Hat-trick hero Mohamed Salah gives man-of-the-match award to James Milner

Salah scored Liverpool’s first hat-trick away from home since 2014 (Picture: Getty)Mohamed Salah refused to accept his man-of-the-match award, instead insisting James Milner should have it instead.

Milner played his 500th Premier League game against Bournemouth and Salah fired Liverpool to victory with a hat-trick in a 4-0 win.

Salah was in sparkling form and was interviewed after the game, with his vice-captain Milner by his side.

The forward deservedly won MOTM, but would not take the award with Milner standing beside him.

He said: ‘I have to congratulate him, he has an amazing career so I hope we are going to win something together, but I will not take it today.’

Salah moved top of the Premier League scoring charts with ten goals in ten appearances, level with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Milner was making his 500th Premier League appearance (Picture: Getty)Liverpool moved top of the table with the impressive win, but can be overtaken by Manchester City if the Sky Blues beat or draw with Chelsea in their game.

Salah was being branded a one-season wonder at the start of the campaign after a record-breaking debut season for the Reds.

But the Egyptian has proven his pedigree by continuing to hit the back of the net. Salah was happy with his performance, but insisted he only cared about the team winning.

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(Picture: Getty)‘My expectation is very high, everyone else has expectation very high,’ Salah said.

‘The most important is we are top of the table and win each game. That’s the most important thing.’

Liverpool are next back in action on Tuesday night when they take on Napoli at Anfield. The Reds must beat Napoli to progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

MORE: Alisson breaks club record as Mohamed Salah fires Liverpool top of the Premier League

Alisson breaks club record as Mohamed Salah fires Liverpool top of the Premier League

Alisson Becker gave a commanding performance against Bournemouth (Picture: Getty)Alisson Becker set a Liverpool club record as Jurgen Klopp’s side moved, temporarily at least, to the top of the Premier League following a 4-0 win over Bournemouth.

The Brazil international goalkeeper has played a pivotal role in his side’s unbeaten start to the season following his summer move from Roma and put in another commanding performance, mastering the difficult conditions at the Vitality Stadium to register his 10th clean sheet of the campaign.

Alisson is now unbeaten in his first 16 Premier League matches as a Liverpool player, surpassing the previous record held by Javier Mascherano whose 15-game unbeaten run was ended in December 2007 by Manchester United.

Mohamed Salah became the first Liverpool player to score a hat-trick away from home since Luis Suarez’s treble against Cardiff in 2014 (Picture: Getty)

Steve Cook endured a miserable game up against a rampant Mohamed Salah (Picture: Getty)Liverpool’s victory owed as much to their now customary defensive stability as it did the predatory instincts of Mohamed Salah, who struck either side of half time.

The Egypt international was fortunate to open the scoring in the 25th minute when he pounced on a mistake from Asmir Begovic, who could only parry Roberto Firmino’s speculative effort, but replays showed he was standing in an offside position.

7 – Mohamed Salah has now scored the opening goal of the game on seven occasions in the Premier League this season, at least two more times than any other player. Sharp. #BOULIV pic.twitter.com/tgrcTj0K8s
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 8, 2018

Salah’s second arrived three minutes after the re-start when he was fed by Firmino, managed to remain on his feet despite a cynical attempted foul by Steve Cook, and steered his shot into the far corner via a slight Nathan Ake deflection.

Liverpool surged further ahead when Cook spectacularly flicked the ball past his own goalkeeper following a typical rampaging run and cross from Andrew Robertson, and the Bournemouth defender’s misery was compounded 12 minutes from the end when Salah outpaced him, rounded Begovic and kept his composure to flick the ball past Nathan Ake.

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Mohamed Salah outlines his ‘first target’ at Liverpool this season

Mohamed Salah is desperate to win the Premier League this season (Picture: Getty)Liverpool sensation Mohamed Salah says his ‘first target’ this season is to win the Premier League title.

The Reds are second in the table ahead of Sunday’s Merseyside derby against Everton, with Salah contributing nine goals in 19 games.

The Egypt international enjoyed a record-breaking campaign last year, scoring the most goals in a 38-game Premier League season.

But Salah says his focus is purely on helping Liverpool win a trophy this term as it would be a dream come true for the players and the fans.

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‘My target last season was not only to break the record, but to also to win something with the club,’ he told Sky Sports.

‘We were very close to the Champions League in the final, but this is football where you have to accept the result.

