Personal landmarks for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane as Liverpool intimidate their way to victory
Salah becomes third Liverpool to score 40 goals in a season, while Mane becomes top-scoring Senegalese in Premier League
They came to see history made at Anfield, and it was.
It was not because Sadio Mane became the top-scoring Senegalese ever in the Premier League, although it was a minor landmark in its own right. He may have displaced Demba Ba from the record books, but he was swiftly elbowed out of the spotlight.
It was because, when Trent Alexander-Arnold lofted a pass forward, Mohamed Salah looped a header over Asmir Begovic. Anfield got its now regulation Salah goal but this was a special one, the 40th of an astonishing campaign.
It places the Egyptian in select company. Only Roger Hunt and Ian Rush, scorers of a combined 632 goals for Liverpool, had ever previously reached 40 in a single season.
Neither of them did it while ostensibly operating as the right winger.
On a day when Salah was, predictably, shortlisted for the PFA Player of the Year award came dual indications of his brilliance. He has been irrepressible and irresistible and, at times, so have Liverpool. And yet, superb as Salah has been, they are no one-man team and not just because it briefly appeared he was enduring a rare barren outing.
Instead, fittingly, they ended with a goal from each of the front three. Roberto Firmino had been denied by a goal-line clearance from Nathan Ake. When he latched on to a second Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pass, there was a different outcome.
Before then, Mane had delivered his 17th goal of the campaign. Remarkably, he still only ranks third in the scoring stakes for Liverpool. They possess a triple-pronged threat, a trio of forwards with 82 goals between them.
It explains why they have 70 points. Six more will ensure an ambition is realised. If this felt a coda to victory over Manchester City, one of Liverpool’s achievements will be to finish in the top four while competing in the Uefa Champions League.
It is something they have not accomplished since 2009.
After the extraordinary events at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, this was something altogether more routine for the Champions League semi-finalists. They nonetheless extended the division’s only unbeaten home record and indicated how they intimidate opponents.
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Bournemouth reinforced their defence by switching to a back five. They still trailed within seven minutes and could have gone behind after three, Salah shooting wide, to some surprise.
If the theory was that their defence would be packed, the reality was altogether different and they duly left Mane unmarked to meet Jordan Henderson’s cross. Asmir Begovic repelled his header but Mane swept in the rebound.
Henderson brought incision form the base of the midfield. The captain can divide opinion but this was a reminder a workhorse can provide penetrative passing and crossing. He kept opening Bournemouth up.
There is a sense the holding midfielder has benefited from Virgil van Dijk’s arrival, the Dutchman’s commanding presence behind him allowing him to operate further up the field.
But Salah, who has been so prolific, seemed strangely profligate. One shot was angled at Begovic, another lofted over the bar. His touch betrayed him for once when Mane scooped a pass over the Bournemouth defence.
When the impressive Alexander-Arnold led a break at great speed, Salah’s eventual effort was tame and straight at Begovic. But when Alexander-Arnold crossed, Salah leapt to score the goal that took him to a stratospheric height.
Updated: April 14, 2018 10:42 PM