The Egyptian scored three goals in six minutes and 12 seconds, breaking Bafetimbi Gomis’ record of an eight-minute hat-trick in the Champions League
IBROX – A goal score has never flattered a team so much. At first glance, it looks like Liverpool have put a terrific performance at Ibrox to the sword of a vastly inferior Rangers, but the numbers only tell half the story.
Mo Salah has had his troubles this season and was dragged into a wider than normal position by Jurgen Klopp, a move that hasn’t done much good for his torrent returns.
But form is temporary. Despite hitting seven behind against a confused Rangers, Liverpool weren’t at their best until Salah entered the fray, with the Egyptian class topping all at a stunned Ibrox. The fastest hat-trick in Champions League history couldn’t have come at a better time, with Manchester City next.
Even the champion’s almost imperious squad must have been unsettled by the sight of the Egyptian rear doing what it does best.
With its red brick facade that wouldn’t look out of place on the Albert Dock, the Ibrox is already impressive from the outside, with the nighttime feel of the old school European Cup resembling an LS Lowry painting under the lights.
The atmosphere inside didn’t disappoint either. Expectations were low. “Only one goal is enough,” the supporter next to the press gallery cried out, before declaring, without being asked, “There’s no SNP in here.”
Another not to mince words is Klopp, who was particularly optimistic this week when asked what was going wrong at Anfield.
Much of the debate revolved around the age of his squad – the average age of starters this season is higher than at any time in the German’s tenure. He certainly won’t admit it, but such talks may have at least crept into his thoughts on team selection with Salah on the bench and teenagers Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho in the starting XI.
But like a golfer with the yips, no matter what Klopp does, he cannot cure Liverpool’s inexcusable inability to start a game well.
After jumping into action with a deafening version of ‘Rule Britannia’, Rangers fans did everything they could to unsettle Liverpool and it worked as Klopp’s side conceded first again for the eighth of 11 this season.
Again it was their own doing as Carvalho gave the ball away far too easily, Rangers slammed and Scott Arfield scored their first goal in 383 minutes of Champions League football. Limbs everywhere.
Luckily for Liverpool, Rangers are more than vulnerable in defense themselves and gave Roberto Firmino all the space in the world to level Kostas Tsimika’s corner at the near post.
Things got better for the visitors in the first half, however, as Rangers squandered several chances to regain the lead. More defensive fragility as seen in the first half against City on Sunday and the champions will be happy to point out how the chasm between the supposed title rivals has surprisingly widened.
Rangers fell apart in the second half, with another from Firmino as Joe Gomez channeled his inner Trent Alexander-Arnold to set up the chance and goals from Darwin Nunez – a strike he found after a slow start to life in England certainly needed – and Salah helped Liverpool take the game beyond the home side.
Salah wasn’t done with that, with his second and third spot-on finishes of the game resembling last season’s Egyptian king, effortless in his execution but disciplined when it mattered.
The defense left a lot to be desired and the home fans seethed in frustration at how their side had surrendered, but you still need to convert the opens. And yet few do it better than Salah.
Elliott completed the embarrassment for those who remained in the emptying stadium.
However, there may be some consolation for those trudging home on the Glasgow night – they were there to witness the night Salah found his mojo again.