Egyptian scored and had an assist on return as Reds eased to a 4-1 win at Brentford

There are very few players in the world of football who can silence a crowd without even touching the ball. Players who can send tremors of fear through a stadium not because of what they have just done, but because of what they are evidently just about to do. Players who bring with them a sense of inevitability, even when the ball is 40 yards from goal and not yet in their possession.

Mohamed Salah is one of those players and, when he strode onto Cody Gakpo’s flicked header after 68 minutes here, it felt like the air had been removed from the Gtech Community Stadium. Salah had not even reached the ball yet but everyone in the ground, including Brentford’s defenders, knew what would happen next.

Mohamed Salah Scores On Return As Liverpool Rout Brentford To Stay Top
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their third goal.

A few seconds later, the ball was in the back of Brentford’s net, Liverpool were leading by three, and Salah had reminded everyone why he is still the most important figure in Jurgen Klopp’s team. This was his first club appearance since New Year’s Day and he played like a man who was keen to make up for lost time. One goal, one assist, three points and a powerful statement: the main man is back.

Another victory for Klopp’s league leaders, then, but this was a win that came at a cost. Liverpool arrived in the capital with a worrying injury list and that situation only became worse here. Curtis Jones limped off in the first half, and then Diogo Jota followed him on a stretcher. Neither situation looked good, and there was to be one more problem: Darwin Nunez came off at halftime with an issue of his own, albeit a less serious one.

Mohamed Salah Scores On Return As Liverpool Rout Brentford To Stay Top
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah scores his side’s third goal of the game. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA

“We played an exceptional game,” said Klopp, who was already without a series of key players, including Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alisson Becker. “Strange circumstances. It is mixed emotions. We lost players and we don’t know how serious it is. It does not look great for either of them [Jota and Jones].”

For Brentford, who have a recent history of troubling the bigger teams in the league, this was a lesson in ruthlessness. Thomas Frank’s side had the better of the opening 30 minutes but they did not convert their chances. When they allowed Liverpool just one glimpse of goal, they were ripped apart. That is the difference between the best and the rest.

“We were brilliant for the first 35 minutes,” said Frank. “But we made an unlikely error, that we normally do not do.”

Mohamed Salah Scores On Return As Liverpool Rout Brentford To Stay Top
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their third goal. — Images via Reuters

There was at least one moment to cheer for the home side, as Ivan Toney scored his fourth goal in five games since his return from suspension, but the game was over by then. Salah had made sure of that, with the help of the excellent Alexis Mac Allister.

There were also goals for Nunez and Gakpo, but it was Salah’s performance that – once again – proved to be the most eye-catching. Salah had missed the previous eight matches, due to international commitments and a hamstring injury, but it took him just a few minutes to get back into his stride.

It is not that Liverpool missed Salah particularly, given their strength in depth, but there is also no question that they are far, far better when he is in their side. His efforts here took him to 15 goals and nine assists in 21 league appearances this season. Ludicrous numbers.

His goal, Liverpool’s third, was a measure of his reputation as well as his quality. Nathan Collins and Ben Mee both hesitated to collect the loose ball, as neither wanted to be the man to deal with the situation, to be subjected to Salah. From that moment, there was no way back for Brentford’s defense. “Absolutely outstanding,” said Klopp.

It was Salah at his devastating best — speed, power, decisiveness — and there was also a moment of creative class. His curling pass into the feet of Mac Allister, who controlled brilliantly before stabbing in the second goal, was of the highest order.

Mohamed Salah Scores On Return As Liverpool Rout Brentford To Stay Top
Mohamed Salah (left) celebrates scoring Liverpool’s third goal against Brentford CREDIT: Action Images/Andrew Boyers

Mac Allister was impressive throughout, absorbing Brentford’s pressure in midfield. Gakpo was lively off the bench, too, with a headed assist and a calm finish, from Luis Diaz’s pass, for Liverpool’s fourth.

If Liverpool are to go on to win the league, it will surely be because of this attacking firepower. Salah, Nunez, Jota, Gakpo and Diaz all contributed either goals or assists here, and no other side — not even Manchester City — boasts such a strong collection of elite forwards.

Nunez’s dinked finish in the first half, from Jota’s clever header, underlined the difference between good Premier League strikers (Toney and Neal Maupay) and those at the highest level. Salah then went one further, to show Brentford what it looks like when a world-class player takes complete control of a match.