‘This time, I can’t say my individual one, I would like to say it at the end of the season but my first target is to win something with the club.

‘It would be huge for us as a club, as a team, as players so it is also a dream for the city, for the players, for the fans so I think this season, we are going to do something.

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‘From my side, I want to be the champion of the Premier League at the end of the season.

‘The last game, we play at home on the May 12 – I know everything about it already – so we will fight hard to win the Premier League.

‘I wish on the last day we are the winners and to be the champion.’

Ahead of Liverpool’s derby clash with Everton on Sunday, Salah admitted he was not prepared for the tension and atmosphere surrounding such a match.

‘I didn’t know much about it before I came here,’ Salah added.

Salah has scored nine goals so far this season (Picture: Getty)‘I just heard about it but in the last game when we played at Anfield, the atmosphere was crazy. I didn’t expect it at all.

‘I used to play for Roma and they had a derby there but here, it is something different. The stadium was completely full and the fans were unbelievable, the atmosphere was crazy. I like it a lot.

‘The passion for the city, the passion for the fans, for them, this is the most important game in the season.

‘You must win the derby so it’s something that pushes us as players from deep inside to give more.

‘Even if it is two per cent more, that is something that will help a lot during the game so that’s the special thing about the derby.’

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Roberto Firmino back amongst the goals as Liverpool thump Watford at Vicarage Road

Roberto Firmino celebrates after scoring Liverpool’s third goal against Watford (Getty Images)Liverpool showed no signs of rustiness after the international break as they thrashed Watford 3-0 at Vicarage Road despite being reduced to ten men late on.

Mohamed Salah’s opener and a sumptuous Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick had the Reds 2-0 up and cruising before Jordan Henderson’s red card for a second bookable offence gave Watford something to cling onto in the final ten minutes.

However, it was Liverpool who got the game’s third and final goal as Roberto Firmino ended his goal drought by heading in from close-range after Sadio Mane’s effort had been palmed into the air by Ben Foster.

Here are the main talking points…

Liverpool’s change of system

Liverpool haven’t been at their free-flowing best in attack of late so it was interesting to see Jurgen Klopp switch things up by ditching his tried-and-trusted 4-3-3 system in favour of a 4-2-3-1 at Vicarage Road. The tactical tweak meant that only Sadio Mane lined up in what has been his default role on the left wing. Xherdan Shaqiri was shifted into a wide right position from central midfield but more significantly Mohamed Salah lead the line with Roberto Firmino dropping behind him into a No.10 position.

From the outset, Liverpool looked to utilise Salah’s pace in behind by pinging long balls forward for him to chase after, however the hosts dealt with it fairly comfortably with Ben Foster playing the role of sweeper-keeper to perfection. The formation didn’t seem to get the best out of either Salah or Firmino. Salah struggled to hold the ball up when it was fed into his feet, while Firmino was a peripheral figure, aside from a low shot that drew a smart stop by Foster down to his right.

Contrasting performances from Liverpool’s full-backs

There was a huge moment early on in the second half when Andrew Robertson tangled with Will Hughes inside his own box. The Scotland captain made contact with Hughes, raking his studs down the Watford midfielder’s shin but despite the hosts protestations, Jon Moss opted against awarding a penalty. It was most certainly a decision that favoured the Liverpool left-back as replays suggested a penalty should have been given.

Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates after putting Liverpool 2-0 up (Getty Images)While one Liverpool full-back was fortunate to not concede a penalty, the other one was busy burying free-kicks from 25-yards. Adrian Mariappa’s defending was questionable to say the least as he grappled Firmino to the floor just outside the D. He was punished emphatically as Alexander-Arnold stepped up and swept a delightful free-kick into the corner, leaving Foster with absolutely no chance. It was a wonderful hit from the youngster who is now off the mark for the campaign.

Roberto Firmino gets a much-needed goal

The drought is over and the relief on Roberto Firmino’s face was palpable. A return of two Premier League goals from 12 appearances this season is not the kind of return you’d expect from the leading striker of a title challenging team, yet that was the Brazilian’s record before today. Prior to nodding the ball in from close range in the 89th minute at Vicarage Road, Firmino’s last Premier League goal had come six games ago against Tottenham at Wembley back in September.

Firmino isn’t a natural finisher like Sergio Aguero or Harry Kane and his presence at the top of Liverpool’s attack is as much to do with his selfless work-rate and link-up play than his goals. Yet he will have been acutely aware that the spotlight was on him to start firing. That goal should provide a timely boost to his confidence and might just spark him into life over the second half of the season.

