Mohamed Salah continued his remarkable Anfield scoring record with two goals in Liverpool’s 3-0 victory over Brentford to bring up his 200th in English football.
Only Manchester City’s Erling Haaland has scored more in the Premier League this season than the Egypt international, who took his tally to 10 by scoring for the sixth successive home game to write another entry in club’s history books.
Intriguingly, the pair will meet in a mouthwatering first-versus-second encounter at the Etihad Stadium immediately after the international break in what will be a true test of Liverpool’s title credentials.
After a complete midfield rebuild over the summer following a fifth-place finish, the primary aim was to regain their Champions League status, but after eight wins in their opening 12 matches – and a 100 percent record at home in every competition – a different complexion has developed as they have emerged as City’s chief chasers again.
After taking 39 minutes to break down a stubborn Brentford, Salah’s double either side of half-time was added to by Diogo Jota’s late strike to put a quick end to questions over a mini-stumble after the draw at Luton and Europa League defeat in Toulouse.
In becoming the first Liverpool player to score in each of their first six home matches, Salah joined Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry in having scored or assisted in 15 consecutive Premier League home games.
And, while he claimed the plaudits once again, in many ways the architect of the victory was Darwin Nunez, whose rapid development this season continues to impress.
The Uruguay international, criticised for his wayward shooting last weekend, had two goals disallowed for offside – one only very marginally by VAR – and provided yet another assist for Salah.
His total of nine assists in his Liverpool career have all been for the Egypt international and in the Premier League it is only the third time two players have combined for an individual’s first seven in a campaign – Kevin Campbell for Ian Wright (first 10) and Troy Deeney for Odion Ighalo (seven) the others.
His all-round play has improved immeasurably from last season’s erratic performances and, while still prone to the odd aberration, he is gradually morphing into the all-action number nine the team needs.
After an early deflected cross was saved at the near post by goalkeeper Mark Flekken, Nunez poked home in the 22nd minute after Dominik Szoboszlai’s shot was deflected into his path.
It was not the first time he would have a goal ruled out for offside, although it was the most marginal.
When he buried an overhead kick after Flekken had parried Virgil van Dijk’s header it was apparent he had returned from an offside position.
Brentford had been limited to counter-attacks but almost snatched a goal when Bryan Mbeumo outpaced Trent Alexander-Arnold, but Alisson Becker got a crucial touch on the shot and Liverpool’s right-back got back to collect.
The defender was equally effective at the other end in the 39th minute when he picked out Nunez on the edge of the area and he laid off for Salah to tuck a left-footed shot inside the far post for a goal of brilliant simplicity.
A Nunez piledriver, a Salah volley over from Alexander-Arnold’s delicious chipped diagonal pass over the Brentford defence and a perfectly-judged Nathan Collins’ recovery tackle to deny the Uruguay striker a one-on-one with the keeper saw the half end on a high for the hosts.
Eighteen minutes into the second half Liverpool benefited from VAR as it ruled Kostas Tsimikas’ cross to the far post had remained in play as there was real doubt cast by Salah’s muted celebrations after heading in.
Jota capped a dominant performance with the third in the 74th minute, cutting in from the left to fire home from the edge of the area.
Late on Alexander-Arnold hooked away Collins’ goalbound header and Alisson tipped over Ethan Pinnock’s effort from the resulting corner to keep Liverpool ahead of Arsenal on goal difference and add yet more significance to the trip to the Etihad.