Liverpool star Mohamed Salah's agent denied claims made by an ex-coach that Real Madrid tried to sign the forward in 2018.

Former Egypt international Hany Ramzy said on Saturday Salah had discussed an approach from Madrid with then national team boss Hector Cuper during a March 2018 training camp in Switzerland.

Ramzy told Egyptian television channel OnTimes Sports that he was present and also party to the conversation, even though he only joined the coaching staff under Cuper's successor Javier Aguirre.

But Salah's agent, Ramy Abbas Issa, rubbished the claims via Twitter on Sunday.

"Mohamed never discussed any career plans with any ex-coach," he wrote.

Salah enjoyed a stellar 2017-18 campaign, scoring 32 Premier League goals and supplying 10 assists.

Jurgen Klopp's men went on to lose 3-1 to Madrid in the Champions League final in that season, with Salah substituted early after a tussle with Sergio Ramos.

Salah has scored 91 goals in 144 games since arriving at Liverpool from Roma in 2017.

He helped Liverpool sit 25 points clear atop the Premier League table when the season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Real Madrid made an offer to Liverpool star Mohamed Salah in the months leading up to their 2018 Champions League final clash, according to a former member of coaching staff for the Egypt national team.

Salah enjoyed a stellar 2017-18 campaign, scoring 32 Premier League goals and supplying 10 assists.

However, his bid for European glory with the Reds ended in heartbreak, after a tussle with Sergio Ramos saw him depart the final in Kiev with an injured shoulder.

Jurgen Klopp's men went on to lose 3-1 and Salah embarked on a race against time to be fit for Egypt's World Cup campaign in Russia.

The ex-Roma forward scored twice but the Pharaohs lost every game as they bowed out limply at the group stage.

According to former Egypt international Hany Ramzy, Salah discussed an approach from Madrid with then national team boss Hector Cuper during a March 2018 training camp in Switzerland.

Ramzy told Egyptian television channel OnTimes Sports that he was present and also party to the conversation, even though he only joined the coaching staff under Cuper's successor Javier Aguirre.

"I was talking to Salah and he told me that Real Madrid sent him an offer," he said.

"The offer was really good, but Salah discussed it with me and Mr. Cuper, and he decided to stay with Liverpool because he was comfortable there."

Ramzy left the Egypt setup along with all of Aguirre's staff when they were dismissed in the aftermath of a last-16 exit from the African Cup of Nations on home soil last year.

Nevertheless, Salah retains huge ambitions in the continental tournament.

"Salah is ambitious. He told us that he wanted to win AFCON three times in a row, as Egypt did in 2006, 2008, 2010," Ramzy added.

Timo Werner is heavily linked with a move to Liverpool, but how could the forward fit at the Premier League giants?

Werner, 24, is reportedly prioritising Jurgen Klopp's side, having starred for RB Leipzig this season.

The Germany international said in February he was proud to be linked to Liverpool, who won the Champions League last season and were dominating the Premier League this campaign before it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But Klopp has Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino at his disposal already and the trio are widely regarded as one of the best attacks in the world.

We use Opta data to assess Werner and the trio, and look at the forward in comparison to Firmino's final season in the Bundesliga before joining Liverpool.

 

Prolific Werner could add something different

Werner has scored 21 goals, including three penalties, in 25 Bundesliga games this season, with Leipzig – who are third in the table – heavily reliant on the forward. Liverpool have less of a reliance on one player, with Salah (16), Mane (14) and Firmino (eight) netting 38 between them in the Premier League. That means Werner has scored a goal every 97.6 minutes in the Bundesliga, far better than the best of Liverpool's trio – Salah at 140.4. Werner also leads the four players in the Champions League with a goal every 144.8 minutes.

He has also had the most 'big chances' with 29, and converted quite well in the Bundesliga. Werner has converted 48.3 per cent of his 'big chances', with only Salah (61.9) bettering that, and Mane (34.8) and Firmino (20.8) well below.

