It’s a perfectly threaded ball from Salah through the slender corridor of space between the two Cardiff defenders. Liverpool’s number 23 then advances towards goal and highlights the gulf of class in between the two sides by evading Sol Bamba with the most subtle of touches to create room for the shot.
The goal is never in doubt once he creates that space. Off the left foot and into the back of the net. Neil Etheridge dives for the sake of diving, there’s nothing he can do to stop it. He knows all too well.
GOAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Shaqiri. Game over
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) October 27, 2018
Anfield erupts, like it does for every goal the Reds score. But this time, it was a different type of celebration.
It was similar to the reaction you see when an academy kid gets his maiden goal for the club, or when a player returns from a six-month injury and scores on his first game back.
It all meant so much more because of who had scored it.
When signed in July, many people saw Xherdan Shaqiri to Liverpool as a strange move. And looking back, scratching of heads was justified.
He hadn’t appeared streets ahead of everyone else at Stoke last season, and the trajectory of his career had only been going one direction since leaving Bayern Munich. 14 goals in 84 Premier League appearances hardly looked like figures that a side going from top four regulars to title challengers needed, or would even want as an option off the bench.
Shaqiri has a goal or assist every 95 minutes for Liverpool.
If you count assisting the own goal and Salah's goal (via free-kick rebound) against Southampton, it's every 63 minutes.
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) October 27, 2018
Would the Swiss international have the work rate and discipline needed to play in a Klopp side?
No, was the answer on the lips of a large portion of LFC fans worldwide.
When Jurgen Klopp first came to Liverpool and spoke about turning “doubters into believers”, he must have been warning supporters about his future transfer strategy.
Although early days yet, Shaqiri looks set to join the list of Mane, Salah, Robertson and Chamberlain as signings that raised plenty of eyebrows among reds across the land when first signed, but have turned out to be exceptional additions and now key components to a Liverpool side that spent last night as league leaders.
Injuries to Henderson and Keita have helped Xherdan gain more minutes in the last few games. And he’ll have been disappointed not to have started against Cardiff City at the weekend, with the manager claiming he wasn’t sure as to how Shaqiri’s body might react to two starts on the bounce.
It’s a sign of his quick rise in popularity on the Kop that many supporters were so disappointed not to see his name appear on the team sheet Saturday afternoon.
The winger-turned midfielder is quickly becoming Liverpool’s next cult hero, in a time when we’ve gone too long without one.
There’s something quite scouse about him. The Eastern European grit, the gnarliness, the needle and the attitude combined with the work ethic, the hunger and the ability has made him a fan favourite.
In many ways he’s lucky. At no stage this season, and possibly in his Liverpool career, will he have the burdens of responsibility and expectation that the three lads in front of him have.
He can still receive something close to the adoration they receive, without ever having to be quite as good as them.
There’s something so exciting about Shaqiri. The buzz you get when you see him strapping up his shin guards and standing alongside the fourth official as he prepares to come on is unrivaled as far as substitutions go.
You know what you’re going to get in one sense. Dogged determination to change a game if behind, the gnarliness to run down the clock if ahead, he’ll try everything to get a goal for the team, to create for his teammates and to be the biggest nuisance possible for the opposition.
On the other hand, there’s a sense of unpredictability about him. The feeling that he could lash one in from thirty yards at any given moment.
Yet these traits are so often associated with players lacking in ability. Whether it be one-trick ponies or pace merchants, they are characteristics possessed by those without a football brain.
All too often, players have been damned with faint praise when labelled as ‘work horses’ who ‘give their all for the club’ down the years.
Shaqiri is different, or at least has been in his first few appearances for the Reds. His ability is arguably the one trait that was never in question during the summer when signed from Stoke City.
He’s a top player. The only question now is can he produce consistency and show it across a season?
Sometimes certain players can only reach their potential at certain clubs. Shaqiri might well be living proof of this. Just like Sadio Mane, questions were raised about his attitude and discipline before moving to Merseyside.
Just like Salah, fingers were pointed at his inconsistency before Liverpool came calling.
But yet again, Jurgen Klopp and his coaching staff have seen something in a player that nobody else has seen.
Liverpool interested in Shaqiri then.
Can't say I'd be overjoyed by him signing, but then again I was similar with Mane and Salah when they were linked.
Klopp and the committee know more about football than me, you and most people.
— Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) June 6, 2018
The German’s almost psychic-like ability to see what will and won’t work in the future has played a huge part in seeing Liverpool become European Cup finalists and league title candidates.
While the media and opposition fans will point at the huge fees and lack of risks taken with signings such as Van Dijk and Alisson, the doubts which loomed over many of the other incomings will be largely ignored, as is the tribalism and soap opera nature of football.
At £13m pounds, many thought Shaqiri was simply a punt from the manager. A skilled player with pedigree, at a price almost impossible not to break-even on in 12 months if the move didn’t end up working out.
But the manager’s track record on transfers suggests differently, and if we’re to believe his quotes from an interview with the club’s website, he’s always fancied the lad.
Signing him was a logical thing to do. He’s still not the finished article. He still has a lot of space for improvement and that’s really good. He gives us something different. So far we haven’t really used his set-pieces but they are outstanding.
I don’t think anybody has an idea in the moment how good Shaq can be,
It’s not a criticism, it’s just how it is. I knew him when he was 19 at Bayern and he was already an outstanding talent.
The signs are bright for the twenty-seven year old. Then again, he’s only started two league games for the club.
Maybe Jurgen has a point. We do get carried away fast, don’t we?