It was inevitable that Liverpool‘s Mohamed Salah would eclipse Didier Drogba as Africa’s all-time top scorer in the Premier League, although no one could have predicted he’d do it in such resounding fashion.
Elsewhere, Napoli‘s Victor Osimhen gave Roma boss Jose Mourinho something to think about in the Derby del Sud, while Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s revival continued apace against Aston Villa.
Salah hits another gear
After weeks of scintillating performances, during which Salah took his game to another level for the Reds, he hit yet a new gear on Sunday as a pitiful Manchester United side were shown no mercy at Old Trafford.
The Reds ran out 5-0 winners to inflict upon United one of their worst ever defeats, and their worst against their bitterest rivals since 1895.
Understandably, the Red Devils’ misery, disorganisation, and the future of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dominated the agenda in the aftermath of such an infamous loss, but Liverpool’s exploits — and Salah’s latest masterclass — deserve their fair share of attention.
For Jurgen Klopp’s side, consecutive away victories by five-goal margins in which they’ve failed to concede — the first team to do this since United in 1960 — eradicates any doubt that they’re firmly back as title contenders, yet even in a team of such quality, Salah is a cut above.
After equalling Ivorian Drogba’s longstanding African record of 104 goals against Watford last weekend, he duly surpassed that tally in the 38th minute — having earlier set up Naby Keita for the Reds’ opener — to add Liverpool’s third during a riotous first half.
In the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time, Salah added goal number 106 — equalling former Tottenham Hotspur and England striker Darren Bent in the all-time standings — to ensure United trailed by four goals at home for the first time in the Premier League era.
Five minutes into the second half, Salah’s hat-trick was complete. Goal number 107 took him level with United legend Paul Scholes at joint 26th in the all-time Prem standings — an uncomfortable footnote in this day of ignominy for all of a Red Devils persuasion.
None of his Old Trafford-silencing goals were quite as mesmerising as his sensational efforts against Manchester City and Watford, yet his first two strikes showcased Salah’s intelligent movement and finishing, while the third — owing a lot to a fine through-ball from Jordan Henderson — was finished with the aplomb of a player at the absolute top of his game.
His hat-trick was the first time since April 2003 that an opposition player has netted three goals at the Theatre of Dreams.
On that occasion, it was the original – phenomenal – Ronaldo decimating Sir Alex Ferguson’s Champions League hopefuls. This isn’t bad company to be in, and Salah does not look out of place rubbing shoulders with such giants.
Salah’s now scored in his last 10 appearances for Liverpool — an unmatched feat by a Premier League player since he arrived at Anfield in 2017 — and has scored 14 since last failing to net against Burnley on August 21.
It’s an irresistible run of form, and his African record is all the more impressive considering Salah has struck 107 goals in 167 Prem appearances compared to Drogba’s 104 in 254.
He insists, however, that his focus is on helping Liverpool retain the league title.
“Of course, you win away against Man United it’s something really big, but still at the end of the day it’s three points. We need to focus on our games in the cup and then focus on the Premier League in the next game.”
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah unveils a life-size waxwork of himself at Madame Tussauds in London.
The only negative for Liverpool during their sensational Sunday came with the latest injury setback for Keita, who was stretchered off in the 63rd minute after a lunge from Paul Pogba which earned the United substitute a red card.
It is yet another setback for the Guinea midfielder, whose time at Anfield has been punctuated by injuries, and is particularly unfortunate in light of his display against United in which he netted the opener and assisted Salah’s first.
Aubameyang continues to rebuild
While Salah’s relentless form continues, another player who’s mounting a fine run of his own is Arsenal skipper Aubameyang.
Written off in some quarters following his miserable last season, the Gabon striker was among the goals again as the Gunners downed Aston Villa 3-1 on Friday.
Here, he flourished when again paired with Alexandre Lacazette, and added Arsenal’s second after Thomas Partey had opened the scoring when his penalty kick was saved by Emiliano Martinez, who was unable to prevent the ex-Borussia Dortmund man from netting the rebound.
Auba also contributed the assist for the outstanding Emile Smith Rowe — who embodied Arsenal’s youthful vigour and reckless abandon — to round off an eye-catching first hour.
The striker now has seven goals this season across the Premier League and the League Cup, and while all of his four league goals have only come at the Emirates Stadium, Mikel Arteta appears delighted with his frontman.
Nedum Onuoha breaks down Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Aston Villa and what contributed to their success.
“I have never seen Auba transmit what he is doing now,” Arteta told the club’s official website. “Apart from the goals, the celebration when they put the ball in the net, do you see the way he runs?
“The purpose he has to press the ball, and how he’s leading the game. I prefer this Auba. For me it is a click. It is a combination that realising that his role has to go well beyond [what is was previously].
When Osimhen catches your eye, it’s amore
Another striker enjoying a fine start to the new campaign is Nigeria frontman Victor Osimhen, though his Napoli side lost their unbeaten Serie A record in this weekend’s derby.
He may not have scored in the Partenopei’s 0-0 draw at AS Roma, but his performance prompted a response from home boss Jose Mourinho, who made little secret of how difficult his team found it to neutralise the forward.
Mourinho told Roma’s official website: “I liked [our] organisation and the way we controlled Osimhen’s attempts to get into space, [at least] on one hand, because controlling him is far from easy.
While Mourinho ultimately succeeded in neutralising Osimhen, whose frustrations bubbled over when he kicked out at Gianluca Mancini, it could have been a different story on another day, with the West African on the finishing end of many fine Napoli moves.
He twice hit the woodwork — once from close range on the hour mark, and moments later with a header from a corner — while another earlier effort was blocked as he sought to break the deadlock.
Two minutes from time — with Mourinho already sent to the stands for theatrical touchline protests — Osimhen thought he’d won the bout when he headed home, only for the effort to be ruled out for offside.