Salah has created the most 'big chances' of the quartet with 12, although it is only narrowly ahead of the rest with Werner sitting at 10, Firmino on nine and Mane on seven. However, Salah has just six assists compared to seven for each of the other three.

Firmino's contribution beyond just goals

Sometimes questioned for his lack of goals, Firmino's movement and work rate are lauded at Liverpool. The Brazilian has won possession in the final third 27 times in the Premier League this season, with Werner (18) below Firmino, Salah (23) and Mane (21). Werner has won possession in the final third just once in eight Champions League games, falling behind the other three with Salah (six) leading the way.

Firmino is also a more successful dribbler than the rest, completing 48 of 81 at 59.3 per cent in the league, with the other three below 55 per cent. Interestingly, Werner has struggled in this department in the Champions League, completing just seven of 21, well behind Firmino (18 of 28).

Werner delivering as Firmino did before move

Firmino joined Liverpool from Hoffenheim in 2015 for a reported £29million, far less than the apparent £52m they would have to pay for Werner. Firmino turned 23 during his final Bundesliga season, while Werner celebrated his 24th birthday this campaign. So how does Firmino's last Bundesliga campaign compare to Werner this season?

During the 2014-15 season, Firmino scored seven goals and provided 10 assists in 33 Bundesliga games, while Werner has 21 and seven respectively in his 25. The Brazil international's numbers were impacted, however, by hitting the woodwork an extraordinary five times. It means Werner's 'big chance' conversion (48.3 per cent) is better than Firmino's was (30.8), although how different they are is again highlighted. Firmino created 67 chances from open play in that campaign, while Werner is up to 35. Firmino also won possession in the final third 28 times compared to Werner's 18. And while Werner has a better dribble success rate (54.1 to 53.6), Firmino attempted an incredible 261 compared to Werner's 85.

Werner has plenty to offer, and he can add a different dynamic – and plenty of depth – to an already stellar attack at Liverpool, potentially even creating a spectacular front four if Firmino drops in to play as a number 10.

The pause in the football calendar (except in Belarus, of course) gives players across Europe plenty of time to reflect on their efforts so far this season.

While some have a few things to work on when matches return, there are others for whom 2019-20 has been a showcase of the very best they have to offer.

In the latest piece in our series, we look at the best-performing forwards in the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Premier League and Serie A.

Goals might be the most obvious (and fundamentally important) of metrics for these players, but the number of times the ball crosses that white line is not the only measure of their quality.

To that end, we have also examined seven other parameters: minutes-per-goal rate, shots on target, shooting accuracy, shot conversion rate, big chance conversion rate, dribbles completed and dribble success rate. And these are for those players to make at least 10 league appearances this season, to avoid any unfair imbalance in the results (we're looking at you, Florin Andone).

Without further ado, we present the most ruthless forwards elite-level football in Europe has to offer...

THE MOST RUTHLESS FORWARDS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

 

BUNDESLIGA:

Most goals scored: Robert Lewandowski (25)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Robert Lewandowski (81.7)
Most shots on target: Robert Lewandowski (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Marcus Thuram (76.3 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Paco Alcacer (35.7 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Rouwen Hennings (71.4 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Marcus Thuram (57)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Lucas Alario (83.3 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most goals scored: Lionel Messi (19)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Lionel Messi (99.5)
Most shots on target: Lionel Messi (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Lionel Messi (68.9 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Lucas Perez (40.7 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Charles (83.3 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Lionel Messi (118)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Pione Sisto (76.9 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Most goals scored: Kylian Mbappe and Wissam Ben Yedder (18)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Kylian Mbappe (84.1)
Most shots on target: Kylian Mbappe (49)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Kasper Dolberg (78.1 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Mauro Icardi (37.5 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Moussa Dembele (72.2 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Neymar (90)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Zaydou Youssouf (85.7 per cent)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most goals scored: Jamie Vardy (19)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Sergio Aguero (87.6)
Most shots on target: Mohamed Salah (43)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Anthony Martial (68.2 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (36.2 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Harry Kane (70 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Adama Traore (144)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Billy Sharp (86.7 per cent)

