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Liverpool hint at Premier League title challenge in Villa cruise

By AFP
03 September 2023   |   3:17 pm
Liverpool looked like the dominant Jurgen Klopp side of old as a 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Anfield on Sunday maintained the Reds' unbeaten start to the new season.

Liverpool’s Egyptian striker #11 Mohamed Salah scores his team third goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Aston Villa at Anfield in Liverpool, north-west England on September 3, 2023. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

Liverpool looked like the dominant Jurgen Klopp side of old as a 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Anfield on Sunday maintained the Reds’ unbeaten start to the new season.

Dominik Szoboszlai, with his first goal for the club, and Mohamed Salah were on target either side of Matty Cash’s own goal.

Victory takes the Reds to within two points of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.

But it was the manner of victory and a return of 10 points from a tricky opening four games of the new season that will have Liverpool fans dreaming of a title challenge once more.

Either side of Liverpool’s first title in 30 years in 2020, Klopp’s men missed out on the title to City twice by a solitary point in 2019 and 2022.

However, last season they slumped to fifth in the Premier League to miss out on Champions League football for the first time in seven years.

A return to the top four looked like it could be the limit of Liverpool’s ambitions for the new campaign after a difficult summer in the transfer market led them to miss out on a number of targets.

Klopp has had to completely rebuild his midfield, but new signings Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister have slotted in with ease.

Arguably the Reds’ most important business of the window was turning down a huge offer from Saudi side Al-Ittihad for Mohamed Salah this week.

Salah was a constant threat and there is little doubting Liverpool’s firepower up front with Darwin Nunez now finding his feet after a difficult first season.

Nunez was rewarded for his match-winning contribution off the bench with two goals away to Newcastle last weekend with his first start of the season.

Alexander-Arnold sets the tone

The Uruguayan’s pace and power consistently exposed the Villa defence but it was from a set-piece that the home side broke the deadlock after just three minutes.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner came out to the edge of the box where Szoboszlai arrowed a powerful shot into the far corner on his weaker left foot.

Alexander-Arnold controlled the game from his new role at the base of the Liverpool midfield when in possession.

Captain for the day in the absence of the suspended Virgil van Dijk, it was his pass that started the move for the second goal.

Salah squared for Nunez, who should have scored himself, but when his shot came back off the post, the ball ricocheted in off the unfortunate Cash.

Villa had lost just seven Premier League games in 28 under Unai Emery.

But just as in the 5-1 thrashing they suffered at Newcastle on the opening weekend of the season, their high defensive line was easily picked off.

Joel Matip headed a huge chance wide and Nunez hit the crossbar as Liverpool should have added to their lead before half-time.

But Villa will also feel they did not make the most of their chances to bring the game to life.

John McGinn blazed over with just Alisson Becker to beat before the Brazilian goalkeeper produced a miraculous stop to keep out Cash’s header at the start of the second period.

At the other end, Nunez somehow headed wide with the goal gaping after a wonderful cross by Salah picked out his strike partner.

The Egyptian remains indispensable if Liverpool are to hold any hope of reeling in City for a 20th English top-flight title and got the goal his performance deserved on 55 minutes.

Villa failed to deal with another corner and Salah converted Nunez’s flick-on at the back post.