anfield. He became the first Liverpool player to score in nine successive home matches in all competitions.
The statistics continue to rack up as it was the third successive season – and fourth in six – he had reached 30 in a campaign and it took him level with Steven Gerrard in fifth place on the club’s all-time goalscoring list with 186.
A sixth successive win also moved Liverpool within a point of fourth-placed Manchester United and three away from Newcastle in third, teams who play the first of their two matches in hand on Sunday against West Ham and Arsenal respectively.
Manager Jurgen Klopp restored Cody Gakpo to the team as one of four forwards named but with captain Jordan Henderson not fully fit he was asked to perform a role on the right of midfield, although what was more unusual was seeing Van Dijk booked as early as the fifth minute for going through the back of Frank Onyeka.
Much has been made of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s passing from a new hybrid midfield position but it was Fabinho, in his more traditional holding role, who set up the opener, with his chip over a crowded penalty area picking out Van Dijk to nod back to the far post where Salah pounced.
For a long time the Kop has worshipped its own King Kenny (Dalglish) – with a pre-match banner recognising that very fact – but Salah’s progression into the ranks of club greats has long been assured, with his brilliance matched by unerring consistency.
Not to be outdone Alexander-Arnold’s brilliant lob picked out Darwin Nunez but the Uruguayan’s finish could not match the quality of the pass.
The Liverpool right-back’s control of the ball was not so clever deep inside his own half, however, as he was caught in possession by Bryan Mbeumo, but Van Dijk got back to cover as Ivan Toney closed in on goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
Toney then drilled a low free-kick just wide as Brentford showed they were not prepared to accept their hosts’ dominance, with Mbeumo then having a goal ruled out for offside after getting in behind Van Dijk from Toney’s first-time pass.
The visitors started the second half in similar fashion but would have gone further behind had Gakpo been able to get his body in a position to convert Diogo Jota’s cross which was drilled at him, instead the Dutchman could only divert the ball away from goal from three yards out.
But with Liverpool struggling to gain control of the game, conceding too many set-pieces against a side so proficient in dead-ball situations, the Kop sought to entertain themselves with another rendition of ‘You can stick your coronation up your a***’ – first aired in midweek – soon followed by ‘Kenny is our King’.
As Brentford continued to pose more of a growing threat as they pushed for an equaliser, Alexander-Arnold’s drive forced a fingertip save from David Raya and Gakpo volleyed wide to relieve some of the tension.
The introduction of Henderson and James Milner into midfield, for Curtis Jones and Jota, suggested Klopp was happy to hang onto what they had at the end of their third match in a week and his caution was duly rewarded.