Mohamed Salah’s 150th Liverpool goal helped keep his side’s title challenge on track as they came from behind to beat Norwich 3-1 at Anfield.
Victory kept the pressure on leaders Manchester City ahead of their evening kick-off but more significantly it was the momentum it maintained in their pursuit which was crucial.
How significant this result – an eighth successive win in all competitions – is will only be known come May, but it felt like a season-defining moment when the Egypt international rolled home a gentle shot in the 67th minute to put the Reds ahead.
It had been a pivotal four-minute period as Sadio Mane’s overhead kick had just levelled things up after Milot Rashica’s deflected shot had given the Premier League’s 19th-placed side a shock lead.
But it was the brilliance of Salah, becoming only the 10th man to reach 150 goals in the club’s history and the second fastest (232 matches) after Roger Hunt (226), which made the difference.
Goalkeeper Alisson Becker’s spinning pass out from the back could not have been better judged but the Egyptian still had work to do, drawing Angus Gunn out of his goal, cutting back onto his right foot and then tucking home a shot which wrong-footed the backtracking defenders.
The only surprising thing was that it had taken the Premier League’s leading scorer – now with 17 goals this season – so long to find the net having had a scintillating start to the match which left Norwich left-back Brandon Williams not knowing which way to turn.
A maiden goal for January signing Luis Diaz, in only his fourth appearance, nine minutes from time made the result look far more comfortable than it had midway through the second half.
Jurgen Klopp’s decision to make seven changes, including defender Joe Gomez’s first league start in 15 months at right-back, from the midweek Champions League win over Inter Milan could have affected the fluency but there was little sign in a first half which resembled attack versus defence at times.
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The only thing which was lacking was a finishing touch as Salah (twice), Kostas Tsimikas (twice), Virgil Van Dijk and Mane all either missing chances or were blocked by some last-ditch defending.
Of them all Tsimikas’ was the more glaring as he ballooned over Salah’s cross from barely four yards out.
Norwich’s main threat had come from trying to break through Liverpool’s high line and although Rashica had the ball in the net early on it was correctly flagged offside, although there was no such reprieve for Teemu Pukki who timed his run right but then rolled a shot wide of the far post with only Alisson to beat.
But that became less of an option as the Canaries were pressed further back and at times the visitors looked happy just to get the ball back into their opponents’ half.
However, they were handed a chance to produce an upset when Rashica’s 48th-minute shot took a wicked deflection off Joel Matip to send the ball spinning out of Alisson’s reach and into the net.
But just like in the San Siro in midweek Klopp’s substitutions made an impact.
Thiago Alcantara and Divock Origi arrived on the hour as Liverpool went 4-2-4 and the equaliser was not long in coming.
Tsimikas knocked down Jordan Henderson’s cross and Mane’s finish was clinical.
Step forward Salah for his landmark goal before Diaz scored in front of the Kop to secure the points.
Salah and Mane both grazed the outside of the post with efforts but the job had been done and the message sent to the Etihad Stadium.
Photo Credit: Getty