Stoke-on-Trent (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Substitute Mohamed Salah struck twice as Liverpool brushed off a first-half scare to win 3-0 at Stoke City on Wednesday and climb to fifth place in the Premier League.
The Egyptian forward grabbed his 16th and 17th goals in 21 games in all competitions this season in a deadly six-minute spell in the second half, 10 minutes after replacing Dominic Solanke.
But prior to Salah’s two-goal blast, which took his tally to 12 in the Premier League, Liverpool, who went ahead through Sadio Mane in the 17th minute, had ridden their luck.
Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was fortunate to stay on the field after clearly bringing down Mame Biram Diouf, who was clean through on goal after edging ahead of Joel Matip.
Diouf went sprawling, but referee Martin Atkinson chose only to brandish a yellow card to the Reds’ stand-in skipper.
The game got off to a slow start before exploding to life in the 17th minute.
Stoke fans complained Liverpool right-back Joe Gomez had allowed the ball to run out of play before crossing to Solanke, whose pass allowed Mane to dink his fifth goal of the club season over Lee Grant.
But replays suggested all of the ball had not crossed the line before Gomez crossed.
It took Liverpool’s goal to sting Stoke into action.
Former Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher unleashed a thunderous effort that was charged down on the edge of the box, before Xherdan Shaqiri fired horribly wide from the loose ball.
Stoke claimed another injustice in the 39th minute and this time their appeals appeared justified as Mignolet stayed on the field.
Things could have got worse for Stoke before half-time.
– Oxlade-Chamberlain hooked –
Bruno Martins Indi played Mane onside and the Senegal attacker raced clean through, but with only Grant to beat, he side-footed against the base of the post.
Stoke were back on the front foot in the second half, Shaqiri floating a dangerous ball into the box and former Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen’s placed shot clipping the foot of Dejan Lovren and sailing inches wide.
There was a flashpoint in the 66th minute when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain squared up to Martins Indi and shoved the Portuguese defender after they had clashed just inside the touchline.
But again Atkinson showed his lenient side by booking both players.
Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, raced from his technical area and grabbed Oxlade-Chamberlain to prevent any further altercation before immediately substituting him, clearly concerned he could have been sent off.
Stoke should have equalised in the 69th minute with a classic ex-Liverpool combination, Allen blazing over after Peter Crouch headed down Erik Pieters’s deep cross.
Liverpool punished Stoke in devastating fashion and it was that man Salah who struck their second goal.
The former Chelsea winger, who became the quickest player in Liverpool history to score 10 Premier League goals, wasted little time grabbing his 11th of the campaign in the 77th minute.
He started the move with a fortunate bounce off Ryan Shawcross, but was perfectly placed at the far post to meet Mane’s cross with a full-blooded left-foot volley that gave Grant no chance.
Salah added further gloss to Liverpool’s victory when he added his second and his team’s third.
Pieters twice failed to deal with Alberto Moreno’s long diagonal ball over the top, first mis-controlling then under-hitting a back pass, and Salah did the rest, slotting under Grant.
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