Misfiring Mohamed Salah is in need of a Liverpool reboot

Misfiring Mohamed Salah is in need of a reboot and his desperation for a goal in a slick Liverpool team is becoming more apparent… having not scoring from open play since February, he needs a scruffy one to go in

  • Liverpool beat Benfica in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final 
  • Mohamed Salah was handed a start in Portugal but again failed to find the net 
  • The superstar saw a shot saved, with his desperation for a goal now apparent
  • He needs a scruffy effort to bobble in with Manchester City around the corner  

Mohamed Salah scuttled to the tunnel, his right hand rubbing repeatedly on his head as if he was trying to physically clear his mind.

Liverpool had the course of this Champions League quarter-final firmly under control, so much so that Jurgen Klopp appeared to take on the pose of a contended school teacher for much of the opening 45 minutes, as he stood with his arms behind his back and nodded in appreciation.

Here was a Liverpool team in slick working order, with Thiago Alcantara hitting fades from midfield that would not be out of place at Augusta over the next few days, Luis Diaz going around bends as if he was on Skalectric track and Ibrahima Konate showing again what a good signing he has been.

Mohamed Salah endured another goalless game for Liverpool in their 3-1 victory at Benfica

There was, however, an exception. We have been so used to seeing Salah play football from another realm this season that when things dip, it becomes noticeable. It’s not that Egyptian was bad, by any means, but his desperation for a goal was increasingly apparent.

So when Trent Alexander-Arnold sent him galloping away on the stroke of half-time, you felt this would be the moment. The first touch got the situation under control, the next had him closing in on goal; the third, you anticipated, would be the one to finish things but that wasn’t the case.

Vlachodimos, Benfica’s goalkeeper, stood tall and Salah fired straight at him. You could see, immediately, that the 29-year-old was vexed because the head rubbing and grimacing started and Klopp sprang into life, imploring his star man to keep his spirits up.

A misfiring Salah saw a shot saved by Odisseas Vlachodimos, and he was later substituted off

Easier said than done. Salah, over the course of the past month, has been in one of those sequences where things haven’t happened as naturally as they were at the beginning of the campaign, when he was turning defenders inside out and moving past them as if he was controlled by a joystick.

Strange as it may seem, Salah has not scored a goal in open play since February 19 against Norwich – the three that have followed since, against Leeds (two) and Brighton, all came from the penalty spot, the last at the Amex Stadium being on March 12.

This is not, by any means, the worst sequence Salah has had to weather at Anfield. In the 2018-19 campaign, he went from February 19 to April 5 without scoring – eight games – but once the drought ended, with a mesmerising dribble at Southampton, another seven followed.

Klopp had toyed with the idea of not starting Salah in Lisbon, saying on Tuesday that he was aware of the emotional and physical energy he had expended during the recent international break and it was impossible for any of his squad to play every single minute of every single game.

Jurgen Klopp considered not starting the superstar, who last scored in open play in February

When Salah’s name featured on the team sheet, it was inevitable that he would come off at some point and so it proved on the hour when Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino were summoned to replace him and Mane.

He took Klopp’s decision in his stride, getting a compassionate handshake from his manager as he made his way to the bench but there was definitely a look of “what if?” on his face; at that point, Benfica were back in the contest, having scored just after the break.

Had Salah converted his moment, the game – and, most likely, the tie – would have been over. It’s why the exasperation at missing such a key opening was gnawing away, as he wondered why the goals are not flowing as freely as they once were.

All he needs, you suspect, is a scruffy one to bobble in somewhere soon. The Etihad Stadium on Sunday wouldn’t be a bad place to change the narrative.

All Salah needs is a scruffy effort to bobble in, and Manchester City are now firmly in his sights


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