Mohamed Salah put speculation about his future behind him by scoring as Liverpool comfortably beat Aston Villa to continue their strong start to the season in the Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp’s side rejected a £150m bid for the Egypt international from Saudi Pro League club Al-Ittihad, with the Reds insisting the 31-year-old is not for sale.
And Salah emphasised his worth to Liverpool when he scored their third goal in the second half at Anfield, firing in at the back post from Darwin Nunez’s cross to seal a third league win in a row.
Dominik Szoboszlai got the hosts up and running after just three minutes, scoring his first goal for the club with a crisp strike through a crowded box.
Villa, who have been scoring for fun since losing 5-1 to Newcastle in their opening game of the season, were far too open at the back as they struggled to deal with Liverpool’s forwards.
The hosts increased their lead in the 22nd minute when Nunez’s shot hit the post and bounced in off the unlucky Matty Cash.
Liverpool looked capable of scoring with every attack in a rampant first half, although Villa’s cause was not helped by an enforced change as centre-back Diego Carlos limped off with an injury inside the opening 20 minutes.
And the lively Nunez went close to scoring his third goal in two games as his shot bounced off the crossbar.
Keeper Alisson made a good stop to push out Cash’s header in the second half, but Salah’s second goal of the season wrapped up a win that moved Liverpool up to third in the Premier League, two points behind leaders Manchester City.
While it was a Liverpool new boy who got the Reds up and running in this game, much of the focus at Anfield was on a stalwart as the future of talisman Salah remains uncertain.
The Reds have repeatedly insisted they have no intention of letting Salah leave but, with the Saudi Pro League transfer window not closing until 7 September, it is likely their resolve will be tested again with reports of a £200m offer.
Klopp has said Salah is “100% committed” to Liverpool and there was nothing to suggest otherwise on Sunday as he again underlined his importance to the Reds against Villa.
He created opportunities and had chances himself, before finally getting on the scoresheet 10 minutes into the second half.
With Nunez also continuing to impress, the Reds possess the attacking strength to suggest they will be strong contenders to challenge at the top end of the table this season.
Salah is a three-time Golden Boot winner in the Premier League and, despite his age, this performance shows he remains an integral part of Klopp’s side.
After winning their last four games in all competitions, Villa will look to put this performance and result down to a bad day at the office.
They never really got going – although the early goal and loss of Carlos did not help their cause – and looked a shadow of the side that had scored 15 goals and conceded just one in that aforementioned run of victories.
Prior to this game, only Manchester City had picked up more Premier League points in 2023 than Aston Villa’s 49, so there’s little doubt they are firmly going in the right direction under Unai Emery.
Perhaps the Villa boss’ main takeaway from their start to the season is how they cope against sides likely to be contending for the top six places.
Defeats to Newcastle and Liverpool, 5-1 and 3-0 respectively, will be a concern for Emery.