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The star, the moments & Salah prediction – Last word on Norwich 0-3 Liverpool

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Liverpool got their season up and running in the perfect manner thanks to three goals and a clean sheet at Carrow Road, leaving fans with plenty to digest.

While outside expectations are strangely limited, the Reds laid down an early marker having not needed to click into a higher gear in their 3-0 win over Norwich.

It was the Mohamed Salah show on a memorable day that saw a full-capacity crowd in attendance and Virgil van Dijk make his first competitive appearance in more than 300 days.

It was a breath of fresh air for the game we all love and that wasn’t the same in the previous 18 months.

And with three points on the board early doors, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) is joined by Aaron Cutler (@aaron_cutler) and John O’Sullivan (@NotoriousJOS) to discuss who our standout player was from the opening day, the moments that defined the game and what we are expecting from our No. 11 this season.

 

The star…

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 14, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

AARON: I don’t think you can look beyond Salah for the standout performer. He’s certainly seen more of the ball, but every contribution proved a telling one yesterday.

Even his volley that flashed past the post acted as a warning shot to Norwich. After a bright start, it’s as if that moment of quality panicked them into retreat. The newcomers suddenly remembered the calibre of player they were up against.

A well-taken goal and two assists capped a fine performance. We could very well be watching Liverpool’s greatest player of the Premier League era, and he’s started as he means to go on.

JOHN: Hard not to agree with that, with two assists and a goal he was quite clearly the best player on the pitch.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 14, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (C) celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Salah has looked sharp throughout pre-season and he carried that into the season proper and broke a record by scoring in five consecutive opening days. Luckily, all of the other forwards — including Firmino, who scored off the bench — looked threatening.

JOANNA: I really want to be able to go against the grain here but I just can’t, Salah was dominant and did everything asked of him and more.

A selfless performance and the scary thing, not for us, is he looks more determined than ever to tear it up this season. Bring it on.

 

The moments…

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 14, 2021: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker makes a save during the FA Premier League match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

AARON: It’s easy to overlook your goalkeeper in a resounding 3-0 win but when Alison was called upon he showed why he, as much as anyone, has transformed this side into a team of winners.

His acrobatics to deny Ben Gibson from point-blank range were just brilliant. Long before then he’d denied Pukki with a smart save at his near post. The Brazilian just spreads confidence.

JOANNA: And then the ability to just palm the ball to Trent as though nothing just happened?! To borrow a term used for his teammate, calm as you like.

He could have been forgiven late in the piece after having a quiet afternoon but he was spot on and they’re the moments that add up to his world-class status.

JOHN: I’ll stick to the same end of the pitch for my favourite moment, which was the Jota goal. True, you could say that Salah’s assist was more of a heavy touch than an intentional helping hand, but the play beforehand was pure Liverpool.

Quick in transition, Milner switched the play to Alexander-Arnold whose low cross found Salah. The Egyptian bundled the ball into the path of Jota and the Portuguese — in his trademark no-frills style — swept home. It’s always nice to see a goal borne of training ground repetition.

AARON: There were few negatives on a terrific opening day. The only real heart in the mouth moment was when Kostas Tsimikas dwelt on the ball too long on the edge of his own box.

It was as if it suddenly dawned on the Greek he was playing Premier League football… at last! That was a rare blip in an otherwise encouraging display from the full-back.

JOANNA: I agree with Aaron here that it was a day of few negatives but the situation from Tsimikas, for me, saw a notable moment or two emerge.

He was making sloppy errors as fatigue hit but it was James Milner and Virgil van Dijk giving him a strong and encouraging word, and a bit of a slap, to keep him on his toes that I really liked. Leaders.

JOHN: Adding to that, overall, I felt Tsimikas was good and showed he’s an able deputy for Robertson but he had one or two moments reminiscent of an Alberto Moreno.

He seemed to tire as the game progressed and made some tired decisions, and as Joanna pointed out, one of which earned him a slap from Milner. Getting the game under his belt will do him the power of good, though, and he’ll benefit from it.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 14, 2021: Liverpool supporters during the FA Premier League match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOHN: Before we wrap it up, I think we really need to emphasize quite how good Virgil was, considering it was his first competitive game in almost a year.

His passing was superb, he marshalled those around him well and he looked to trust his body, which is huge after such a bad injury. He’s the best centre-half in the world and he will take Liverpool up another few levels from last season.

AARON: In the end though, the enduring image of the game though was the away end once Salah wrapped up the three points. It’s been too long since we’ve seen jubilant Reds basking in the brilliance of this team… a team that clinched a title a little over a year ago.

They and we are desperate to celebrate another properly.

JOANNA: Hear, hear.

 

And how many goals are we predicting for Salah this season?

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 14, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOHN: I think Salah could break 40 goals in all competitions this season.

I envision the team creating a lot of chances — with Alexander Arnold prominent and Thiago settled — this season and who better placed than Salah to take advantage? He’ll be very close to the Premier League golden boot if he doesn’t win it outright.

AARON: It will take a herculean effort but I too have no doubt Salah will be aiming to beat the 44 goals he notched in his first season at Liverpool.

That drive is what makes the Egyptian elite footballer he is; truly one of the best we’ve seen in a red shirt.

JOANNA: I’m in the same boat as John and Aaron here, I feel that there’s a perfect environment for Salah to rip teams apart this season and you cannot rule out a 40+ campaign.

I can see this being his second-highest season tally at worst, surpassing the 31 of 2020/21. He’ll just continue writing his name into legend, if it isn’t already.


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