The genius and brilliance of Mohamed Salah at Watford left Steven Scragg questioning what have our eyes just seen?
Liverpool’s fourth goal at Vicarage Road, Salah’s goal, was hypnotising; Liverpool’s fourth goal at Vicarage Road, Salah’s goal, was the perfect medicine to cure the woes of yet another international break.
From the very formulation of an idea in his minds-eye on how to escape three converging Watford players, all bets were off.
Using the most outrageous piece of skill, a simple enough sounding movement of his foot being rolled across the top of the ball, it was a moment that should not, realistically, have been the launchpad for what was to follow.
A blur of red flashed across the Watford penalty area, before it cut back, sitting the condemned Craig Cathcart on the turf, Salah then curled the ball into the inside of Ben Foster’s side netting. It was part football, part gold medal slalom attempt.
Take another look, at any image of the goal, be it rolling footage, or still a photograph, and observe it on repeat. By all means, take in everything that Salah does, but from the tenth viewing onward, check out the supporting actors.
There is a Zapruda effect to what surrounds Salah as he once again becomes the centre of the footballing universe. The wide-eyed awe and anticipation of what is unfolding is clear to see. These aren’t just fellow professionals that he is sharing the pitch with, they are admiring and dumbfounded observers just as much as those in the Vicarage Road stands and watching on television are.
They were privileged to bear such close witness to it, and even the heavily vanquished Watford players will, in time, find themselves glorious by association to it. Cathcart in particular will forever be able to dine out for free on the back of being the punchline to this piece of Salah genius.
In a game during which other players offered such massively significant contributions, for Salah to draw virtually all the light was remarkable. He is currently in that ethereal place, where his facial expressions are set as if he is being guided by a higher force. Either that or by a teenager with an Xbox controller. Opposing managers should be very worried.
Sadio Mane scored his 100th Premier League goal, aided by a magnificent assist from Salah of course, while the rebirth of Bobby Firmino continued apace with a glorious penalty box poacher’s hat-trick. His impish opportunism and outer child exuberance of celebration should be the definitive images of this game.
Not one player put in a below-par performance, yet despite the actions of a beautifully balanced and cohesive midfield unit, in spite of the pre-match concerns of the absences of Alisson, Fabinho, Thiago and Curtis Jones, on a day when James Milner again reversed the ageing process in a way that Laboratoires Garnier would be proud to call their own, before bottling and selling for £80 a pop, these were contributions that became criminally invisible to a degree because of what Salah was conjuring up.
It was the same in defence too. Measured, disciplined and masterful performances went unacknowledged, as did Caoimhin Kelleher’s excellent save, largely because of the afterglow of Salah’s sorcery. Neco Williams even entered the fray from where he provided the assist for Firmino’s hat-trick clinching goal.
It was a day when if something could go right, it did. Everyone came out of this game at least 3ft taller than they were at kick-off.
There were potential theoretical dangers going into this one, as is always the case when facing opponents who have just changed their manager. Claudio Ranieri is difficult to dislike. A genuine football enthusiast, a habitual runner up who went and pulled off the impossible with Leicester City.
International breaks are badly in need of restructuring. The current template was not designed with fixtures being stretched out in the way they now are. They would be played on the Saturday and the Wednesday, not across an eight-day span.
International football needs its own season. A month a season set aside in which to play half of your qualifiers rather than four protrusions into the club campaign. Disaffected viewers might be more responsive to it that way.
BT Sport employees bristle whenever a manager takes a pop at them and their 12.30 kickoffs, particularly when situated after exhaustive midweek sojourns around the globe for international breaks or Champions League duties. They’d have a quieter life if they bought back into the 5.30 kickoffs instead, the next time that the TV rights auctions kick in.
A week of endurance now stretches ahead of Liverpool with trips to face Atletico Madrid and Manchester United on the to-do list, in the
Two opponents that are struggling to match their own expectations across the wider expanse of the season but both of whom will be eager to make these games as difficult as possible in isolation, particularly the latter.
As for Old Trafford, Sunday offers us the chance to set the scene for the winter. Go there and play to our full capabilities and we will blow them away, yet head there with any sort of hesitation and the locals will aim to be revolting.
As Jurgen said on Saturday, every week is a big week for Liverpool.
Yet, we must be honest and accept that some weeks are bigger than others.
Up the Reds.