Mohamed Salah rescues Liverpool as Reds hit back to beat Brighton and move top

Danny Welbeck gave the visitors an early lead.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates his winner .
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates his winner . (Peter Byrne/PA)

Mohamed Salah struck the first significant blow in the title run-in with the winner against Brighton to send Liverpool top of the table after a 2-1 comeback victory at Anfield.

Rather than benefit from not playing for Egypt during the international break, Salah appeared to have suffered from it as it took him almost an hour to find his usual sharpness.

Indeed, it was his slack pass which allowed Brighton to take a shock lead inside 90 seconds through Danny Welbeck.

But, having wasted a number of opportunities in the first half, he delivered when it mattered most, guiding home a shot from Alexis Mac Allister’s 65th-minute through-ball to make it 2-1.

It was his 22nd of the season – and ninth in 15 appearances against the Seagulls – and one of the most important of the campaign considering the context of the day, with Manchester City and Arsenal later playing out a goalless draw to leave Liverpool with a two-point lead over the Gunners at the top of the table.

He could have made the game safe in a two-on-one with Luis Diaz, scorer of Liverpool’s first-half equaliser, but once again shot straight at goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen as he reverted to his uncharacteristic first-half form.

Indeed, Salah had 12 shots in total, his most ever in a Premier League game.

Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi, whose own contract situation is up in the air, is now the bookmakers’ second favourite to succeed Jurgen Klopp following Xabi Alonso’s withdrawal from the race and the way his side approached the game provided an impressive audition for the Anfield hierarchy.

They were bold and creative and the fact Klopp’s side were grateful for the final whistle after six additional minutes showed how hard they pushed their hosts.

Mohamed Salah strokes home the winner .
Mohamed Salah strokes home the winner . (Peter Byrne/PA)

Liverpool’s performance matched that of Salah’s as before the break they were a shadow of their usual selves. It was not until after the interval that better chances were created and shots began to rain down on Verbruggen’s goal.

Mac Allister, who was excellent throughout against the club he left in the summer, headed wide from Joe Gomez’s cross, Dominik Szoboszlai drove wide and a subdued Darwin Nunez had a shot blocked by the keeper.

But the move which brought Salah’s winner cut open Brighton with devastating simplicity.

Virgil van Dijk found Szobozslai on the right, he squared to Mac Allister, who drilled a pass into the feet of Salah and he controlled with his first touch before firing home with his second.

Carlos Baleba headed over his own crossbar from Szoboszlai’s cross and then Diaz had a goal ruled out for offside after Nunez and Salah had broken at pace before the latter failed to beat the keeper from another counter-attack.

The otherwise under-employed Caoimhin Kelleher pulled off a vital low save to deny Lewis Dunk’s header as Brighton sensed their chance to snatch a draw after Liverpool failed to kill them off.

Verbruggen produced an even better stop to deny Salah late on as the hosts continued to push for the goal which would have eased the nerves growing around Anfield.

Those nerves had been tested from the second minute when Welbeck put the visitors ahead with a smart volley after Simon Adingra’s drive forward had seen the ball rebound off Szoboszlai and Van Dijk to the Brighton striker.

It took a while for Klopp’s side to find their feet from that setback, but by the second half they were displaying the credentials of potential champions again.