Henderson blows his recall

If there is one area in Liverpool’s squad that is heaving with options, it is in central midfield where Klopp has six or seven players battling it out amongst themselves for three places – or in today’s case just two. Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson were given the nod at Vicarage Road but the captain didn’t finish the game as he was shown a red card eight minutes from time for a second bookable offence.

The foul that led to Jordan Henderson’s second yellow card (Getty Images)Henderson was booked on the hour mark for a foul on Isaac Success and then received his second for a professional foul on Etienne Capoue right by the touchline next to the benches. Moments before Moss had a lengthy discussion with Henderson who looked on the verge of talking himself into a second booking. That it came anyway for a needless foul has to raise question marks over his temperament and whether he is deserving of a starting place moving forward.

Liverpool’s defence makes history

After 13 league games, Liverpool have conceded just five times – a club record at this stage of the season. Liverpool’s new-found defensive resilience has enabled them to take that next step from top four challengers to genuine title challengers, as highlighted by their defensive record matching that of the leaders Manchester City. They managed it without Joe Gomez, who missed the game due to a slight ankle injury. Dejan Lovren replaced the England international impeccably with Watford barely threatening all afternoon.

A thumping 4-0 win for City away to West Ham, though, means that City remain two points ahead of their closest rivals while their goal difference is now 14 better than Liverpool. It seems a strange thing to say but for once it is Liverpool’s attack, rather than defence that is holding them back.

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Jurgen Klopp responds to Egpyt boss telling Mohamed Salah to leave Liverpool

The German did not take kindly to the comments (Picture: Getty)Jurgen Klopp reacted angrily to comments made by Egypt coach Javier Aguirre suggesting Mohamed Salah could leave Liverpool ‘in a season or two’ if the club fail to win silverware.

The 26-year-old smashed the goalscoring record in the Premier League last season though they fell a long way short of Manchester City, and they remain in second place behind the champions this time around.

Salah has not won any silverware since he was at Basel, but Klopp has rubbished Aguirre’s suggestion that the Egyptian winger would seek a new club if Liverpool cannot deliver the trophy he craves.

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Asked about the comments, a visibly rattled Klopp replied: ‘Sorry, who is manager of Egypt? Who is it?’

When Aguirre’s name was mentioned, he continued: ‘Ok. So I try to be nice, eh?

‘So I would say if he [Aguirre] doesn’t win a title in the next two years then he has to move to another club or country, that’s for sure.

Salah netted for his side in AFCON qualifying last week (Picture: Getty)‘I don’t know why people say things like that. It’s just… it’s not that important. It’s the world of media. You find it somewhere, in an Egyptian newspaper or whatever, and the next one is writing it and I get confronted with it.

‘Obviously I don’t agree with that. But it’s a free world and he can say whatever he wants.

‘That’s good actually. And I shouldn’t have made any comment to it. So maybe we can delete what I said a minute ago!’

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Why Liverpool’s front three can get back on track against high-flying Watford

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have each scored six league goals this season (Getty Images)A dozen games into the season and Liverpool are still clinging on to Manchester City’s coattails in the Premier League table with just two points separating the top two.

While City are two points worse off at this stage of the season than they were this time last year, Liverpool have drastically improved, cutting the deficit between them by eight points.

The fundamental factor behind Liverpool’s title challenge has been their defensive solidity as they rank joint-top with City for fewest goals conceded with five apiece. By the end of November, 2017, Liverpool had shipped 17 league goals.

The signings of Virgil Van Dijk in January and Alisson in July, have solved two major areas of weakness, while the development of youthful trio Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Andy Robertson has been profound.

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So impressive has Liverpool’s defence been in fact, that they have even managed to take some of the shine away from their much-vaunted front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and last season’s goalscoring record-breaker, Mohamed Salah.

Although Liverpool are still renowned for the potency of their attackers, they have actually scored fewer goals (23) than every other team in the top five with the exception of Spurs (20) so far this season.

Their goals against columns might be identical, but City’s overall goal difference is far superior than that of their nearest challengers as they have scored 13 times more. As happy as he will be with the stinginess of his defence, Klopp will want his attackers to reduce that gap in the coming weeks.

