The questions were starting to be asked about Mohamed Salah after his slow start to the season: Would he struggle to reproduce his remarkable scoring figures from his first year at Liverpool?
Was he a one-season wonder?
Maybe the concerns were slightly premature.
Salah scored two goals for Liverpool in its 4-0 win over Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League on Wednesday, adding to the winner he netted against Huddersfield in the Premier League last weekend. In his previous game before that, he scored directly from a corner on international duty with Egypt.
With his double against Red Star, Salah became the quickest player in the club’s history to reach 50 goals. He did so in 65 games, 12 quicker than Albert Stubbins in the 1940s.
Crisis? What crisis?
“It’s good that we can maybe stop talking about that,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said. “That helps a little bit. I’m not in doubt, he was not in doubt. But if you constantly ask about, then it’s like something obviously is wrong.”
“It’s an exceptional number, and hopefully he can continue,” Klopp added. “What’s the next record he can reach?”
Salah scored 44 goals in all competitions last season, for easily the most prolific season of his career, and formed part of the most devastating front three in the Champions League alongside Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
That attacking trio fueled Liverpool’s march to the Champions League final, where it lost to Real Madrid. And they all scored in a comfortable victory over a Red Star team that is finding life extremely tough in its first appearance in a Champions League group stage, having last played in the European Cup in 1991 as holder.
Liverpool moved into first place in Group C, a point ahead of Napoli, which conceded a late goal to draw 2-2 at Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday. Red Star has one point from three games.
Firmino gave Liverpool the lead in the 20th minute when he collected Andrew Robertson’s cross from the left and converted a shot that took a deflection on its way in.
Salah, playing as a central striker in front of the deep-lying Firmino, added a second goal when Xherdan Shaqiri deftly laid off a pass from Fabinho to allow the Egyptian to lash a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Milan Borjan.
Salah converted a penalty in the 51st after Mane was blocked by the elbow of Filip Stojkovic and was then taken off by Klopp, denying him the opportunity for a hat trick.
Soon after, Liverpool was awarded another penalty and, with Salah off the field, Mane took it. Borjan produced a great save, tipping the ball onto the bar, and Mane weakly striking the rebound wide.
The Senegal forward made up for that miss by prodding in Liverpool’s fourth goal from a pass by substitute Daniel Sturridge.
Shaqiri was one of Liverpool’s best players on a night he was whistled and booed whenever he received the ball. The jeers came from a few sections of the crowd and were presumably from Red Star fans who, officially at least, were supposed to be banned from attending the game as a punishment for causing trouble during the Serbian team’s playoff at Salzburg in August.
Shaqiri is a Switzerland international who was born in Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence and relations between the two countries remain tense.
The midfielder also was targeted for some strong tackles in the first half, two coming in the space of a couple of minutes resulting in fouls. He was given a warm hug from Klopp when he was substituted midway through the second half.
Shaqiri can expect a hostile reception if he travels for the return match between the sides in Belgrade on Nov. 6.
Asked if he had any concerns about taking Shaqiri to Belgrade, Klopp said: “So far, I didn’t think about it, to be honest. It makes sense that I first think before I speak.”unb