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Sports

AFP
August 13, 2018

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Salah on target as Liverpool start with easy win

LIVERPOOL, England: Mohamed Salah opened his account for the new campaign as Liverpool backed up pre-season hype they can challenge champions Manchester City for the Premier League title by sweeping aside West Ham 4-0 at Anfield.

Sadio Mane scored twice and Daniel Sturridge added a late fourth in an impressive display by Jurgen Klopp’s men as £65 million ($83 million) goalkeeper Alisson Becker kept a clean sheet on debut.

Midfielder Naby Keita and Alisson were the only debutants to start from a reported £170 million summer splurge in the transfer market as Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri had to make do with a place on the bench.

However, there was little tinkering for Klopp to do up front after Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino combined for 91 goals last season, and they again provided the firepower to outclass a sorry West Ham despite their own near £100 million outlay on nine new players.

Salah and Mane’s pain at international level was Liverpool’s gain as early exits at the World Cup with Egypt and Senegal meant they could join the club’s pre-season tour of the United States, unlike a host of Premier League stars who returned to training just last week after their exertions in Russia.

A revelation in his first season at Anfield with 44 goals in all competitions, Salah is now a marked man.Yet, he was given the simplest of tasks to tap home the opener into an empty net on 19 minutes from Andy Robertson’s pinpoint cross after he was freed down the left by the impressive Keita.

Salah should have had more as he was well picked out by a bursting run by Firmino only to place his shot too close to Lukasz Fabianski, who also made a brilliant save to turn Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick behind.

Fabianski was by far the busier ‘keeper with Alisson making just one comfortable save and impressing far more with his feet to launch a series of Liverpool attacks.

The hosts finally doubled their lead to give the score the half-time reflection it deserved when another teasing Robertson cross was pulled across goal by James Milner and Mane left unmarked to side-foot home.

Mane produced a fine finish for his second eight minutes after the break following good work by Firmino, but had the linesman to thank just as much for the assist as he somehow wasn’t flagged offside before firing past Fabianski.

Sturridge inflicted the final blow two minutes from time with his first touch after replacing Salah.

Meanwhile former England first-choice goalkeeper Joe Hart kept his second successive clean sheet for Burnley in an entertaining scoreless draw with Southampton.

Hart, who made his Burnley debut in Thursday’s 0-0 draw against Istanbul Basaksehir in Europa League qualifying, made a couple of outstanding saves while former Clarets favourite Danny Ings made a similarly eye-catching debut for Southampton after his loan move from Liverpool.

Burnley had the best of the first half, firing on sight at Alex McCarthy in the Saints goal with the goalkeeper doing well to prevent the visitors going in ahead.

The pick of his saves was denying former England international Aaron Lennon from point-blank range, before he got down well to save Ireland international Jeff Hendrick’s header at the end of the first half.

McCarthy was beaten once but former Saints midfielder Jack Cork had his goal ruled out for a marginal offside call.

Hart had less to do in the first half but proved equal to Mario Lemina’s header, tipping it over the bar.

Burnley started the second half as they had finished it on the front foot and Icelandic international Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Stephen Ward both went close to breaking the deadlock.

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