SERIE A:

Most goals scored: Ciro Immobile (27)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Luis Muriel (70.2)
Most shots on target: Cristiano Ronaldo (53)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Romelu Lukaku (65.5 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Ante Rebic (42.9 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Felipe Caicedo (85.7 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Jeremie Boga (106)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Sergio Floccari (72.2 per cent)

AND THE TOP EIGHT:

Most goals scored: Ciro Immobile (27)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Luis Muriel (70.2)
Most shots on target: Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Kasper Dolberg (78.1 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Ante Rebic (42.9 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Felipe Caicedo (85.7 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Adama Traore (144)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Billy Sharp (86.7 per cent)

Liverpool responded to an early setback against Bournemouth to create top-flight history and vice-captain James Milner believes other teams would have crumbled when falling behind.

The Reds, who followed up their first Premier League loss of the season at Watford last weekend with FA Cup elimination against Chelsea in midweek, triumphed 2-1 at Anfield on Saturday to secure a record 22nd successive home win, surpassing the benchmark set by Bill Shankly's Liverpool side in 1972.

They had to come from behind to break the record, though, with referee Paul Tierney and VAR seeing nothing amiss with Callum Wilson's possible push on Joe Gomez before the Cherries striker tapped home the opener in the ninth minute.

Liverpool reacted positively and Mohamed Salah restored parity on his 100th Premier League outing for the club before Sadio Mane put them in front after 33 minutes.

Bournemouth never looked like getting back into the game, with Jurgen Klopp's men securing a win that leaves them potentially three wins away from a first title in 30 years.

"I don't think any Premier League game is not hard to win, it's a boring thing to say but it's true," Milner told BT Sport.

"Especially when you've had a couple of performances which weren't at our level. Again today we weren't at our best but many teams would've crumbled, a couple of poor results, plenty of things going on outside the ground, people saying this and that.

"Many teams might have crumbled at one down, but we didn't. We kept going, stayed calm and when you've got the boys up front, with how clinical they are you've always got a chance.

"It's special but we just want to keep producing performances and winning trophies and creating history for this club.

"The unbelievable teams that have been here since the start, to be up there with those and have a good run is special, but we want to just keep producing performances, hopefully winning trophies and creating history for this club."

In his sixth Premier League game against Bournemouth, Salah took his tally versus the Cherries to eight.

The Egypt international has 70 goals in the top flight for Liverpool and became their first player to score at least 20 in three consecutive seasons since Michael Owen, who did so from 2000-01 until 2002-03.

Asked about his record against Bournemouth, Salah said: "That's something good, I always love to score and help the team to get points.

"We showed our personality after 1-0 down, we had to react for that and I think we did well.

"We need to keep going for the next three games and the rest of the season."

Just three more wins to go.

It was not a famous performance, but it was a record-breaking result, one that should end any of that title-collapse talk before it got out of hand - and one that reminded everyone how wonderfully ruthless Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah can be.

Liverpool were certainly not brilliant against Bournemouth, the standard of their display mostly in keeping with a recent run in which they had lost three of their past five games and scored only four times, but they are back to winning ways and have surpassed their own record for consecutive top-flight home victories in England thanks to this, their 22nd in succession.

Ultimately, talk of them throwing away the most one-sided title race the Premier League has ever seen was always nonsense. But losing to Atletico Madrid, seeing their quest for an invincible league season ended at Watford and exiting the FA Cup at Chelsea in the past few weeks had certainly shaken some of the confidence out of Jurgen Klopp's previously unstoppable force.

It showed again at Anfield on Saturday. Somehow, Bournemouth went ahead - a Bournemouth side with two league wins in 12 games and on a run of five consecutive losses to Liverpool by an aggregate score of 17-0. It looked like Callum Wilson could scarcely believe it when he tapped in Jefferson Lerma's cross, although he was perhaps expecting a VAR intervention for a shove on Joe Gomez.

