Salah's tenacity pays off with goal after 9 shots

Having missed a host of easy chances, Mohamed Salah got the breakthrough with a neat finish from a tight angle for Liverpool's second goal. The 2-0 win over Salzburg on Tuesday ensured top place in Group E of the Champions League for the Reds, ahead
Having missed a host of easy chances, Mohamed Salah got the breakthrough with a neat finish from a tight angle for Liverpool's second goal. The 2-0 win over Salzburg on Tuesday ensured top place in Group E of the Champions League for the Reds, ahead of Napoli. PHOTO: REUTERS

SALZBURG • Jurgen Klopp has hailed Mohamed Salah's self-belief as instrumental in Liverpool reaching the Champions League last 16 after he became only the second Reds player to score 20 goals in Europe's top club competition.

The prolific forward took nine shots against Salzburg before scoring a "sensational" goal from a seemingly impossible angle in their 2-0 win at the Austrian champions to top Group E on Tuesday night.

Naby Keita's headed opener settled the nerves after a goalless first half and Salah's strike saw him join former captain Steven Gerrard in reaching the 20-goal milestone.

Praising the Egyptian's refusal to lose focus and let his head drop after several misses, Klopp said: "Thank god I don't have to (explain the finish). It was for sure the most difficult situation he had tonight.

"He played really well but didn't score in the situations we expect him to, staying on track and making such a decisive but difficult finish says probably much more about him than all his other goals.

"He stayed concentrated, believed in the next moment and it was a very, very good goal."

The German also cited his players' respect for the hosts as an impressive hallmark of their performance.

"I couldn't have more respect for what Salzburg are doing. I know how people see it, you think being best in Austria is okay but some people don't respect that.

"You see how good they are, how good they were in the first game, how good they were against Napoli.

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    Mohamed Salah has 20 goals and eight assists in the Champions League since joining Liverpool - equal with Lionel Messi's 28 goal involvements with Barcelona in the same period.

"We came here as Champions League winners and I'd really love it if my team are so smart that they listen and put a shift in like that.

"Salzburg were unbelievably strong, especially in the first half, but we were as well, and were ready for the fight."

The only negative was the second-half injury to Dejan Lovren, but Klopp said it was not serious.

The Reds finished on 13 points, ahead of Napoli (12), who sacked coach Carlo Ancelotti after he led them to a 4-0 win over Belgium's Genk to also reach the next round.

A tweet from the Italian club's Twitter page read: "Napoli has decided to revoke the position of first-team coach from Carlo Ancelotti. The relationship of friendship, esteem and mutual respect between the club, its president Aurelio de Laurentiis and Carlo Ancelotti remain intact."

The decision to pull the trigger on his 11/2-year stay in Naples followed a tense few weeks at the club during which the coach criticised a decision by Napoli's flamboyant owner to confine the team to a training camp for a week.

The players revolted against the retreat, leading to massive fines, and Ancelotti has been walking on thin ice since.

His cause was not helped by an alarming slump in form which saw Napoli, Serie A runners-up in three of the past four seasons, drop to seventh, 17 points behind leaders Inter Milan.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2019, with the headline 'Salah's tenacity pays off with goal after 9 shots'. Print Edition | Subscribe