Salah scores and amplifies the goal in the Champions League

Returning to the Premier League after the World Cup break, Liverpool cut the gap for Champions League qualification to five points after grabbing a 3-1 win against Aston Villa on Monday.

The Reds got off to a perfect start after five minutes when defender Trent Alexander-Arnold’s exquisite pass with the outside of his foot found Andy Robertson, who allowed striker Mohamed Salah to add the finishing touch. Defender Virgil van Dijk added a second goal after several Liverpool chances, with Salah coming on as a supplier to help build a two-goal lead before the break.

Manager Jurgen Klopp’s side were slow to start the second half and were punished after Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins headed off goalkeeper Alisson, while mistakes from Darwin Nunez and Salah gave Unai’s side hope Emery. That was until Stefan Bajcetic was introduced to Liverpool and the 18-year-old’s 81st-minute goal eased Liverpool’s nerves as they watched the rest of the game.

Liverpool remain sixth in the table after a disappointing start to the season, but with Monday’s victory they are just five points behind fourth-placed Tottenham and the Champions League qualifying zone.

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Good points

A solid attacking display from Liverpool created multiple chances and three points will be essential in the race for the top four.

negatives

Liverpool reduced their intensity in the second half which allowed Aston Villa to get back into the game. Klopp’s team could have allowed the hosts to restore parity another day.

Manager’s rating (out of 10)

Jürgen Klopp, 8 years old — Klopp adapted well to Aston Villa’s changes during the match to ensure the Reds never lost their grip, despite a difficult start to the second half. Klopp’s introduction of Bajcetic was decisive with the game making it 2-1 in the 79th minute, with the 18-year-old quickly re-establishing the two-goal lead.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Alisson, 7 — The Liverpool star in goal was as confident as ever in goal and made the expected saves.

DF Virgil van Dijk, 8 — Good performance by the Dutch central defender, called for various interventions. He scored Liverpool’s second goal to give his side a two-goal lead before the break.

DF Joel Matip, age 6 He lost track of Watkins for Aston Villa’s goal in an otherwise good performance by Matip. Again impressed with his cast from behind.

FD Andy Robertson, age 8 The Scotland captain made use of his space on the left wing to set up an excellent opening for Nunez. Then he got his assist by cutting the ball to Salah. He also defended very well throughout the game.

DF Trento Alexander-Arnold, 8 — Alexander-Arnold showed all his playmaking skills at right-back on the night, with his pass to Robertson before Liverpool’s first goal straight from the top drawer.

MF Fabinho, 7 — He continued his strong midweek performance against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup with another aggressive display from the number 6 position. He finished with a long shot in the second half.

MF Thiago, 6 — He kept things simple for most of the game but didn’t seem to adjust after Aston Villa showed more intensity in the second half. Replaced in the 66th minute by Naby Keita.

MF Jordan Henderson, 7 — A confident performance from the Liverpool captain, who showed his passing range throughout the night, regularly putting the ball in the right channels for his attacking players.

FW Darwin Nunez, 6 — The Uruguayan international found himself in danger zones as usual, but was once again let down by his finish, with multiple chances in the game to go on the scoresheet. He played an important part in Liverpool’s third goal after crossing the area before Bajcetic’s goal.

Forward Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 6 — He took up promising positions in the interior to give Robertson acres of left flank space. He worked hard to keep the press going.

AT Mohamed Salah, 8 — Salah quickly returned to scoring style when he finished off Robertson’s backhand after five minutes. Then he became a supplier to assist Van Dijk.

Substitutes

Naby Keïta (Thiago, 66″), 6 — Shot over the bar with a promising opportunity from outside the box.

Harvey Elliott (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 66″), 6 — He passed the ball well in tight spaces to help build up Liverpool’s attacks and streamline things. Connected well with Robertson.

Joe Gomez (Alexander-Arnold, 79″), N/R — x

Stefan Bajcetic (Henderson, 79″), N/R — It only took two minutes to go on the scoresheet with a nice finish from inside the box. His first senior goal for Liverpool.

Ben Doak (Nunez, 87″), N/R — Premier League debut for Ben Doak.

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