Salah's back! Klopp indebted to international break for restoring Liverpool ace's confidence

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Last season's top scorer looked more like his old self in helping the Reds end their poor run of form with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Huddersfield

Jurgen Klopp was agitated throughout. If he wasn’t fidgeting at his red cap, he was screaming at his own players until he was red in the face.

You could tell that Klopp was worried about Huddersfield here, just a couple of days after he’d got his players back from international duty. That they went away in the first place irked him.

Liverpool are a multicultural team and some of his first-team players went as far as Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, Senegal. He knew it was coming up and a couple of weeks ago couldn’t resist describing the UEFA Nations League as "pointless".

He knows the stakes. Liverpool are a tightly-knit unit and cannot cope with too many absences if they stand any hope of keeping pace with Manchester City at the top of the league.

The fact that Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Naby Keita and talisman Mohamed Salah all incurred knocks of varying degrees while away will have annoyed him no end too. He could pick neither Mane nor Keita here and the line-up looked a little patched up come kick-off; certainly a little more improvised than Klopp would have liked at this stage of the season.

And so he went through the wringer as Liverpool went arrived at the Kirklees Stadium looking to end a worrying run of four games without a win in all competitions.

There was a rollicking for Dejan Lovren for an awful pass. There was another for Xherdan Shaqiri – playing in midfield – as he struggled to get to grips with the sight of Phillip Billing’s long legs striding past him on Huddersfield counters.

There is nothing amiss with how the little Swiss playmaker uses the ball when he has it but you get the sense that it’s what he does when Liverpool are out of possession which may well be his downfall.

When Gini Wijnaldum emerged from the tunnel to play the second half, it was a surprise that Shaqiri remained out there. Instead, there were whispers of a hamstring strain for Jordan Henderson. 

Liverpool needed more control to quell the growing Huddersfield optimism. Jonathan Hogg had rattled the post with a great long-range drive. Alex Pritchard was unfortunate to be flagged offside when poking past Alisson.

It was more of a contest than Klopp would have wanted against his old friend David Wagner. What was required was a touch of class to lift the Reds above the contest.

And – mercifully for them – they got it.

Mohamed Salah Liverpool Huddersfield 201018

Salah has been a maligned figure at the start of this season. He is not scoring at the same rate that he finished last term. He is scoring more modestly, not unlike the start of his first campaign. However, judgements are made in an instant these days and there has been talk of a Salah crisis.

Never mind that he went to the World Cup injured with the expectation of 98 million Egyptian people weighed upon his delicate shoulder. Never mind he’s been without a good rest. Never mind the fact that he’s a marked man now and there isn’t a football soul alive not aware of what he’s capable of.

Salah would have needed to go to another level beyond last season’s greatness if he was to top his exploits this time around. That is difficult. Instead, he’s been working in the gaps as best he can. He’s living for moments to pounce.

And in the first half he was supplied one. Joe Gomez cut two Terriers out with his pass to Shaqiri’s feet. He identified Salah as his target for the through-ball and his technique didn’t fail him. From there, Salah was calm in finding the bottom corner with his right foot.

They don’t score many at home, Huddersfield, and when they go behind that tends to be it. Wagner’s team have only got one goal at the Kirklees Stadium since February.

There is a lack of composure and – in truth – a lack of class to their work in the final third. Witness Steve Mounie's snatched shot in the hope of an equaliser late on for evidence of that. Going ahead against them is quite often enough because going behind is a blow they can’t easily recover from.

That’s why it was important for Salah to step up. With no Mane – and Roberto Firmino on the bench – Liverpool’s devastating front three was more of a solo act on Saturday night.

West Ham, Brighton, Southampton and now Huddersfield may not be the Premier League’s star teams, but they still need to be dispensed with and have been thanks to Salah's goals.

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Sure, there have been scoreless outings against Chelsea, Paris St-Germain and Manchester City but there is no doubt that goals which are dribbling out now will start gushing again.

Last week, Salah stunned the world by scoring an Olympic Goal direct from a corner against Swaziland in Africa Cup of Nations qualification. It was a reminder of the kind of excellence he can deliver when he’s confident.

It might have even given him a kickstart – a reminder of his abilities. Klopp can be thankful for that even if he cannot stand his players going on international duty in the first place.

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