When Nathan Ake's header was flapped onto the crossbar by Adrian, fans in the Kop were growing restless. They needed something to calm the nerves, someone to bring precision to a disjointed Reds display. They needed Salah and Mane.

In truth, neither forward exactly had a glowing first half. Salah was as guilty as anyone when it came to Liverpool's imprecision on the ball: he completed only half of his 18 attempted passes in the Bournemouth half and gave the ball away with more than a third of his overall efforts in the first 45 minutes. Mane, too, was labouring at the same 59 per cent success rate for first-half passes, as Klopp's side seemed short on ideas against a defence that has kept one clean sheet since November 2.

And yet, when the chances came, there was never any doubt.

Jack Simpson's loose touch was all it took. Mane pounced, found Salah, and the Egyptian spun and shot through the legs of Lerma, leaving Aaron Ramsdale grasping at air. One shot, one goal.

Next, Bournemouth made a mess of things in midfield, Virgil van Dijk played Mane through, and he curled a finish beyond the Cherries goalkeeper. One shot, one goal.

It was the 16th time Liverpool have come from behind to lead at half-time of a Premier League game at Anfield. It wasn't pretty, but it was enough. It usually is when Salah and Mane are involved.

Salah has scored 70 times in 100 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, at least seven more than any other Reds player has managed in their first century of matches. Mane has scored and assisted in the same league game for Liverpool on nine occasions. Each of them has scored 27 home goals in the league since the start of last season, which is more than anyone else.

Atletico are highly unlikely to commit the same errors when they visit on Wednesday, and a 2-1 win would not be enough to keep Liverpool's Champions League defence alive. But Salah and Mane, at Anfield, are usually enough to see off anything.

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane scored as Liverpool set a new top-flight record by coming from behind to beat Bournemouth 2-1 in the Premier League at Anfield.

Liverpool made history by winning a 22nd home league game in succession, despite Callum Wilson netting a controversial opener after a push on Joe Gomez in the build-up went unpunished by referee Paul Tierney and a VAR check.

Jurgen Klopp's side started sluggishly but reacted to that setback brilliantly, with Mane teeing up Salah to mark his 100th Premier League appearance for the club with a goal in the 25th minute.

Mane capitalised on further shoddy Bournemouth defending to ensure Liverpool bounced back following up their first league loss of the season to Watford last weekend, as well as an FA Cup defeat to Chelsea in midweek.

Bournemouth took a surprise lead inside nine minutes, Gomez nudged off the ball by Wilson before the striker rounded off a neat move involving Philip Billing and Jefferson Lerma with a tap-in at the back post.

It was almost two five minutes later when Nathan Ake's powerful header was unconvincingly palmed onto the crossbar by Adrian, who started in place of the injured Alisson.

However, Liverpool were back on level terms when Jack Simpson, sent on for the injured Steve Cook, was caught on the ball by Mane and his pass to Salah was fired through the legs of Lerma and into the bottom-right corner.

Virgil van Dijk intercepted a pass from Lewis Cook and quickly fed Mane, who was played onside by Ake and slid a cool finish beyond Aaron Ramsdale in the 33rd minute.

The tempo noticeably dipped after half-time and only a brilliant goal-line clearance from James Milner, who started at left-back with Andy Robertson rested as a precaution, stopped Ryan Fraser from restoring parity after the hour mark.

Mane rattled the upright with a beautiful, curling effort from 25 yards and Roberto Firmino blazed a glorious chance over in added time, but two goals were enough for Liverpool to secure a landmark result.

 

What does it mean? Liverpool back on track

After seeing their chances of replicating Arsenal's unbeaten Premier League campaign and Manchester United's famous treble from 1998-99 evaporate in the space of four days, the Reds avoided suffering successive top-flight defeats for the first time under Klopp.

