Salah in explosive start as Barca hover

LONDON. — Mohamed Salah’s hat-trick saved Liverpool from an opening day stumble as the defending English Premier League football champions edged Leeds 4-3 on Saturday, while Arsenal had a much more comfortable start against newly-promoted opposition with a 3-0 win at Fulham.

And Salah is keen on moving to Barcelona after Ronald Koeman made the Liverpool man a main target this summer.

The Egypt international has been pivotal to Jurgen Klopp’s success at Anfield.

With the former Roma star firing in front of goal, the Reds have landed their first-ever Premier League title, as well as the Champions League.

In 154 appearances, Salah has scored 97 — including a hat-trick on Saturday as Liverpool downed newly-promoted Leeds United.

But Klopp now faces a battle to keep hold of his free-scoring forward, with Barcelona interested in his services.

Koeman has taken over at the Nou Camp and has plans on bringing back the glory years.

However, he is aware a squad overhaul is necessary and Salah is top of his wish-list.

That is according to close pal and football agent Sjaak Swart, who also represents new Manchester United star Donny van de Beek.

He also stated that Salah wants to leave Anfield, telling website voetbalzone.nl: “I know Koeman wants him — and I know Salah would like to go.”

When pressed to reveal the source of his information, Swart added: “I can’t. I am not going into any more details, but just believe me that I know.”

It will come as a huge blow to Liverpool’s hopes of retaining the title this season and without Salah, they would not have won their humdinger of a match against Leeds on Saturday.

Just 48 days after last season’s delayed conclusion, the English Premier League returned with a bang as Liverpool and Leeds, on their return to the top-flight after a 16-year absence, served up a feast of goals to open the 2020-21 campaign.

Jurgen Klopp’s side cruised to a first league title in 30 years last season, but Liverpool looked more like the wide open side of the German’s early days in charge at Anfield as three times Leeds came from behind.

Salah won a fourth-minute penalty when his shot hit Leeds debutant Robin Koch on his outstretched arm and he dispatched the spot-kick himself.

Leeds fashioned a stunning equaliser in the 12th minute when on-loan Manchester City midfielder Jack Harrison cut past Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez before drilling a superb low finish into the bottom corner.

Virgil van Dijk restored Liverpool’s lead eight minutes later with a thumping header from Andy Robertson’s corner.

Leeds equalised again in the 30th minute when Van Dijk made a hash of a flicked attempt to clear and Patrick Bamford pounced to guide his shot past Alisson Becker. A remarkable game produced more drama as Salah struck again three minutes later with a thunderous drive into the roof of the net.

Leeds equalised for a third time when Mateusz Klich made a well-timed run to meet Helder Costa’s pass with a composed finish in the 66th minute.

But Liverpool won it in the 88th minute when Leeds’ record signing Rodrigo tripped Fabinho and Salah slotted in the penalty, leaving Klopp to sum up the feelings of both teams when he mouthed “wow” at the final whistle.

“Leeds are special. I said it before the game and in the game everybody saw it obviously,” said Klopp admiringly of Bielsa’s men.

“The way they play, the way they defend, the way they go into challenges was really, really good — and for 95 minutes, by the way!

“I’m completely fine with the game. Offensively, it was good; and defensively, we can improve and we will improve.”

At Craven Cottage, Arsenal hit the ground running with the kind of confident display that has become their hallmark since Mikel Arteta took charge.

Willian starred on his Gunners debut with three assists for Alexandre Lacazette, fellow new-signing Gabriel Magalhaes and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

After winning the FA Cup in his debut campaign, Arteta’s next task is to return Arsenal to the Champions League next season and the Spaniard promised more good news with captain Aubameyang getting ever closer to agreeing a new contract.

“I’m really positive we are going to get it done very soon and hopefully in the next few days you will get some news,” Arteta told BT Sport.

Two of Newcastle’s new signings ensured they got off to a flying start after an unsettling few months off the field with a 2-0 win at West Ham.

Despite a proposed Saudi-backed takeover of the club not going through, the Magpies do appear to have recruited well in the transfer market.

England international Callum Wilson got his first goal for the club early in the second half before Jeff Hendrick also marked his debut with a stunning strike to secure all three points for Steve Bruce’s men.

Wilfried Zaha’s goal was enough to earn Crystal Palace a 1-0 win over Southampton at Selhurst Park. — AFP.

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