Mohamed Salah’s goal in a 1-0 win over Brentford propelled Liverpool closer to the top four of the Premier League and took attention away from the booing of the national anthem at Anfield on coronation day.
The pregame replay of “God Save the King” was bitterly mocked by most fans, who have not forgiven the establishment for its attitude towards the city in the 1980s and, more recently, the management of the Hillsborough disaster and the brawl for justice.
But with the opening bars of ‘You Never Walk Alone’ airing the mood changed and Salah kicked off the celebrations with yet another vital goal in a career scoring Liverpool.
While his 13th-minute finish was less than classy, requiring two touches from four yards to bring home Virgil van Dijk’s header, it was significant to be his 100th at Anfield. He became the first Liverpool player to score in nine successive home games in all competitions.
The stats continue to rise as it was the third season in a row – and fourth in six – he had reached the 30 mark in a season and moved him level with Steven Gerrard for fifth on the club’s all-time goalscoring list with 186.
A sixth successive win also put Liverpool within one point of fourth-placed Manchester United and three behind third-placed Newcastle, sides who play the first of two games in hand against West Ham and Arsenal respectively on Sunday.
Manager Jurgen Klopp returned Cody Gakpo to the squad as one of four forwards named, but with captain Jordan Henderson not quite fit he was asked to play a role on the right of midfield, although what was more unusual is Was seeing Van Dijk booked as early as the fifth minute for going through Frank Onyeka’s back.
There was much talk of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s move from a new hybrid midfield position, but it was Fabinho, in his more traditional starting role, who set up the lead, with his chip from a crowded penalty area spotted Van Dijk to nod back to the far post where Salah pounced.
100 GOALS FOR SALAH AT ANFIELD! ✅🔴 pic.twitter.com/vMrrNW7ZzY
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) May 6, 2023
The Kop have long worshiped their king Kenny (Dalglish) – with a pre-match banner acknowledging that very fact – but Salah’s progression through the ranks of the club’s greats has long been assured, with his brilliance matched by an infallible constancy.
Not to be outdone, Alexander-Arnold’s brilliant lob picked up Darwin Nunez, but the Uruguayan’s finish could not match the quality of the pass.
The Liverpool right-back’s control of the ball wasn’t as clever in his own half, however, as he was caught in possession by Bryan Mbeumo, but Van Dijk returned to cover when Ivan Toney brought goalkeeper Alisson Becker close.
Toney then drilled a low free-kick just wide as Brentford showed they were unwilling to accept home dominance, with Mbeumo later disallowing a goal for offside after coming on past Van Dijk from the first pass by Toney.
The visitors started the second half in similar fashion but would have gone further had Gakpo been able to get his body capable of converting Diogo Jota’s cross which was punched through, instead the Dutchman only managed to deflect the ball away away from the door from three meters out.
But with Liverpool struggling to gain control of the game, conceding too many set pieces against a team so adept at dead ball situations, the Kop looked to amuse themselves with another take on ‘You can stick the coronation up your ass’. ‘ – first aired midweek – soon followed by ‘Kenny is our King’.
As Brentford continued to pose a growing threat as they pushed for an equaliser, Alexander-Arnold’s drive forced David Raya to make a fingertip save and Gakpo shot wide to relieve some of the tension.
The introduction of Henderson and James Milner in midfield, for Curtis Jones and Jota, suggested Klopp were happy to keep what they had at the end of their third game in a week and his caution was duly rewarded.