Roberto Firmino has found goals tough to come by so far this season (Getty Images)While much has been made of the form of Salah and Firmino in particular, it is interesting to compare their respective goal tallies now from 12 months ago. Salah is three goals worse off with six compared to nine, but only three players have outscored him in the division. Firmino, meanwhile, is down by just one, from three goals to two and his output noticeably improved from December onwards in 2017-18.

Making up for the deficit in Salah and Firmino’s goals has been Mane, who has doubled his total from three to six following a strong start to the campaign. Overall, Liverpool’s attackers have scored just one goal fewer between them at the 12-game mark.

There is an argument to be made that Liverpool’s ensemble of talented central midfielders need to do more to reduce the goalscoring pressure on Salah, Firmino and Mane, yet Liverpool’s front three can also do more to help narrow that goal deficit with City, starting against Watford on Saturday.

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Aside from a shock 3-0 defeat against Watford in the first meeting between the two clubs after the Hornets’ promotion in 2015, Liverpool have a good record against this weekend’s opponents, winning four and drawing one of the other five games and racking up 17 goals in the process.

Watford might be seventh in the table and on the verge of handing manager Javi Gracia a new long-term contract, but history suggests they are the perfect opponent for Liverpool’s front three to rediscover their most devastating form.

In just two appearances against Watford last season, Salah directly contributed towards six goals (five goals and one assist). Only Luis Suarez has a better goal involvement against an opponent in Premier League history, with seven (five goals, two assists) in two games against Cardiff.

Salah walking off with the match-ball after scoring four times against Watford last season (Getty Images)Firmino, meanwhile, has been involved in seven goals from his previous five games against the Hornets, scoring four times and assisting a further three, while Mane has three goals and two assists to show from his three league appearances against them for Liverpool.

Watford are much-improved under Gracia but the 4-0 home defeat to Bournemouth in October demonstrated that they can be pulled apart by teams possessing fluidity, pace and ruthlessness in attack. As good as Ryan Fraser, David Brooks and Callum Wilson have been this season, Salah, Firmino and Mane are another level above.

Liverpool’s form has stuttered somewhat of late but it is a testament to their new-found resolve that they remain within touching distance of City. Should their front three click into top-gear over the festive period, Pep Guardiola and his players will certainly be looking nervously over their shoulders.

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Dejan Lovren taunts Sergio Ramos and calls Spain ‘p******’ after Croatia victory

Their war of words has ramped up a notch (Picture: Getty)Dejan Lovren has taken his grudge with Sergio Ramos to a new level by mocking and insulting the defender after Croatia beat Spain on Thursday night.

The Liverpool centre-back was celebrating his nation’s thrilling 3-2 win over Spain that keeps alive their UEFA Nations League hopes – though he seemed more preoccupied with aiming a dig at Ramos.

‘Elbowed him good,’ said Lovren on an Instagram live from the winning dressing room, making a motion with his arm.

‘Haha! 3-2! Go ahead and talk now buddy. Buddy! They are a bunch of p******.’

Covering the Spain flag stitched into his shirt, he continued: ‘Only this side [Croatia] is worthy. Now to beat England and walk out like a boss!’

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Croatia’s win over Spain blew Group 4 wide open, with all three teams capable of topping the table; a win for either Croatia or England on Sunday would seal a place in next summer’s tournament, while a score draw would see the Three Lions relegated.

The bad blood between the two players dates back to the Champions League final when Ramos injured Lovren’s teammate and good friend Mohamed Salah, before going on to mock the reaction to his challenge.

What can happen in Group 4?

England beat CroatiaEngland through, Croatia relegated

Croatia beat EnglandCroatia through, England relegated

Goalless drawSpain through, Croatia relegated

Score drawSpain through, England relegated

Lovren later questioned the plaudits Ramos receives and claimed that the Real Madrid man was lucky to play for a team where his mistakes aren’t as costly as his own.

‘He has many more mistakes than me but he’s at Real Madrid,’ said Lovren earlier this month. ‘With Ronaldo, when you make a mistake, it’s 5-1, 5-2 and nobody sees the mistake.’

Lovren and Ramos’ feud all stems back to this tackle on Salah (Picture: Getty)Ahead of facing Croatia, Ramos said he would not bite back at Lovren during his pre-match press conference – right before taking a thinly veiled dig at him losing both the Champions League final and World Cup final within a matter of months.

‘I’ve said it many times, I don’t know if these things are said out of frustration or for other reasons,’ said Ramos.

‘I’m not going to answer Lovren or whoever wants to win three front pages or start the news bulletin. Everyone wins things for himself on the pitch.’

