Mohamed Salah scored one and provided two assists as Liverpool got their Premier League title bid off to a winning start with a comfortable victory at newly-promoted Norwich City.
Salah got his side’s third to become the first player to score on the opening weekend in five consecutive Premier League campaigns and cap a fine display after earlier setting up Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino.
The Reds were boosted before kick-off by the return of talismanic defender Virgil van Dijk after 10 months out through injury and their day got even better when they took the lead midway through the first half.
Trent Alexander-Arnold found Salah inside the box and the Egypt forward’s touch fell into the path of Jota for Portugal forward to finish clinically.
It was a little harsh on Norwich, who had made a spirited start to the game as they were roared on by a buoyant home crowd making the most of their return to Carrow Road and the top flight.
Teemu Pukki, who scored 11 goals in the Premier League two seasons ago, drew an early save out of Alisson after getting in behind the visitors’ defence.
But once Liverpool went in front they rarely looked in danger of letting their lead slip as Norwich struggled to rediscover their early rhythm.
Max Aarons cleared a goal-bound effort from Sadio Mane six minutes after the break but a second goal duly arrived shortly after the hour mark when substitute Firmino struck.
Brazil forward had only been on the pitch for four minutes when he tapped in from close range after unselfish work from Salah, who opted to pass to his teammate when he had the chance to shoot from a tighter angle.
Salah then wrapped up the perfect opening day for the Reds when he collected the ball after a corner had only been half-cleared and curled a fine strike into the back of the net.
Liverpool finished third in the Premier League last season, 17 points behind champions Manchester City after their campaign was derailed by a shocking slump as they struggled to cope with their defensive injuries.
But the signs are good that they will be well-stocked in that area this campaign. Van Dijk made his first league appearance since October last year and he was joined in the centre of defence by Joel Matip, who is back after seven months out.
Joe Gomez, who was also missing for most of the second part of last season, and new signing Ibrahima Konate were on the bench at Norwich as suddenly Liverpool appear well-stocked in an area that looked threadbare in the last campaign.
There were elements of rustiness to the play from Van Dijk and Matip, particularly early on as Norwich got in behind the visitors’ defence on a couple of occasions.
But they grew into the game and by the second half were repelling the Canaries’ attacks comfortably – although they did require a brilliant close-range stop from Alisson at the end to secure a clean sheet.
Bigger tests will come for the Reds this season but with the defence now having depth to it and three of their four attacking players scoring against Norwich, they look in good shape to make a more extended run at the title this term.
In Other News – Watford 3 – 2 Aston Villa
Watford marked their Premier League return with a thrilling opening-day victory over Aston Villa at Vicarage Road.
The Hornets, who sealed automatic promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt, saw off a late Villa comeback to hold on to all three points.
Xisco Munoz’s side took the lead on 10 minutes through forwarding Emmanuel Dennis on his debut. learn more