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Salah,  Solanke show contrasting Liverpool fortunes in friendly

Mohamed Salah

Liverpool face, Hertha Berlin, in a friendly for the fifth time on Thursday and it seems netting against the side from the German capital can be a good omen for Reds attackers when it comes to a prolific season ahead.

All of the previous meeting have taken place at the Olympiastadion, originally built for the 1936 Summer Games and scene of US athlete Jesse Owens’ defiant four gold medal displays in the sprint and long jump events that undermined the Nazi hosts’ racist ideologies.

This week’s fixture takes places at the far newer and less storied venue of the Tivoli Stadion Tirol in Innsbruck, a city that has twice hosted the Winter Olympic Games.

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Built-in 2000, the ground, home to Wacker Innsbruck holds just over 16,000, making it comparable in size to Tranmere Rovers’ Prenton Park, although it was temporarily extended to a 30,000 capacity for the 2008 European Championships.

There are also rail seats for so-called ‘safe standing’ fitted in the North Stand.

In addition to the three Group D games the stadium hosted at the Euros some 13 years ago (Spain 4 Russia 1, Sweden 1 Spain 2, Russia 2 Sweden 0), the Spaniards returned for a friendly against Saudi Arabia in 2010, winning 3-2.

Liverpool and Hertha last met some four years ago in what was a tale of two new Reds frontmen who would go on to enjoy contrasting fortunes at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp’s side strolled to a 3-0 victory but the man who opened the scoring on 15 minutes, Dominic Solanke, would ultimately flatter to deceive on Merseyside.

Acquired from Chelsea after his contract expired at Stamford Bridge – a tribunal would rule a transfer fee of £3million would have to be paid because he was under 24 – hopes were high that Klopp might be able to polish up this rough diamond from the west London club’s prolific academy system.

However, the Reading-born centre-forward found the net just once in 27 competitive outings for Liverpool (the third goal in a 4-0 victory at home to Brighton & Hove Albion on the final day of the 2017/18 season).

Michael Edwards did manage to work his magic when Solanke became surplus to requirements though, getting Bournemouth to splash out £19million for his services in 2019.

Although he suffered relegation from the Premier League in his first campaign with the Cherries, last term Solanke would find his feet in the Championship, netting 15 times, the first time that he has struck double figures.

In contrast, the scorer of the Reds’ final goal that day ( Gini Wijnaldum, who recently departed for petrodollar-fuelled Paris Saint-Germain after his contract expired, netted the second on 38 minutes) has enjoyed incredible figures ever since.

Mohamed Salah had netted on his Liverpool debut to earn a 1-1 draw at Wigan Athletic a fortnight earlier but this 61 st minute effort in Berlin was his first against any sort of top flight opposition.

Since then, the Kop’s ‘Egyptian King’ hasn’t looked back.

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An incredible 44 goals in his debut campaign in 2017/18 have been followed up by returns of 27, 23 and 31 as Salah has become the first Reds player since Ian Rush to break the 20-goal barrier in four consecutive seasons.

It was a similar story a generation ago for another deadly marksman Robbie Fowler.

The home-grown hero had just come off the back of a promising 18-goal debut season when he grabbed a hat-trick (24, 67, 80) against Hertha to score all of Liverpool’s goals in a 3-0 win on August 7, 1994.

The ECHO’s Ric George wrote: “The merits of a two-pronged attack were proven as formidable Robbie Fowler brought Liverpool victory.

“Manager Roy Evans switched the Reds youngster to his more natural attacking role alongside Ian Rush and it paid dividends.

“While the Welshman grafted as usual, the England Under-21 star was in lethal form, showing he has been wasted in midfield.”

Fowler would go on to top 30 goals for the next three seasons (31, 36, 31).

Liverpool have also played out a couple of draws with Hertha. Their first game with them finished 1-1 on August 14 1973, a time when West Berlin was still an enclave surrounded by the Berlin Wall, deep within Communist East Germany.

Steve Heighway fired the Reds ahead on 37 minutes before substitute Walleitner equalised midway through the second half.

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Jim Mansell observed for the ECHO: “The experience gained in nine seasons of European football at the highest level stood Liverpool in good stead as they comfortably withstood most of Hertha’s pressure.”

He did add though: “Hertha forced them to call on all their reserves of strength and stamina to effect a well-deserved draw.”

The Reds goalless stalemate with Hertha on July 22 2008 had a curious footnote.

Despite having his penalty saved by home keeper Christian Fiedler, Liverpool striker Andriy Voronin would end up joining Hertha on a season-long loan on the final day of that summer’s transfer window.

The Kop flop opened up on his struggles on Merseyside last month.

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