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Chelsea star Alvaro Morata claims Liverpool have three of the world’s best strikers

Alvaro Morata scored twice in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace (Picture: PRiME Media Images)Alvarro Morata believes Chelsea’s title rivals Liverpool boast three of the best strikers in world football.

The Spain international has recovered from a difficult start to life under new Blues boss Maurizio Sarri to score five goals in his last six appearances, including a brace in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.

Sarri praised Morata’s contribution while revealing the former Real Madrid and Juventus ace has suffered from bouts of mental fragility.

The 26-year-old admits the Premier League is an unforgiving environment, especially given the constant comparisons with what he claims to be some the most potent strikers in the game, with Liverpool boasting three of the world’s elite forwards.

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Mohamed Salah won the Premier League Golden Boot last season (Picture: Getty)‘Of course I want [to be among the top scorers] but I think it is not the most important thing,’ he said. ‘If we want to be in a position to fight for the Premier League I need to score many goals, Eden has to score many goals, Olivier has to score many goals and all the attackers, Willian, Pedro, Ross Barkley.

‘We need goals to win. It is not the most important thing [to be top scorer]. Sometimes you play good and you give a lot of things for the team and you don’t score, and it seems like you play bad.

‘In the Premier League there are the best strikers in the world I think. There is Salah, there is Mane, there is Firmino, Aguero, Kane.

‘In Spain and Italy there are good strikers but here you have 10 strikers who can score every weekend and it is very hard, but at the end of the season the important thing is to be in the first place [in the League]. If you score 15 or 20, that is good because we are strikers and we want to score but we need to win also.

Sculptor who made Mohamed Salah statue explains why it went wrong

Mohamed Salah’s statue isn’t a great likeliness (EPA/Getty)The sculptor behind Mohamed Salah’s widely ridiculed statue has revealed why it turned out so badly.

Egyptian artist Mai Abdel Allah unveiled her statue of the Liverpool forward at the World Youth Forum in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

But her effort was widely mocked on social media and was unfavourably compared with the infamous Cristiano Ronaldo bust which was ridiculed last year.

Speaking about criticism she has received, Abdel Allah admitted she ‘not fully satisfied with the end product’ and claims part of the statue’s creation was taken out of her hands.

Salah’s statue was unveiled in Egypt (AP Photo)

Salah’s statue sculptor admits she’s not happy with how it turned out (AP Photo)More: Football

She said: ‘Bronze did not do it justice and I had no hand in pouring [the mold] in bronze because bronze can only be poured in specific places in Egypt and sculptors cannot do it on their own.

‘I welcome all criticisms this statue received.

‘This is natural because an artist is subjected to a number of tastes but I am personally not happy with the statue’s final product.’

More: Liverpool FC

Red Star vs Liverpool TV channel, live stream, kick-off time, odds and team news

Mohamed Salah will be leading the charge for Liverpool (Picture: Getty Images)Liverpool have the chance to cement their lead at the top of Champions League Group C on Tuesday when they travel to Serbia to take on Red Star Belgrade.

The teams met just two weeks ago and the Reds battered Red Star 4-0 thanks to a brace from Mohamed Salah and one each for Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

Jurgen Klopp confirms Xherdan Shaqiri will miss Red Star clash but two players returnJurgen Klopp’s side now top the group with Napoli and PSG battling to keep pace with the Premier League side.

The French champions go to Italy for a huge match later on Tuesday after Liverpool play.

Virgil van Dijk has been in fine form (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)When is Red Star vs Liverpool?

The match is on Tuesday 6 November with kick-off at 5.55pm (UK time) in Belgrade.

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What TV channel is Red Star vs Liverpool on and is there a live stream?

BT Sport 3 will be showing the game live with coverage starting at 5.15pm.

Subscribers can watch the match through BT Sport Players or on the BT Sport app.

Red Star Belgrade’s Serbian head coach Vladan Milojevic (Picture: Getty Images)What are the odds? (Courtesy of Betfair)

16/1 Red Star

13/2 Draw

1/5 Liverpool

Sadio Mane has seven goals this season (Picture: Getty Images)Team news

Liverpool are likely to be without Dejan Lovren, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita and will certainly by without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Xherdan Shaqiri will be left at home for political reasons.

MORE: Manchester United defender Eric Bailly fears he’s lost Jose Mourinho’s faith as AC Milan prepare move

MORE: Leroy Sane responds to bizarre Manchester United transfer rumour

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