Mo Salah, Sadio Mane Uncontrollable in Liverpool's Opening Win vs. West Ham

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistAugust 12, 2018

Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on August 12, 2018. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /         (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
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Mohamed Salah started the 2018-19 Premier League campaign as he intends to carry on, scoring the opener in Liverpool's 4-0 win over West Ham United at Anfield on Sunday to help send the Reds to the top of the Premier League.

Last season's Golden Boot winner poked into an open net after 19 minutes, and Sadio Mane scored either side of half-time to drive the Merseysiders into a 3-0 lead. Daniel Sturridge came off the bench and scored with his first touch to add a fourth in the 88th minute.

Summer signings Alisson Becker and Naby Keita made their Premier League debuts as part of Jurgen Klopp's starting XI, while fellow newcomer Xherdan Shaqiri featured off the bench.


Salah and Mane Will Be Biggest Rivals in Golden Boot Race

One season back in the Premier League was enough for Salah to take the top scorer award last term, but Mane is already well on his way to giving his prolific team-mate a run for his money in 2018-19.

Having previously flopped in a short stint with Chelsea, there were murmurs Salah could be a one-season wonder who fluked his way to success last term, but Sunday's showing moved to allay any such suspicions:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Less than 20 minutes for Mo Salah to make his mark on the new Premier League season 👑 https://t.co/x0ZSMJybGl

Gary Lineker @GaryLineker

It’s taken @MoSalah nearly 20 minutes to score his first goal. Clearly a one season wonder.

And unfortunately for West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini, Salah appears to have a penchant for harming the Irons, per Match of the Day:

Match of the Day @BBCMOTD

Mo Salah has been directly involved in five goals in his three Premier League meetings with West Ham for Liverpool (4 goals, 1 assist). #LIVWHU live updates ⚽️👉 https://t.co/7UOBkFH8Uu #bbcfootball https://t.co/Pv0JajSQnf

His positional skills were all too clear when left-back Andrew Robertson got a sight across goal and drilled low to allow the Egypt international to tap into an open net, with Hammers stopper Lukasz Fabianski drawn out by the delivery.

But Mane looks ready to take his efficacy in attack to new heights. Like Salah, he demonstrated a poacher's awareness to evade the West Ham defence and convert James Milner's cross for Liverpool's second. Sportswriter Andrew Beasley highlighted the Senegal international's improving record in front of goal:

Andrew Beasley @BassTunedToRed

Mané now has 12 goals in his last 17 Liverpool appearances.

An impressive showing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup followed by a strong pre-season has Mane in flying form. However, fans may be wary of getting ahead of themselves considering this is the third successive time Mane has scored for Liverpool on the opening day.

Mane finished last season with 20 goals to his name, divided equally between the Premier League and UEFA Champions League, although he's already made up 20 percent of the former in 2018-19 and there are still 37 games to play.

Salah's mark of 32 was sufficient to beat Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane to the Golden Boot last term, but this season, it may be that Klopp has two of his stars jostling for the individual accolade.


Keita Looks Like He's Been at Liverpool for Years

As far as debut performances go, Klopp could hardly have hoped for Keita to sparkle any brighter than he did against the Hammers, whose midfield could not keep up with the pace set by the Guinea international.

Fancy footwork and nuanced physicality were prominent features of the box-to-box star's play at RB Leipzig, and Liverpool writer Oliver Bond summarised Keita's opening 45 minutes at Anfield:

Oliver Bond @Oliver__Bond

Naby Keita is absolutely brilliant.

He won't be expected to make major contributions to the goal count at Liverpool—though he will certainly make his mark there too. Instead, it's the running of the show behind the scenes where Keita is at his most effective, according to Leanne Prescott of Anfield Index:

Leanne Prescott @_lfcleanne

First-half thoughts: - Salah starting as he means to go on - Naby Keita’s running the show - Mane’s absolutely boss - Robbo’s in for another great season - Milner could run forever

Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are similarly industrious stars of the Liverpool midfield, but Keita slipped so seamlessly into the setup to provide a bridge between midfield and attack that he simply looked like he belongs.

Sky Sports analyst Jamie Redknapp was similarly effusive about Keita's assimilation, though writer Sam Pilger argued that such praise was exaggerated:

Sam Pilger @sampilger

“Naby Keita has played for Liverpool for 8 minutes, but it looks like he’s been here for 8 years,” says Jamie Redknapp. Going to be hard to beat that as the most inane piece of commentary we will hear this season...

The Daily Mail's Dominic King agreed that the midfielder already looks as though he belongs in Liverpool red, predicting just how essential he will become to the team:

Dominic King @DominicKing_DM

So much good about that goal, from Alexander-Arnold's pass to Robertson's cross but Naby Keita's role outstanding. This boy is going to become a giant in this @LFC team.

Keita boasts the qualities of a tough-tackling midfielder but has the malleability to push forward and help the attackers at Anfield, with West Ham the first Premier League victim of his obvious class.


Pellegrini Must Forget Anfield Anguish, Treat Bournemouth as Fresh Start

Any team opening their season away to this electric Liverpool team was bound to be in for a tough ride, and former Manchester City boss Pellegrini can write this one off.

Or at least he may as well considering he's still getting to grips with the east London club. That's not to say there weren't lessons to learn on Merseyside on Sunday, however, as Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher highlighted:

Jamie Carragher @Carra23

The @LFC third goal was offside but holding that line on the edge of the box is going to cause problems all season I fear for West Ham! #LIVWHU #SkySports

West Ham finished Sunday's match with only 35 per cent of possession, per WhoScored.com, a disparity that's likely to befall many teams travelling to Anfield this term. They are much likelier to come away with points from Saturday's home game against Bournemouth.

Getting this game out of their system is therefore paramount if they are to restore some much-needed confidence.

Pellegrini can also put some of the defeat down to poor luck, with the Chilean having not seen much fortune against the Merseysiders:

Match of the Day @BBCMOTD

Manuel Pellegrini has suffered four Premier League defeats to Liverpool, more than against any other opponent. #LIVWHU live updates ⚽️👉 https://t.co/7UOBkFpxvU #bbcfootball https://t.co/B3vdUCaYzC

The Cherries beat Cardiff City 2-0 in their opener on Saturday but will face a more star-studded side at London Stadium, one that may feature Andriy Yarmolenko making his first Premier League start after joining from Borussia Dortmund in July.

The lessons are there to be learned, but in terms of the result, West Ham can afford to forget about their trip to Anfield in an attempt to ignite their campaign in earnest at home to Eddie Howe's men.


What's Next? 

Liverpool will look to add to their monstrous opening-day win when they travel to Crystal Palace on August 20, while West Ham are at home to Bournemouth on Saturday.