NORWICH, England (AP) — Mohamed Salah set up two goals and scored himself for a fifth straight year in the opening round of a Premier League season to lead Liverpool to a 3-0 win at Norwich on Saturday.
The hosts were in celebratory mood ahead of kickoff after clinching the second-tier Championship title in May, but Juergen Klopp’s team showed its class with Diogo Jota breaking the deadlock in the first half after a slight touch by Salah.
Substitute Roberto Firmino doubled the advantage not long after coming on following a square ball from Salah, who wrapped up an impressive first showing from the Reds with a record-breaking strike high into the net. Salah became the first player to score in five consecutive opening weekends of the Premier League season.
Fans were able to sell out Carrow Road for the first time in 18 months and the Canaries were also back in the Premier League having been relegated and then promoted again during the ensuing period.
It was party time inside the stadium for the Norwich faithful but for Liverpool, it was a case of back to business, with Virgil Van Dijk in the starting lineup 10 months on from his anterior cruciate ligament injury. This was step one on its quest to winning back the title from Manchester City.
Klopp’s men had relinquished the championship in disappointing fashion last season but a strong finish — where they won their last five games — secured Champions League qualification. And after they weathered an initial storm from the hosts, they picked up where they left off.
Goalkeeper Tim Krul had to deny Jota and Salah during the opening exchanges, while the latter narrowly volleyed wide with 23 minutes on the clock after a slick move which involved Sadio Mane, the other member of the front three.
Norwich had also posed questions and Teemu Pukki called Alisson Becker into action with a near-post strike but it was not long before Liverpool opened its account for the season in the 26th minute.
Trent Alexander-Arnold produced a trademark cross and while Salah’s touch appeared to be designed to create an opportunity for himself, it split Norwich’s two center backs Ben Gibson and Grant Hanley perfectly and Jota did not need a second invitation to rifle past Krul from 12 meters.
It was almost 2-0 eight minutes later but Pierre Lees-Melou, one of three debutants for the hosts, was able to clear Joel Matip’s goalbound effort after his block from Salah’s volley had contributed toward Krul’s goal being vacated.
The Canaries were on the ropes at the start of the second period, with Max Aarons and Hanley forced to make crucial interventions to thwart more damage being done to the score.
Jota had looked in the mood all evening and a dribble from his own penalty area to the opposition’s was only ended by a cynical tackle from Todd Cantwell, who received a booking for the foul but curiously it helped raise the decibel levels inside Carrow Road.
Now it was Norwich’s turn to enjoy a sustained spell of pressure, with full back Dimitris Giannoulis making several lung-busting runs down the left and Lees-Melou’s scuffed effort enough to force Klopp into a change.
Firmino and Fabinho were summoned and the former did not need long to make his mark with the second goal after 65 minutes.
The substitute collected Konstantinos Tsimikas’ pass and found Mane, who saw a shot blocked by home captain Hanley. But Salah spotted his fellow forward unmarked at the back post and squared for Firmino to tap in from close range.
After registering a second assist of the match, Salah was finally in the goals with 16 minutes left.
Left back Tsimikas experienced a memorable league debut for the Reds in deputizing for the injured Andrew Robertson. He atoned for an error minutes earlier when his corner was partially cleared to the edge of the area where Salah controlled before rifling the ball high into the net to make it 3-0.
Klopp was able to introduce teenager Harvey Elliott late on, while Van Dijk completed the whole match on his return to competitive action to make it a perfect opening matchday for Liverpool.
Norwich did not lack effort but had no answer to the quality of the visitors and Alisson even denied the team a consolation during the final exchanges with a superb save to deny Gibson.