JURGEN KLOPP insists Mohamed Salah has “absolutely no issues” fitness-wise from his shoulder injury after the Egyptian scored on an electric return for Liverpool against Manchester City.
Mohamed Salah Jurgen Klopp
Klopp has assured Liverpool fans that Salah has no fitness problems - as the Egyptian showed
The winger appeared for the Reds for the first time since the Champions League final when he was forced off after a tangling with Sergio Ramos - an injury that also left him noticeably short of fitness at the World Cup as his country crashed out in the group stages.
But Salah lacked no sharpness and took a mere 52 seconds to make his impact felt at the MetLife Stadium, heading in from a Rafa Camacho cross to make it 1-1 after Leroy Sane had put title rivals City ahead.
Salah then had another goal-bound header cleared off the line and struck the crossbar with a one-on-one as the 26-year-old indicated that he might just be able to replicate the astonishing heights of his maiden Anfield season in 2018-19.
Sadio Mane, who was equally as lively on his return, struck the match-winner from the penalty spot in the fourth minute of stoppage time after Dominic Solanke had been bundled over as Liverpool edged out a young City team 2-1.
But the 30-minute performance of Salah was the stand-out positive for Liverpool as their star man, who plundered 44 goals in all competitions last term en route to a host of individual accolades, sent out a warning to the Merseyside club's Premier League rivals that last year may was no fluke.
Jurgen Klopp admitted some disappointment with Liverpool's leggy first-half display
Klopp enthused afterwards: “I said before the game, it’s not that he has problems. He has no problems.
“He only needs to get used to all the different things. We do a lot with the shoulder to strengthen the muscles and all that stuff.
“Usually you don’t do anything with the shoulder but in rehab you feel this and feel that, and you need to learn that’s normal.
“He is in that moment but he has absolutely no issues. I was not concerned about it otherwise he wouldn’t have played.
Mohamed Salah scored within a minute of his return to action for the Reds
He came in and scored after pretty much 35 seconds. He had a big impact.
Jurgen Klopp on Mohamed Salah
“He came in and scored after pretty much 35 seconds. He had a big impact together with Sadio and Dom [Solanke], and the midfield with Marko [Grujic], Pedro [Chirivella] and Ben [Woodburn] played fantastic.
“Both full-backs were then really involved in the offensive situations, which we didn’t have too much in the first half. Both centre-halves were there.
“Nat Phillips on this level is surprised by himself, that’s really cool. Raggy [Klavan] did well and Caoimhin [Kelleher] had a nice save.
“So it was really a nice second half which helped us a lot because we all see it’s still there, it’s all good.
“We only need to keep on working and make sure that in two weeks we have fresher legs than tonight.”
Mane and Salah’s introductions - at half-time and on the hour mark respectively - injected a welcome jolt of energy and enthusiasm into a faltering Liverpool performance.
And Klopp admitted that his players, some of whom had played in five pre-season matches before this, were feeling the effects of their preparations from recent weeks.
Liverpool bounced back from Sunday's defeat to Borussia Dortmund by overcoming Man City
“On the other hand, you constantly play football you don’t want to see because the legs are heavy and it’s really difficult for the boys.
“You see how they react in a different way to all the sessions we do. In the first half there were obviously a lot of big legs, they were tired kind of.
“You could see it, no freshness, nothing. Then the problem is of course, the formation usually is good for playing football but you need depth in your game. We didn’t have that, we didn’t offer it one time.
“You saw the difference already when Sadio came on. Now you can prepare direction, you can play balls in behind, which makes life difficult for the opponent.
“So, with this and then all the other changes after 60 minutes, bringing in fresh legs and obviously a lot of desire to play football, we changed the game.
“So I’m happy with the second half. On the other hand, physical-wise it was important that a lot of players could play 60 minutes for the first time, in difficult circumstances again.”
Mohamed Salah Sadio Mane
Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane provided the goals in their first pre-season appearances
Liverpool and City had to play on a woeful pitch at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford - the patchy surface having only been re-laid on Tuesday.
That was after a triple header of Taylor Swift concerts last weekend, added to relentless rain in recent days.
But Klopp said that the challenge of playing on such a bobbly pitch is an experience that his side will benefit from having avoided any injuries.
The German declared: “You saw with the passing, it’s not good, not perfect for football.
“The stadium is outstanding, it’s great - the dressing room is as big as Anfield! The crowd was sensational, it was really cool.
Mohamed Salah's celebration gives a glimpse of the MetLife's patchy pitch
Salah lapped up the appreciation of Liverpool's American fans in New Jersey
“The pitch and the grass was not perfect. But pre-season is there for us to try to perform in the most difficult circumstances.
“In the second half no player was disturbed by the pitch, to be honest, the first half a bit more, all good.”
Liverpool return to pre-season action against their arch rivals Man United on Saturday (10.05pm) in Michigan.
Meanwhile Pep Guardiola’s side turn their attentions to a Miami clash with Bayern Munich for their final ICC contest the same night (11.05pm).
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