We are running out of ways to chronicle Mohamed Salah’s brilliance. The numbers are almost unconscionable. The gushing descriptions are getting repetitive.
Perhaps the repetitiveness, though, is the only thing that can do it justice.
Salah, for the 29th time, found the back of a Premier League net on Saturday. For not the first time, he saved Liverpool. And as he’s been doing for much of his first season in England, he fortified the Reds’ position in the top four.
Just days after receiving write-in votes in the Egyptian presidential election, Salah beat Crystal Palace with two composed, clinical touches in a Selhurst Park penalty area. One with his left to corral the ball into his orbit, the other with his write to complete a Liverpool second-half comeback.
The Reds wobbled early on, and trailed for much of the first half in the Premier League weekend’s curtain-raiser. Trent Alexander-Arnold was caught napping twice by Wilfried Zaha in the first half. Loris Karius’ ill-advised charge sent Luka Milivojevic to the penalty spot to put Palace ahead.
Liverpool grew into the game, and kept Palace on the back foot thereafter with sapping possession and counterpressing. Sadio Mane tested Wayne Hennessey with a header. He also diverted a Virgil van Dijk header off target. He had a goal ruled out for offside. And he was booked for a theatrical, poorly timed dive in the penalty area.
Mane, not Salah, was actually the most active and effective Liverpool player throughout his 64 minutes on the pitch. It is only natural, then, that the Senegalese winger was at the center of every big talking point until Salah’s goal.
He equalized just a few minutes into the second half. But his goal was lost amid controversy – and the more important goal – that followed.
Around the hour mark, having thought he had done enough to earn a free kick on the edge of his own penalty area, Mane reached out to grab the ball with his hand. The referee’s whistle came, but not for the original foul; for a handball on Mane. Having already been booked for the dive in the first half, the Liverpool player probably should have been sent off.
But he wasn’t. And Crystal Palace, as it threw away a chance to distance itself from the relegation zone, rightly felt aggrieved.
But it should feel guilty as well. It had chances. Christian Benteke latched onto two clear chances in quick succession with the game level at 1-1. He skewed a half-volley wide from the center of the penalty area with Karius at his mercy. A minute later, from an even better central position, having been teed up by Andros Townsend, he blazed a shot over the crossbar.
Liverpool survived at the back. And it made Palace pay for the wastefulness. Or rather Salah did. He has all but locked up the Premier League’s golden boot. He has outdone all strikers from his wide right position. He has equaled Didier Drogba’s single-season Premier League record for goals by an African player, and will surely soon break it.
Salah continues to rise to new heights. Every time we think we have found the boundaries of his brilliance, he stretches them further. To call him a revelation would be an understatement. And any reference to him as Liverpool’s savior is becoming less hyperbolic by the week.
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