London (AFP) – Mohamed Salah ended his Premier League goal drought in style as the Egypt star produced two superb finishes to inspire Liverpool’s 3-1 win at West Ham on Sunday.
Salah had gone six league games without scoring until he broke West Ham’s resistance in the second half with his first goal in the competition since December.
The 28-year-old followed that fine strike with another eye-catching effort and his masterclass ensured Liverpool made it two successive league wins.
Salah is the first player to score at least 20 goals in all competitions in four consecutive seasons for Liverpool since Ian Rush in the 1980s.
Georginio Wijnaldum grabbed Liverpool’s third as Jurgen Klopp’s side moved above Leicester into third place.
Liverpool are four points adrift of leaders Manchester City, who have a game in hand, and one behind second placed Manchester United.
After five league games without a win, the champions showed signs of emerging from their winter slump in Thursday’s 3-1 success at Tottenham and this was another step in the right direction.
Liverpool’s previous away league wins this season had come at Chelsea and Crystal Palace and they inflicted more capital punishment on West Ham in their latest trip to London.
West Ham had won their last six games in all competitions and were unbeaten in their last six league matches.
But Liverpool squashed that streak emphatically, proving that the group who swept to the title last season shouldn’t be written off yet.
The Reds are rounding into form just in time for next Sunday’s crucial clash with Manchester City, which is preceded by a home game against Brighton on Wednesday.
– Salah shines –
Liverpool forward Sadio Mane was absent due to a muscle injury suffered against Tottenham, while Roberto Firmino was left on the bench as Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri started in attack.
With Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Fabinho all out injured, Nat Phillips came in alongside midfielder Jordan Henderson in Liverpool’s makeshift central defence.
At least Liverpool’s full-backs remain healthy and Andrew Robertson combined with Trent Alexander-Arnold to set up Wijnaldum for a shot that flashed just over.
Liverpool created little else in the first half and Pablo Fornals almost put West Ham ahead when his goalbound shot was nodded away by Robertson.
Liverpool didn’t manage a single shot on target until first half stoppage-time when Salah’s speculative effort was held by Lukasz Fabianski.
But Salah almost broke the deadlock early in the second half as the Egyptian met Origi’s cross with a close-range shot that was blocked by Aaron Cresswell’s last-ditch challenge.
Leading the Liverpool charge almost single-handed, Salah shot narrowly wide from 20 yards.
Antonio was inches away from putting West Ham in front on the counter, the forward shooting just wide on the turn.
Salah finally ended his drought in the 57th minute as he took Curtis Jones’ pass in the Hammers area and showed typically deft footwork to open space for a superb curler into the far corner.
West Ham had no answer for Salah’s clever movement and he put the result beyond doubt in the 68th minute.
Picked out by Shaqiri’s brilliant long pass into the area, Salah controlled superbly before clipping a clinical finish past Fabianski from close-range.
Firing on all cylinders now, Liverpool struck again in the 84th minute when Wijnaldum capped a flowing attack by tapping in Firmino’s pass.
Craig Dawson’s 87th minute goal, finished from close-range, was little consolation for out-classed West Ham.
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