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Salah's pace a key factor in his second EPL stint

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah.

LONDON • Mohamed Salah's first brush with the English Premier League did not extend beyond nine hours of football and, in the weeks, months and years that followed, memories of that brevity forever nagged at the Egyptian.

Chelsea's brusque dismissal of his talents, with Salah bought and jettisoned within a year by Jose Mourinho, played on his mind. The forward did not regard himself as a failure, but more a victim of circumstance who had been left with unfinished business.

His hunger and determination to right the wrong of what proved to be a wasted year in London allowed Liverpool to prise him from Roma in the summer for a club-record £36.9 million (S$66.9 million). The 25-year-old is certainly making up for lost time.

Salah was top of the EPL scoring charts yesterday, ahead of Manchester City's clash against West Ham, with 12 goals.

Trace his story back and his is literally a rise from disaster.

The death of 74 people in the Port Said Stadium tragedy in February 2012, after Al-Masry supporters stormed the arena and attacked Al-Ahly fans, resulted in the Egyptian league being suspended.

During the shutdown, Swiss club Basel organised a friendly against the Egypt Under-23 team and Salah, a player with El-Mokawloon, came on in the second half and scored twice in a 4-3 win for his side. Within a month, Basel offered him a four-year contract.

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    Games Mohamed Salah took to score 10 Premier League goals for Liverpool, a milestone he shares with English striker Daniel Sturridge.

Salah is a quiet, discreet person. At Roma, whom he joined having initially escaped Stamford Bridge with a loan move to Fiorentina, he lived outside the city. Then, as now, he rarely gave interviews. But on the pitch, he is a big noise.

Salah has brought balance and searing pace to Liverpool.

The breakaway goal from an Arsenal corner at Anfield in August involved the Reds accelerating from the edge of their penalty area to score in a blistering 12.96 seconds.

It was tempting to search for scorch marks on the turf at the London Stadium after the visiting side countered from a West Ham set piece at similar pace last month.

And Salah's speed was again on display against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, playing a big part in Liverpool's 5-1 win without getting on the scoresheet.

He led a breakneck counter-attack that put the visitors 2-0 up after picking the ball up on the half-way line and sprinting towards goal with the ball on an invisible short string around his left foot.

Brighton's defence backed off, Salah picked out Philippe Coutinho, and his low delivery across the six-yard box was swept into the net by Roberto Firmino.

Salah skinned Brighton again to give the visitors a three-goal lead - this time starting from inside his own half. On the edge of the Brighton box, he picked out Firmino's run into the box and the Brazilian finished emphatically.

While more is expected of him following his sensational start to the season, responsibility clearly sits comfortably with Salah. He is to Egypt what Neymar is to Brazil, Lionel Messi to Argentina and Cristiano Ronaldo to Portugal.

When Salah held his nerve to dispatch the 94th-minute penalty against Congo in October, propelling his nation to their first World Cup since 1990, the outpouring of emotion was a sight to behold.

It is just as well that he now has happier memories to draw upon.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2017, with the headline 'Salah's pace a key factor in his second EPL stint'. Print Edition | Subscribe