They move 25 points clear of Manchester City, who have played two games fewer, and means they can still clinch the title at the home of the defending champions on April 5.

Salah the centurion

In his milestone appearance, Salah scored his 70th Premier League goal for Liverpool. It was a pinpoint finish despite a shoddy pass from Mane and made him the first Reds player to manage at least 20 times in all competitions in three straight seasons since Michael Owen, who achieved the feat between 2000-01 and 2002-03.

Bournemouth fall apart

Despite going ahead early, the Cherries folded following the loss of Steve Cook. Errors from Simpson and Ake enabled Liverpool to turn the game around and stopped Eddie Howe's team from moving out of the relegation zone.

What's next?

Liverpool will aim to keep their Champions League defence alive by overturning a 1-0 aggregate deficit against Atletico Madrid at Anfield on Wednesday, with a Merseyside derby against Everton the following Monday. Bournemouth are next in action at home to Crystal Palace in a week.

Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has revealed his Liverpool-supporting daughter tries to wind him up by chanting songs about Mohamed Salah.

Sterling was a first-team regular for three seasons at Anfield prior to forcing through a reported £49million move to Premier League rivals City in July 2015.

He has won six major honours during his time with City, but the England international continues to play second fiddle to Liverpool star Salah in his own household.

"She has my sort of personality and she likes to banter and chant Mo Salah's songs to me," Sterling said in an interview with AS. 

"She knows the rivalry between Liverpool and the team that I play for so she's always singing their songs and trying to wind me up but that's just her personality."

The 25-year-old also opened up on coping with racism on the football field and in everyday life.

Sterling has been praised for the stance he has taken against racism and discrimination, but he insisted there is a lot of work to be done in the wake of some unsavoury incidents.

Porto forward Moussa Marega demanded to be substituted earlier this month after scoring in a Primeira Liga win over Vitoria Guimaraes.

"Today this is one of those things that becomes normal," he said. "It is frequent now to see a player walk off the pitch by himself. 

"It's sad to see but it's one of those things that I don’t think is taken quite seriously enough. 

"People say that it is taken seriously but you can see month after month, it's the same on everywhere. 

"I think that if it was other subjects or people commenting on other people's sexuality, I think it would be taken a lot more seriously than talking about someone's skin colour."

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak insisted there was more to Liverpool than just their brilliant front three and said they were deserved favourites.

Liverpool face Atletico in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at the Wanda Metropolitano on Tuesday.

Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino again shape as being huge threats to Atletico, who have won just one of their past seven games.

But Oblak, likely to play a key role for the LaLiga side, said there was more to worry about than just Liverpool's forwards.

"We've obviously analysed everything but in the end all three are world-class players," he told a news conference.

"And it's not only them, Liverpool are a team and everyone on the pitch is an amazing player. They are in great form so I need to worry about all of them, not anyone individually.

"I'm worried about Liverpool as a team, we are playing Liverpool, not three great players up front. It will be a very difficult game and all three will cause us problems."

While Atletico are struggling for form, Liverpool are unbeaten in the Premier League and hold a 25-point lead at the top.

Oblak said the reigning European champions deserved favouritism for the last-16 tie.

"It's a team that practically hasn't lost a single game in a year, they are deservedly favourites and I'm sure they're favourites," he said.

"But that doesn't mean that we can give up and let them play how they want. We want to play our best possible game, the best game of the season so far and to get to the second leg alive.

"We are going to do our best and play our best against Liverpool who are in a great place at the moment."

Mohamed Salah's agent has reiterated no decision has been taken on whether the Liverpool star will represent Egypt at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Egypt Under-23 boss Shawky Gharib confirmed his intention to select Salah as one of three overage players for the football tournament at the Games, though he did concede he has not yet held talks with the player himself.

Speaking last month, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp said "it would not be too cool" if Salah were travel to Japan and that the call had yet to be made.

