The 23-year-old was a key figure at both ends of the pitch as Jurgen Klopps side beat West Ham at Anfield by a solitary Sadio Mane strike

It was a drop of the shoulder that Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah would have been proud of.

And with it, Jurgen Klopp was able to give the Sky Sports cameraman the slip, affording him the time and space to celebrate accordingly in front of the Kop.

Klopp’s post-match fist pumps are part of the Anfield experience these days, and they were there again on Saturday night, as the Reds once again kept up the heat on Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.

Victory over West Ham was certainly hard-earned, coming courtesy of Mane’s first-half strike and a defensive display that at times fused determination with desperation, but ended with satisfaction.

“We had to really dig deep,” Klopp admitted after seeing his side record a 12th consecutive win in all competitions.

They have won their last seven in the league, and now find themselves in the unusual position of needing, and wanting, a favour from Manchester United in Sunday’s derby match against City.

Liverpool needed a few last-gasp interventions to preserve the points against West Ham. They needed Trent Alexander-Arnold, hacking clear from underneath his own crossbar in the first half. They needed Andy Robertson, sliding in on Jarrod Bowen, and Naby Keita, sprinting back to deny Michail Antonio, in the second.

They needed grit and good fortune. They needed colossal performances from Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate, the former officially back to something like his best and the latter starting to look every inch a £40 million ($53m) centre-back alongside him.

And when the high press and the high line failed, they needed bailing out. Alexander-Arnold, Robertson and Keita did exactly that.

“All these situations were like scoring a goal for me, to be honest,” said Klopp afterwards. “Inside it has exactly the same importance.”

Liverpool’s goal came via a familiar source; Mane in the right place, and just onside, to turn in a shot-cum-cross from Alexander-Arnold, 27 minutes in.

That’s four in three league games for Mane, who has 14 for the season. Alexander-Arnold, meanwhile, has now provided 16 assists in all competitions this term, his best return in a single campaign. And it still has three months left in it, too.

He might have had more here. Had Salah been a little more clinical, he’d have had an assist inside the opening 90 seconds of the game, and he was inches away from a goal of his own when bending a 20-yard free-kick just wide of Lukasz Fabianski’s post, shortly after Mane’s strike.

Just as crucial, though, was his work at the other end, a lung-busting recovery run which enabled him to hook Pablo Fornals’ effort off the line, after Liverpool’s high line had been exposed by a runner from midfield and a fine Ben Johnson pass.

Defending is not Alexander-Arnold’s forte, nor is it the attribute we most associate with the 23-year-old, but it is clear that there have been significant improvements in that department. He reads the game better, defends the back post with more aggression and has added greater physicality to his magical talent.

“If he couldn’t defend, he would not play here,” said Klopp on Sunday. “At least not in that position, anyway.

“He improved in all departments and defending of course as well. His defending is not a problem we have.”

No Entry ⛔️

The problems Liverpool do have, right now, are few and far between it seems. They may have looked leggy at times against West Ham, and they may well have been punished for that on another day, but a loose performance shouldn’t be mistaken for a lucky win.

Klopp’s side had 22 shots and almost 70 per cent possession, and had it not been for a few last-ditch challenges and a few wayward finishes, they might have been out of sight long before the last blast of referee Jon Moss’ whistle.

As it was, one goal was enough. Klopp can thank Mane for that, and Mane can thank his team-mates for ensuring his strike was decisive.

On a day when Liverpool dug deep, nobody embodied that more than Alexander-Arnold – a game-changer at both ends of the pitch.

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