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Just one more to go. Mohamed Salah only needs one goal to join the ranks of the fifth Liverpool player to score 200 goals. The Egyptian confidently scored a penalty to reach 199 goals while leading Liverpool as captain at Anfield for the first time.
Jurgen Klopp decided to postpone a different type of commemoration by substituting Salah with 35 minutes left in the game, despite having the chance to reach a milestone against an inferior LASK team. This may only delay the inevitable. With a total of 13 goals this season, seven of which were scored in his last five games at Anfield, Salah has the opportunity to join a distinguished group consisting of Ian Rush, Roger Hunt, Gordon Hodgson, and Billy Liddell if he performs well in Sunday’s match against Fulham.
Salah’s accomplishments include advancing from a Europa League group, though this may not be considered a major achievement. However, their win against LASK guarantees that Merseyside will have a team participating in European football until 2024. This is due to Toulouse being tied by Union Saint-Gilloise, which allowed Liverpool to win the group and avoid a play-off match against a team that did not advance from the Champions League. This also means that their upcoming game in Brussels will have no impact on their standing. As this game takes place only three days before their match against Manchester United, manager Klopp may choose to rest some key players.
The loss in Toulouse did not have any negative consequences. It was clear that this outcome was inevitable after fifteen minutes, with Salah securing the win with a penalty kick in the second half. The overall experience was expected, as Liverpool maintained their perfect record of ten home wins this season.
However, there was a new element to the familiar pattern. In the Klopp era, many victories have seen all three of his forwards scoring. Although this is not the typical Liverpool front three due to Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino currently playing in Saudi Arabia, a different group of players scored together. They also worked together seamlessly for the second goal, with Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah assisting Cody Gakpo. While Liverpool’s attackers have been consistently prolific, Diaz and Gakpo were overshadowed by the other three players in terms of goals scored. Diaz recorded his fifth goal of the season, while Gakpo’s two goals brought his tally up to six, with both goals being exceptional.
Diaz headed in a cross from Joe Gomez for the first goal. He had also scored in the previous game against LASK, and his unmarked position made it seem too easy. The attacking trio then combined, with Diaz passing to Salah who crossed the ball perfectly for Gakpo to tap in. Later, Gakpo returned the favor by setting up Salah’s goal. However, Gakpo’s run into the box was cut short when he was fouled by goalkeeper Tobias Lawal. Despite not diving, Lawal could not stop Salah’s powerful penalty. Though he was eventually substituted, it’s worth noting that Salah’s determination to play is a testament to his hunger for success. While Europa League matches may provide opportunities to rest key players who are more accustomed to playing in Champions League finals, Salah is always present either as a starter or a substitute.
Liverpool’s speed and agility proved to be too challenging for LASK, and they came close to scoring a fourth goal before the end of the game. Substitute Trent Alexander-Arnold made a precise pass to Gakpo, who then scored a powerful shot. Gakpo had previously hit the post, making this almost his first hat-trick for Liverpool. Kostas Tsimikas also had a strong shot that hit the crossbar but unfortunately was unable to score due to the upright.
There were many other chances available. Gakpo missed a shot wide. Diaz sent a ball high after being set up by Gomez, who had passed it over the opposing team’s defense. Gomez, who could move up from his position as right-back, attempted to score his first career goal but his shot narrowly missed. Lawal, who had been busy, stopped attempts from Harvey Elliott and substitute Darwin Nunez.
Liverpool allowed enough space for LASK to potentially create more opportunities, if they had better accuracy in their passes and a clearer understanding of the offside rule. However, Marin Ljubicic missed a shot and Ibrahim Mustapha’s attempt was stopped by Caoimhin Kelleher. Kelleher, who was filling in for the injured Alisson, made three impressive saves towards the end of the game. Keeping him busy may benefit him in the long run.
LASK’s enthusiastic fans, who twirled their scarves and sang loudly, had no goals to celebrate but still enjoyed the evening. Liverpool’s three recent home games have served as a reminder that for clubs that don’t often make it to the Champions League and are not used to playing at Anfield, these matches hold extra significance. However, for Salah, the real special occasion may come on Sunday if he reaches the 200 club.