That was a message emphasised again by Salah's agent Ramy Abbas Issa on social media, who quote tweeted a report saying the 27-year-old would be selected with the message: "No decision has been made yet."

If Salah were to represent Egypt it would leave Liverpool without their key forward for pre-season and perhaps some of the beginning of the Premier League campaign.

The gold medal match is scheduled to take place on August 8, the same day as the start of the top-flight season in England.

Liverpool opened up a whopping 22-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League as four second-half goals saw them cruise past Southampton 4-0 at Anfield on Saturday.

The Reds were lucky to not be behind at the break after a chaotic first half, but normal service was resumed after the interval as they racked up a 16th consecutive top-flight triumph.

Merseyside rivals Everton, meanwhile, came from two goals down to edge past Watford 3-2 in a thrilling game at Vicarage Road.

Antonio Rudiger scored twice as Chelsea and Leicester City played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at the King Power Stadium, while there were wins for Sheffield United and Bournemouth over Crystal Palace and Aston Villa respectively.

Brighton and Hove Albion came from two goals down to draw 3-3 at West Ham, while bottom side Norwich City held Newcastle United to a goalless draw at St James' Park.

SALAH AT THE DOUBLE FOR RELENTLESS REDS

Mohamed Salah scored twice as runaway leaders Liverpool produced a second-half surge to seal a comprehensive victory over Southampton.

Jurgen Klopp's world champions secured a 24th win from 25 top-flight games this season, with Salah striking twice in the last 18 minutes.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring in the 47th minute against his former club, unleashing a low drive past Alex McCarthy, before Jordan Henderson doubled their lead on the hour mark.

RUDIGER HEADS BRACE IN LANDMARK MATCH

Rudiger marked his 100th appearance for Chelsea with an unlikely brace but Frank Lampard's side were unable to secure maximum points.

Chelsea went ahead a minute into the second half at the King Power Stadium when Rudiger nodded in Mason Mount's corner.

Their lead lasted less than 10 minutes, Harvey Barnes drawing Leicester level with the aid of a deflection off Reece James to give Willy Caballero - picked ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga - no chance.

Ben Chilwell put the hosts ahead with a cool finish in the 64th minute, but the Blues claimed a share of the spoils to stay eight points behind third-placed Leicester when Rudiger headed home his second 19 minutes from time.

TOFFEES STING HORNETS WITH LATE STRIKE

Everton's Theo Walcott scored in the 90th minute to complete a remarkable turnaround against Watford.

Adam Masina and Roberto Pereyra had put the Hornets 2-0 up, but defender Yerry Mina scored twice in first-half stoppage time to haul Carlo Ancelotti's side level.

Everton's hopes of sealing all three points looked to be over when Fabian Delph was dismissed 13 minutes from time for two yellow cards, but Walcott steered home after a quick break to send the travelling faithful into raptures.  

Mohamed Salah scored twice as runaway leaders Liverpool produced a second-half surge to seal a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Southampton at Anfield on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp's world champions racked up a 16th consecutive Premier League triumph - and 24th from 25 top-flight games this season - with Salah striking twice in the last 18 minutes.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring in the 47th minute against his former club, unleashing a low drive past Alex McCarthy, before Jordan Henderson doubled their lead on the hour mark.

Salah produced a sweet finish for his first in the 72nd minute and showed his composure again at the death to send the Reds 22 points clear of second-place Manchester City, who travel to Tottenham on Sunday.

 

Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool were short of their best in their 2-0 victory over West Ham, producing what he described as a "normal performance" at the London Stadium.

The Reds sauntered to three points as Mohamed Salah scored a first-half penalty before setting up Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for his second Premier League goal of the season after the interval.

Manuel Lanzini missed clear chances for the Hammers in either half amid some sloppy Liverpool defending, though Klopp opted not to criticise his players and insisted the result was all that mattered.

"We could have done a lot of things better but there was only one team who deserved to win," the Liverpool boss told Sky Sports.

