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Naby Keitas flawless debut & silky Salah: Liverpool lay down early marker against West Ham

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Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (left) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game with Naby Keita during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday August 12, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Liverpool. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
The Reds put on a scintillating performance at Anfield on Sunday (Picture: PA)

Liverpool kicked off the new Premier League season with a comprehensive 4-0 win over West Ham to lay down their early season title credentials. Mohamed Salah opened the scoring for the hosts and Sadio Mane put the game beyond doubt with strikes either side of half-time, before Daniel Sturridge netted with his first touch off the bench late on.

Jurgen Klopp remarked before the match that Liverpool were more Rocky Balboa than Ivan Drago, and West Ham might have wished they could have thrown in the towel at Anfield. They were second best from the very first minute and but for some occasionally profligate finishing from the hosts – and assured goalkeeper from Lukasz Fabianski – it could have been much, much worse.

Heres the main talking points…

Keita shines on debut

epa06945751 Liverpool's Naby Keita in action during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and West Ham at the Anfield in Liverpool, Britain, 12 August 2018. EPA/PETER POWELL
Keita slotted into midfield perfectly, even showing his flexibility on the wing (Picture: EPA)

It is easy to see why Liverpool were so desperate to sign Naby Keita, securing a deal a year in advance of his arrival. Few positions in football are as demanding as being a central midfielder under Jurgen Klopp, asked to press and chase relentlessly, and finding a player with the engine to do that, as well as being technical and fast-thinking, is nearly impossible.

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But in Keita they have found exactly that. His work rate and mobility are a natural fit (only James Milner ran further in the first half) while he looked so composed and confident on the ball. His ability to drive forward – ripping holes in the oppositions midfield – is going to bring a new edge to Liverpools already intoxicating attack play. His role in the sides opener, finding space, darting forward and feeding Andy Robertson, encapsulated that dynamic perfectly. What a singing.

Salah is no one-season wonder

epa06945753 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah in action during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and West Ham at the Anfield in Liverpool, Britain, 12 August 2018. EPA/PETER POWELL
Last seasons top scorer looked as threatening as ever against West Ham (Picture: EPA)

A lot of rival fans thought – or, rather, hoped – that Salah would suffer from the fabled difficult second season syndrome. Surely defenders would work him out or double up? Perhaps the shoulder injury picked up in the Champions League final would hamper him? Keep dreaming. The Egyptian picked up precisely where he left off last season and looks eager to keep hold of his Golden Boot.

Salahs shift from pacey wide-man to clinical forward under Klopp has been truly remarkable, and he continued to pick up the same positions from which he was so ruthless last season as well as showing some lovely moments of interplay. Special mentions should go to Roberto Firmino, who constantly dropped deep to link play and create space for Salah, as well as partner in crime Mane who was devastating up front too.

Alisson the sweeper-keeper

Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool v West Ham United - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - August 12, 2018 Liverpool's Alisson celebrates after Mohamed Salah (not pictured) scored their first goal Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
The Brazilian looked cool and composed whenever the ball was at his feet (Picture: Reuters)

New goalkeeper Alisson – who held the title of worlds most expensive shot-stopper for barely two weeks – had a quiet afternoon as the Reds dominated possession, territory and chances. However, Liverpool keepers of old have had an outstanding ability to turn routine performances into nervy ones. But the £67m Brazilian exuded calmness behind an untroubled defence and found a teammate with all but one of his passes, helping the side play out from the back. Very promising.

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Pellegrinis West Ham a work in progress

Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool v West Ham United - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - August 12, 2018 West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini gestures during the match Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
After a summer of optimism, West Ham were run ragged by Liverpool (Picture: Reuters)

West Ham were extremely unfortunate to begin the Manuel Pellegrini era against a team as brilliant and devastating as Liverpool. Few teams in world football can stop the Reds at their scintillating best, and the Chilean will have learnt little from this dismantling at Anfield.

Nevertheless, to spend in excess of £100milion over the summer and still have Mark Noble in central midfield feels like a massive oversight. The Hammers were out-worked and overpowered by Keita, Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum in midfield, who were stronger, faster and sharper, while a relatively new-look backline was chaotic and disorganised when Liverpool applied pressure. Brazilian playmaker Felipe Anderson did at least look lively.

More: Liverpool FC

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