"We could have passed better, defended better. Who cares? These players played outstanding football so often, it was a normal performance.

"We never had 100 per cent rhythm, it is tough to play against such a defensive-orientated team."

Liverpool's players left the pitch to the sound of travelling supporters singing confidently about becoming Premier League champions, though Klopp is still refusing to get too carried away despite holding a 19-point lead at the summit.

"They can sing whatever they want," the German said. "Singing it doesn't mean you are it."

Defeat leaves West Ham still teetering above the relegation zone, with only their marginally superior goal difference keeping them above 18th-placed Bournemouth.

After the game, Hammers boss David Moyes discussed the arrival of Czech Republic midfielder Tomas Soucek on loan from Slavia Prague, describing the 24-year-old as "a big, athletic midfield player who has scored a lot of goals".

Moyes indicated that the club could yet make more additions before the January transfer window closes, adding: "I would like to bring in players who can help the team. If we can add, we will."

Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored the goals as Liverpool moved 19 points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win at West Ham.

The Reds completed the full set of top-flight scalps – they have now beaten every team in the division this season – even though Jurgen Klopp's side were nowhere near their best at London Stadium on Wednesday.

While they dominated possession and frustrated their hosts for long periods, the Reds still allowed Manuel Lanzini chances in either half that a forward with more confidence may well have taken.

Still, all the swagger came from Liverpool, who took the lead when Salah lashed home a penalty in the 35th minute. They then put paid to West Ham's hopes of a second-half recovery when Oxlade-Chamberlain netted in a one-on-one situation with Lukasz Fabianski.

Manuel Lanzini fired wide with only Alisson to beat after 14 minutes and, though an offside flag was raised against the Argentina international, Liverpool looked momentarily rattled.

The visitors only began to threaten when Andrew Robertson beat Fabianski with a delicate chip, but his effort lacked accuracy and the hosts, working hard to stay on terms, cleared their lines.

However, West Ham's game plan faltered when Issa Diop was judged to have fouled Divock Origi in the six-yard box and Salah rammed the ensuing penalty into the net, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.

Lanzini fluffed another golden chance to score early in the second half and his miss paved the way for Liverpool to double their lead. On a counter-attack from a West Ham corner, Salah's pass with the outside of his left boot put Oxlade-Chamberlain through on goal and the midfielder applied a cool low finish to beat Fabianski.

Declan Rice powered through the Liverpool defence and stung Alisson's palms with a fierce drive before Trent Alexander-Arnold inadvertently hit his own post from the rebound.

Salah shook the frame of the West Ham goal at the other end with a sweetly struck first-time shot in the closing stages but two goals were more than enough for Liverpool to continue their title charge.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohamed Salah will face off in the second round of qualifying for World Cup 2022, with Gabon and Egypt drawn in the same group.

Salah's Egypt and Aubameyang's Gabon will join Libya and Angola in Group F in the second phase of African qualifying for the finals in Qatar.

Group D pits Cameroon and Ivory Coast together along with Mozambique and Malawi, while Nigeria will face Cape Verde Islands, Central African Republic and Liberia in Group C.

Africa Cup of Nations holders Algeria will meet Burkina Faso, Niger and Djibouti in Group A, while 2019's beaten finalists Senegal were drawn with Congo, Namibia and Togo in Group H.

Group G sees Ghana and South Africa pitted against Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.

The group phase runs from March 2020 until October next year, with the 10 group winners drawn into five two-legged knockout ties to be played next November.

 

Groups in full:

Group A: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Djibouti
Group B: Tunisia, Zambia, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea
Group C: Nigeria, Cape Verde Islands, Central African Republic, Liberia
Group D: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Malawi
Group E: Mali, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda
Group F: Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Angola
Group G: Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia
Group H: Senegal, Congo, Namibia, Togo
Group I: Morocco, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sudan
Group J: Congo DR, Benin, Madagascar, Tanzania.

 

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